WMA schools in Vancouver, BC

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Omicron, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    Greetings to all you folks here on the WMA board. This is a part of the forum that I don't frequent all that often, so if I seem utterly uninformed and totally nooibsh, it's because I am!

    I've recently started to feel an inkling of interest in checking out some WMA weapons training, but I really haven't the foggiest idea of what to look for. As the history and tradition of the WMA are markedly different than those of the martial arts I'm used to, I was hoping to get a little bit of insight from some WMA MAP'ers.

    I've done a bit of preliminary research, and one interesting place I've found here in town is called Academie Duello. Has anyone heard anything about this school, or know if it's any good? Like I said, I don't really know the first thing about what to look for in a WMA school...what kind of facilities should I expect? And what makes a WMA instructor "qualified"? I know that my best bet is to go down and check the school out, which I definitely plan on doing, but having an idea of what I should be looking for (and trying to avoid!) would be a great asset to go in with. Also, are there any other schools anyone knows of in my area that would be worth checking out?

    Thanks in advance! Advice and opinions would be very much appreciated!
  2. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    In some ways, it's much like evaluating any other martial arts school.

    * Detailed instructor bios without ridiculous claims? Good!

    * Open, easy-to-find information about pricing? Good! (By the way, it's not cheap, but considering the overhead they must have with all the equipment, it's not what I'd call unreasonable).

    * Opportunity to try it for free? Good!

    * Ability to pay for 8-class segments instead of signing a year-long contract? Good!

    * A refusal to pee on other martial arts in order to promote their own? Good! (See here: http://www.academieduello.com/faq.html)

    Overall, it feels a little commercialized (SwordFit? Corporate fitness camps?), but you've got to pay the bills, and overall it doesn't feel at all like a McDojo/McSalle/whatever you want to call it. At least not to me.

    I can't evaluate their actual skill. My background is Olympic fencing, so even though the weapon itself is similar to what they're doing in the "rapier" segment of the video, the mechanics are different. It looked a bit sloppy to me, but these were students, not instructors, and I don't know how experienced they are. And besides, what looks sloppy from a modern sport perspective may have a very legitimate historical real-blade basis.

    I would not hesitate to try them out. There's not a single big red flag popping up for me. What's the worse that can happen? You don't like it after your free course, or after eight weeks, and you go somewhere else?

    If you're also interested in some more modern Olympic-style fencing, there's a directory here: http://www.bcfencing.ca/ There seems to be quite a lot going on in the Vancouver area.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
  3. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    Thanks, Mitlov!

    I'll have to look into some Olympic-style fencing too. I'd forgotten about that, although to be honest I am a little interested in the "historicalness" of places like Academie Duello...I just want to be sure that it's real history, and not fake or SCA history.
  4. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    Did you notice that the head instructor's background consists primarily of SCA training?

  5. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    I did notice that, which gives me some pause when considering the school. I was hoping someone here might have heard something about him or the school he runs and could tell me more about his background.
  6. Louie

    Louie STUNT DAD Supporter

    Hi Omicron...

    Sorry don't know anything about this particular club/instrictor but have come across their posts in the Sword Forum International website that you could check out yourself. http://forums.swordforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=15

    Personally I would follow Mitlov's suggestions and make up my mind after sampling the training and talking to a few students...!

  7. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcFPmRDVEws&feature=related"]Longsword Workshop May 3rd - Teaser (edited) - YouTube[/ame]

    Well from this vid, I am very skeptical. It is VERY compliant. Techniques like that just simply don't work without a "friendly" partner. Checking out their other vids. It is my view that the school is primarily gear towards the stage and film industry rather than run as a martial arts group. Absolutely nothing wrong with that if it is what you are looking for.

    The Bear.
  8. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I think this trailer says it all:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhmToAzQY58&NR=1"]Academie Duello Teaser Trailer - YouTube[/ame]

    On the plus side, anyone who uses music from Army of Darkness in a trailer for their school clearly doesn't take themselves too painfully seriously, and is probably a heapload of fun to train with.

    On the minus side, check out the BIG body movements, particularly those that break their rooting/their base. Leaning to the side to avoid a thrust of a rapier, etc. That doesn't make sense because it takes the other person a quarter-second to poke you again, and it leaves you unable to return an attack. It makes perfect sense for the stage, though, because big body movements can be seen by the audience, whereas small blade movements cannot.

    Both instructors have a heavy base in theatrical choreography (http://www.academieduello.com/instructors.html), and while they both also have some history of alive training (one in the SCA and the other in Olympic fencing), it looks to me that theatrical swordplay is the core of their curriculum.

    That's not an inherently bad thing, but it also doesn't sound like what you're looking for.
  9. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    The Academie Duello got good reviews last time I checked into them. Haven't the foggiest what they're up to now. I do know there was a split between them and one of their founders, who went on to found the following group:


    From their head instructor's bio:

    Best regards,

  10. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Yeah the BoxWrestlleFence group seem good bit more martial in direction than Academie Duello.

