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Going medieval at Algonquin

By: Stephen Ducharme

 

Students attend a swordsmanship class.

Jeff Greenwood is the instructor of the sword handling class, offered on campus every Wednesday.

 

“Let’s do our drills and at the end of the day we don’t have anybody squirting blood out of their jugular,” says Jeff Greenwood, instructor of the chivalrous sword handling class offered at Algonquin’s campus every Wednesday.

That isn’t to say prospective students were walking into a bloodbath, it was a controlled environment that happens to flirt with a little lethal tradition.

In fact, these beginner class students are using weighted sword analogs, called a “bokken.”

Greenwood co-teaches the course with founder Bill Fedun, a medieval weapons and armour specialist. Between the two, they offer students a chance to learn Eastern and European styles of combat coupled with some hands-on history.

“This is a very techniques’ driven course,” said Fedun. “We mention why we do it the way we do.”

European sword techniques in the class are based on models found in the Hans Talhoffer manuscripts, a collection of illustrated combat techniques from 15th century Germany.

Greenwood is a kenjutsu specialist and teaches the Eastern portion of the class. Along with the swordplay he touches on the cultural mannerisms of the discipline, such as the proper way to bow with a weapon to respect one’s enemy.

Maureen Halpenny was one of the dozen participants on-hand for the first class of the semester.

“It was on my bucket list to learn how to sword fight,” said the retired history teacher from Smith Falls, Ont.

The first class had the students learning basic maneuvers, and they were always reminded to have a strong awareness of safety. At one point a distracted student had his sword knocked away by the instructor.

“The sword is a damn good symbol,” said Fedun. Respect for the weapon was the central theme of this first gathering.

The class ended with the students looking tired but satisfied. Algonquin student Josie Deithton is taking the class again because of its enjoyment factor.

“I’m a big history buff, but it’s just fun,” she said.

The chivalrous sword handling class will continue with its beginner-level course through the fall, with an advanced course to follow in the winter.

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