Q. What would I get out of the swordsmanship program?
A. Each student will take their own personal benefits from the program, but the core benefits include: increased physical fitness, strength and endurance, poise, confidence, situational awareness and self-defense skills. This is of course in addition to learning an intensely fun and unique martial art!
Q. Will I learn self-defense?
A. Self-defense is not the main focus of the program, but it is intrinsic in learning any martial art. You will not likely have a sword when you need to defend yourself, but anything that comes to hand: a stick, a pipe, even a half-full 20 oz. bottle of soda will work. Students are taught improvised weapons as well as empty hand techniques. One of the skills most stressed is situational awareness. Being observant and able to recognize a dangerous situation before it gets out of hand is a more valuable self-defense tool than any physical skill we could teach. Because our program focuses heavily on sparring, our students are much better prepared than the average person to fight off an attacker should the need ever arise.
Those specifically interested in self-defense techniques may also check out our occasional self-defense seminars. Contact us to find out when the next seminar is scheduled.
Q. I have (insert physical or medical concern here), can I still participate?
A. Talk to us. We may be able to help you work with any physical limitations you have. If we can’t, we’ll be honest with you about it, but don’t automatically assume you can’t derive some benefit from swordsmanship.
Q. What is the history of Aegis’s style?
A. The family of Aegis’ founder, Sal Sanfratello, originated in Sicily and has had a martial tradition traceable for the last 1,000 years. Taking what he learned from his family supplemented with research and participation in other martial disciplines, Sal began teaching Western European Swordsmanship to others in his spare time. He founded the Aegis Academy of Swordsmanship in its current incarnation in 2003. The Aegis style is truly a living martial art, respecting and drawing heavily from tradition but not bound by it. It continues to evolve as the Pen-Y-Cat, instructors and students push at its edges.
Q. Why doesn’t the program use live steel or wood practice swords?
A. Aegis does not use steel weapons because we teach real techniques. Matches are not choreographed and the blows when applied with completely rigid weapons would do considerable damage, especially when used by beginning students who have not yet gained the control necessary to strike “to the touch”. While we could elect to require all students to wear armor in order to let us train with rigid weapons, most of our students have not shown a desire to invest the time and money to do this. Because we desire the continued health and well-being of everyone involved in our program, we use padded practice weapons.
Q. What are the practice weapons made of?
A. There is a full page describing our practice weapons, linked to from the swordmanship program's main page.
Q. Is swordfighting safe?
A. Participation in any martial art carries an inherent risk. That said, the program is very focused on and committed to the safety of all participants. Safety rules are explained and enforced from the first day of participation, and students are taught basic first aid and care for injuries during the first weeks of training. The most common injuries are non-serious bruises and tendonitis.
Q. Is Aegis affiliated with the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), any live-action roleplaying (LARP) group, or any stage-fighting group?
A. No, although we are happy to accept students who wish to supplement their experiences in any of these activities provided they understand that they will be learning a martial art, not a performance art.
Q. Is this style of swordsmanship like fencing?
A. Western European Swordsmanship is a broadsword style. Because of the different blade styles and uses, the style is inherently different from fencing, relying less on thrusts and more on cuts from the edges of the blade.
Q. Hey! I saw somebody grab a blade in a demonstration! That doesn't make any sense!
A. Grabbing blades is a technique we teach. Like anything, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Using the correct technique, a fighter can effectively disarm another without injury by grasping the flat section of the blade or by taking hold of the grip. If a blade is grabbed the wrong way, the fighter may take great injury to their hand, but if faced with a choice between injury to the hand or injury to vital organs, we know what we'd choose! Ask for a demonstration of these principles; it's easier to understand once you have tried to pull a steel blade out of the hands of one of our experienced instructors.
Q. What training have the instructors in the program received?
A. In order to become certified to teach a class, an instructor must first have taken the class themselves along with any prerequisites. They must also complete the next class in the program (i.e. a Basic instructor will have passed at least Intermediate Swordsmanship). They must then complete one six-month session of the class as an assistant instructor under the supervision of a lead instructor, followed by another 6-mnoth cycle as a probationary instructor, also assisting a lead instructor. Their final induction as a certified lead instructor is subject to the approval of the Pen-Y-Cat (master at arms). None of our current instructors have been with the program for less than 4 years.
Q. Is there a belt system?
A. No. As a western martial art, our system does not use belts to denote rank. Students do receive honors and certificates at the end of each six-month class session as they advance through the program.
Q. Are there competitions?
A. Aegis holds periodic tournaments for individual and team fighting. Anyone who has graduated the Basic Swordsmanship class may participate. The emphasis is very much on fun, practice and fighting with members of other classes. Winning is a matter of personal satisfaction and accomplishment, not of collecting trophies.
Q. Why do I have to wait so long to start sparring?
A. Students do not begin sparring until they are 3/4 of the way through Basic Swordsmanship. This is for safety reasons: we must ensure that each student has sufficient physical control of the movements before allowing them to swing even padded swords at each other. Additionally most students entering the program will be using muscles they largely haven’t before and will not have the endurance to withstand sparring before this point in the program.
Q. What is ki?
A. Ki, spelled and pronounced in a number of ways depending on the martial or spiritual tradition, is the energy people, animals and many objects inherently possess. Ki can have a variety of effects and one’s own ki can be channeled for specific purposes through breath exercises and other means. Almost all Eastern martial arts work with ki to various extents. It is generally a concept one has to experience in order to understand; introductory exercises and your own observations will aid your personal understanding over the course of training.
Ann Arbor branch:
Phone: (734) 645-2265
Office Address: 9181 Hillcrest, Whitmore Lake, MI 48189