    The Bear.
  11. Ran Pleasant

    Ran Pleasant Valued Member

    As others have already noted these guys are basically SCA and stage fighters/actors. In that first video you may note at 0:16 the full edge hack that is so common among the SCA and stage fighters.

    If the SCA and/or stage fighting is what you are interested in then go for it. However, if you want to learn true historical sword fighting then I suggest that you keep looking while studying on your own.
  12. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    Thanks for all the great replies, everyone.

    I'm not sure what to think about the whole SCA thing. My martial arts resume reads like a list of real-world application and practicality: BJJ, judo, and boxing are the arts I focus on, and a martial art to me is something that needs to be pressure tested and trained as "alive" as possible as often as possible. I would like to carry that over to the practice of weapons, and the WMA have always interested me. I know the SCA does do fighting that (tries) to resemble a historical "real life" fight, but in my (very limited) experience with them it seems to be full of quite a few people who are happy to "learn by doing" rather than to study the history, technique, and tradition passed on by people who really knew what they were doing. That sort of rubs me the wrong way.

    Langenschwert, thanks for the link! For some reason my searches haven't turned that place up yet, and I think I like the sound of them a little better. I'm not interested in stage fighting or acting...I'm more interested in real life applicability, so maybe they are more up my alley.
  13. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I wouldn't write off anyone with an SCA background automatically; there's a lot of variation within the SCA. The heavy-weapons fighters of the group in Boulder, Colorado seemed to have some real structure to how they learned; it wasn't just "learning by doing." I don't know if they were relying on historical manuals or just more-experienced fighters teaching less-experienced fighters, but there was some structure to it. On the other hand, I suspect that many (most?) SCA groups are just people picking up rattan sticks and emulating what they see in movies.
  14. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    Yeah...I don't doubt that the SCA does have its fair share of very skilled practitioners, and I'm the first person to tell you that the proof is in the pudding; martial skill and knowledge trumps tradition hands down. Unfortunately, from what I've seen of local SCA guys, there seems to be a lot of the rattan whacking you mention. I guess I'm just going to have to suck it up and go check out a bunch of places.
  15. DavidRPAcker

    DavidRPAcker New Member

    Hey folks!

    Thought I'd chime in as I see I've come up in conversation. I'm the head instructor at Scatha Combat Guild (The BoxWrestleFence website.)

    I thought I should just clear up a few points, as appearances can be deceiving! Academie Duello does look like a theatrical school, and that's pretty intentional on Devon's part. He has a specific focus and goal on where he wants his school to go, and his marketing is aimed at getting it there.

    That doesn't necessarily reflect what the school is about, thought...Braun is a good example. Looking at the write-up, you see an actor and fight choreographer. You don't see the part about leaving his second tour of Vietnam as a major, with a very large bucketload of CQC experience. If you ever are lucky enough to hang out and drink with him, you can hear some amazing stories. Braun is the real deal, all the way through. He just happens to have an immense love for Shakespearean acting on top of that.

    And Devon, at one point was one of the top competitors in the world. I watched him go through a tournament with over 100 competitors and maintain a record of 93% wins in 130 fights. Of course, being able to do a 21 foot lunge in less than 1/4 of a second might have helped, but mostly it was competitive mindset.

    Same thing with the SCA. Yup, it's full of amazing idiots. But it's got at LEAST 30000 members. What you see in one place is not what you will see in another. The Vancouver group is pretty damn good...and has a strong WMA background. Braun wrote up the first WMA manual I ever saw...in 1985. It was based on his trips to europe, sitting in museums and reading manuals. It took a while for the WMA scene to catch up what he did. Heck, I think we still might the only SCA rapier group around that still knows the precise points to stick a rapier for a kill, and not just a general touch.

    Omicron, thanks for pointing out one of my least favourite things about the SCA....no structure in training! However, that's changing in the local rapier practice (which includes longsword, BTW) as the current trainer is a former olympic fencing coach. Plus, the WMA guys with real training have been cleaning up in tournaments, so it's motivated change.

    Conversely, our classes don't have a lot of long of structure right now, as we've decided to spend the next few months just teaching a series of one hour workshops twice a night. They all comprise a basic core of techniques that are part of our system, but we aren't offering any formal course of instruction til we get a permanent location. And we are really enjoying the opportunity to teach a variety of material. It's nice to stretch out once in a while.

    Eh, I suppose I should have made a sales pitch huh? If you want to get a taste of good solid swordsmanship, try out the Marozzo intro series of three classes. We've got loaner gear, or you can pick up a good trainer from Warriors and Wonders on Cambie. Hanwei "Practical" series are standard student trainers. The "Norman" is a good all around-er, or the hand-and-a-half, although it might be a bit wieldy for the first few months.
  16. DavidRPAcker

    DavidRPAcker New Member

    Dude, really?

