Recently, I was privileged to participate in the first ever Martinez Academy of Arms Academia in New Orleans, Louisiana. This was a gathering of all the MAA schools and academies, including Palm Beach Classical Fencing, Côte du Golfe School of Fencing, Salle St. George, Destreza Pacifica School of Arms, and Golden Gate School of Arms. And it was one of the most impressive fencing scenes I have ever witnessed.
Before continuing, I should make a full disclosure: I am not officially a member of the Martinez Academy of Arms or any of its affiliated academies or schools. Moreover, I did not learn to fence under Maestro Ramon Martinez or Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez, and was introduced to the maestri only a few years ago. Nonetheless, I cannot say that I am unbiased.
Since meeting them, Maestri Martinez and Acosta-Martinez have been unimaginably generous to me: teaching me whenever possible, gently correcting my faults, and encouraging me. Unfortunately, due to my Midwest locale, I rarely have the opportunity to learn from the maestri, their provosts, or their instructors. Still, in the brief time I have had with them so far, Maestro Martinez, Maestro Acosta-Martinez, and Instructor Russell Hogg have taught me more about true classical fencing than I can describe and have helped me see how far I have to go.
Moreover, all their provosts, instructors, and students have been unhesitatingly welcoming to me, even though I am an outsider to their community. When speaking with them, they all have invited me to their various academies or schools across the country; when fencing with them, they assisted me in becoming a better fencer.
And it was into this community that I was invited to participate in the Academia.
The Academia was held during the weekend of September 18th through the 20th and was held in a gymnasium at the Kingsley House in New Orleans. As Maestro Martinez explained to us, the New Orleans locale was especially significant: it was once considered the Western world’s dueling capital. (Not too surprising, given it’s different ethnic influences from Europe.) New Orleans was reportedly a dueling hot spot, where more duels occurred than in other American city.
At the Academia, several schools or academies from across the country were represented: New York’s Martinez Academy of Arms in New York; Côte du Golfe School of Fencing and Palm Beach Classical Fencing, both in Florida; Salle Saint-George in Washington; and California’s Destreza Pacifica School of Arms and Golden Gate School of Arms.
It was very impressive to see all these different fencers from different states all knowing and fencing the same system. Even though these were students from all over the country, it was as if they were all taught by the same instructor, responding smoothly and uniformly to commands such as “aplomb,” “en garde,” and “advance.”
Moreover, these fencers maintained their form at all times, fencing a very clean and classical style. All this, coupled with their pristine fencing uniforms, made for a very impressive sight. Scanning the gym, seeing dozens of immaculately-dressed fencers wielding their weapons in the classical style, you couldn’t help but imagine that this is what a mid-19th-century French fencing salle must have looked like.
On Friday and Saturday, the day-long classes consisted of a rigorous schedule of instructions in different aspects of different weapons: foil, rapier, sabre (Northern Italian, French, Hungarian), dueling swords, and Bowie knife. Throughout the weekend, we received instruction not only from the maestri, but also from Provosts Jared Kirby, Antone Blair, and Cecil Longino, assisted by Instructors Russell Hogg, Kim Moser, Keenah Suh, Andrew Telesca, and Benjamin Bowles.
The Formal Academia
On Sunday afternoon, there was the Formal Academia at the Kingsley House, where MAA provosts, instructors, and students publically demonstrated different fencing styles with weapons from the 17th to 19th centuries. Called the Grand Fencing Exhibition, this was a well-attended event, and many New Orleans residents showed up to witness traditional fencing.
By all accounts, the Grand Fencing Exhibition was a success for the MAA maestri, provosts, instructors, and students. You can see some pictures from the event in an article from the New Orleans Advocate, which covered the public exhibition as well as one from the Times Picayune. You can see excerpts from the exhibition below or at the lik here.
I have never seen so much fencing talent and knowledge in one place. Nor am I likely to again for some time. The MAA Academia will not be held again for seven years. I can only hope that I am fortunate enough to be invited back.
If you are reading this and would like to become a member of the Martinez Academy of Arms or one of its affiliate schools or academies, check the list below to see if it is an option for you. If you are lucky enough to live close to their salles, I highly encourage you to look them up.
Florida: If you are in Florda, you have two potential outlets.
- Instructor Moser and Palm Beach Classical Fencing
- Instructor Hogg and Côte du Golfe School of Fencing in Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, and Ft Myers
- New York City: You are in luck—the Martinez Academy of Arms is in New York City.
- Purchase: Besides training actors and martial artists in New York, and, indeed, across the globe, Provost Kirby teaches the SUNY Purchase Classical Fencing Club.
California: Like Florida, Cali has two sources for Martinez classical fencing.
- Arcata: Destreza Pacifica School of Arms run by Provost Antone Blair. (Provost Blair also teaches the Humboldt State University Fencing Club.)
- San Francisco: Golden Gate School of Arms is managed and instructed by Instructor Benjamin Bowles (who also happens to create excellent classical fencing supplies at Benjamin Arms).
Vancouver, British Canada: A student of Provost Longino’s, Joseph Lai oversees the Renaissance Fencing Club, a traditionally French fencing salle.