So my man in Japan is sending regular updates and many of us have been thinking about divisions between people and relationships and what all that means for longevity, dare I say, perpetuity. Adam can rest assured that he is only separated by distance (plus time), whereas some of my thoughts have focused on divisions of an actual and tangible nature.

There a several fencing groups in the St. Louis metro area. Some of them are related in simple ways. An instructor has success at a YMCA and sets up a duplicate program at a public school or University. Some are related in a more subtle way. A student (often disgruntled) leaves his club or school and starts his own someplace else.

The CFS is almost like this. When I decided to leave BB I had specific reasons:

  1. I wanted to develop the potential of my classes in the city and experiment with the demographic which others had failed at.
  2. I was becoming more confident with the curriculum, or the progressive and perpetual training regimen and wanted a new set of partners to test it.
  3. The membership at BB was shifting with no leadership to guide it and those who had been vested with representing the members and taking responsibility were hardly in a position to continue in the direction I saw myself going.

My split, therefore, was done for the mutual benefit of both groups (did ya fall for that one?). Seriously, there was no better circumstance I could have left BB in for others to inherit and I didn’t feel I could continue to pursue my own ideas and training while there. But a decisive difference is that I have shared these reasons with my students and have, on many occasions, created situations for fencers from both groups to fraternize.

old fencing image

There is another group in the area (far to the West) which is another split off. Only, distance is not the only thing dividing them from the rest of the fencing community – they appear to have chosen to remain completely immune to outside influence. They, like many of the long established fencing clubs in town, seem to cling to an idea that they must not fraternize, that any sharing of ideas or training is dangerous. This makes for an interesting read on discussion pages in which participants talk about fencing as though it only exists for them.

If we exclude the duplicate groups under the auspices of the same instructor we might come up with six fencing organisations in STL. Two of these (one being the CFS) cooperate for an annual tournament. Some of the sport/rec fencers are members of two groups, going back and forth. But there is no inclusive training or exchange. In such a small space there is a very great divide.

I see this as a microcosm for what we now experience in the larger traditional fencing community. Seven years ago some of us thought that using the internet would facilitate the exchange of people and ideas. To some degree this has come about – but with a great price. The community today is more divided than ever before. Where once it was distance (plus time) and ignorance of the others existence, now we have egos struggling to keep a tight hold of what they claim to be theirs. The fractures run deep into what is allowable, forgivable, correct, defensible. More than closing the distance, we have learned enough about each other in the process that often we choose not to bridge the gap.

Look at the emergence of traditional fencing organisations just in the last six years:

Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA)

European Historical Fencing alliance — EHFA

Federazione Italiana Scherma Antica e Storica — FISAS

International Masters at Arms Federation (IMAF)

Association for Historical Fencing (AHF)

United States Traditional Fencing Association (USTFA)

Traditional Fencing International (TFI)

Swordplay Symposium International (SSI)

and that’s just the smattering I could quickly locate. Note, these groups are all espousing to accomplish the same thing. Interesting.

So no worries my man in Japan. We may be separated by an ocean and most of a continent and large airline fee and time for travel that doesn’t exist in my life, BUT, we will never be divided.

And as a side note of interest for all of you who won’t read this, let it serve as tacit warning (if needs be) that the CFS is on the prowl; we’re mobile and we’re heading for your door.