    It's too bad you ARMA guys aren't allowed out of your playpen, you might enjoy seeing what everyone else has been doing since JC made you all hide away.

    Now, I apologize, that was a bit harsh. Stereotypical, even. Terrible of me, not keeping an open mind...
  17. DavidRPAcker

    DavidRPAcker New Member

    Or the people doing it sucked. :)

    And yeah, from a historical point of view, modern fencing looks painfully sloppy. And the two challenge matches I participated in supported that. I collected some painful shots to the limbs, in exchange for my opponent receiving clean thrusts to the eye (wearing masks for these ones) The few times they had parried first, they hadn't counted on the momentum of the rapier delivered with a proper lunge, and had assumed the parry was succesful. And I learned that damn, those little car antenna's move fast and really, really hurt when you are only wearing a t-shirt and shorts. :)

    Also learned, once again, that most people who practice a combat sport are open minded, hard-working great people...especially when you are drinking after and reviewing the fight! The experience definitely got me into doing classical sabre, which I've come to love.

    Maitre Bac Thau has been a big influence in town. We get a lot of his students coming in. Vancouver also seemed to have gotten more than it's share of Polish and Hungarian sabreurs when they all fled the soviet union. Makes for an interesting hidden subculture. I think the Asian Martial Artists are starting to realize they might be in for some serious competition soon!
  18. Omicron

    Omicron is around.

    Wow, it's great to see you here, David! I've been checking out your site a lot today....I sort of feel like I'm talking to a celebrity!

    Thanks a bunch for clearing up a lot of my misconceptions. Obviously, I have little to no experience in the Vancouver WMA scene...I'm relieved to hear that we have what sounds like a promising community here! I'm definitely interested in coming to check your school out. I don't live too far from Skytrain, so it shouldn't be too tough for me to get out there.

    Any other advice a wonderfully experienced guy like you could give to a complete WMA beginner? I've been training in other martial arts for about 7 or 8 years now, so I'm no stranger to martial pursuits, but they've all been unarmed, and none of them have been WMA. The intro series you mention sounds like a good place for me to start...got any other hints or tips?
  19. DavidRPAcker

    DavidRPAcker New Member

    That'll pass when you meet me, I promise. ;) Glad you enjoyed the website. We put a lot of effort into it, and I'm glad it seems to be getting across what we wanted.

    Without exaggeration, I can say their are over a thousand people in Vancouver who have trained in a WMA school at some point or another. Active membership is probably in the 400-500 range. Our classes are tiny right now. I expect that will change in the next month or two, but since we don't officially start til next week, I'm not worried. :)

    Weapons are a whole other world. What other schools have you trained in? If you have a wrestling background you'll have an easier time of it.

    I remember the first time I held a rapier, it was pretty cool...and then pretty frikken heavy. And stupidly fast. Even with all my training it took me almost 2 years of hard work to be able to perceive what was happening to me in a tournament bout. We don't do much rapier work at all, but it's a good comparison.

    Lets see, what else...Did I mention swords are heavy? I don't mean overall weight, but for the first few classes, you are going to ache. OTOH, you will grow wrists like a boar, and be able to crush the skulls of your enemies without breaking a sweat. Well, maybe not, but you do get killer grip strength.

    The drill work and tactics are complex and demanding, and subtle in execution. A weapon is NOT an extension of the arm. It's more like having an extra joint in the arm, with a three-to-four foot long finger at the end of it.

    Rapiers are heavy and hit like bricks. They teach pain, and real self-defense.

    Longswords are quick and subtle, and a real jack-of-all-trades, but they do excel at their own short range.

    Two-handers are just a bucket of fun.

    Single sword, or sword and buckler, takes real guts to use well.

    If you want to spar, you will want to think about investing a lot of money in good armour. Or build up a strong tolerance for blood and broken bones. Minimum you need is a GOOD fencing mask, steel gorget for the throat and collarbones, leather gloves, and a cup. Maximum...well, one of the better armourers you will likely ever meet (a student of Ugo Serrano) is part of the school, and can make you a nice set at a bargain price of twenty grand or so. :)

    Expect to spend a small fortune on weapons once the addiction sets in. :)

    I'm rambling a bit...missing my coffee! Hope some of that was helpful!
  20. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    Not just weapons, you go through the "best" protection phase where you spend a fortune trying to find protection that stops you getting cracked fingers, knees, etc. Then you get good enough you start stripping off all the protection.
    Then it's the compulsive book buying. The travelling to events. One thing you can definitely say about WMA. It ain't cheap and it can eat up your entire life if you let it.

    The Bear.

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