Jasper Gillis has seven swords, six daggers and multiple throwing knives that include a $200 katana.
But it wasn’t until last week – at the inaugural meeting of Cariboo Bladed Combat – that she finally got a chance to learn how to use them.
“I really like the idea of sword fighting, it’s more engaging than using a gun and I like learning how they were used,” Gillis, 18, said. “I’m kind of a history geek in that way.”
Gillis was among about a dozen people who took up the sword last week and spent two hours learning the basics of bladed fencing at 100 Mile House Community Hall. Teaching them was long-time fencer and club founder Tristan Feissli, who got into the sport when he was 16 and joined a Renaissance reenactment troop in 2000.
He initially started his club in the South Cariboo in 2016, partnering with Focused Fitness. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut his business down in 2020, Feissli decided to bring it back as a non-profit.
“It feels like now being at the right place at the right moment,” he said. “Maybe that COVID we saw as a curse at the beginning was actually a good thing. Now we’re offering something that feels fresh and new and people seem a bit more curious to try new things.”
His initial class consisted largely of teenagers and young adults. Although Feissli focused primarily on teaching them to block and strike with their swords, he ended the night with a bit of fun.
For the last half hour, he replaced their rubber practice swords with foam blades and had them engage in an energetic melee.
“People think that if you fight with a broad sword that strength is the main skill you need, which is mostly wrong,” he said. “Dexterity, agility and a lot of critical thinking is also required, so it’s a very complete sport that requires so many different skills other than just blunt force. We’re not just a bunch of brutes wielding sticks. We think a lot.”
Gillis said the club was the perfect way to unwind after a day of work. Since graduating from PSO last year, she has been working two jobs and was looking for a way to blow off steam.
“I always wanted to do fencing as a kid but I was never able to so when this opportunity came up I was thinking childhood me would be screaming, so let’s go for it,” Gillis said. “It’s very engaging and gets my mind off the stress of real life and adulting which I’m new to. It was a good few hours of just having fun.”
James Last agreed it was a perfect way to get some exercise. He practices judo and taekwondo as a kid, and said fencing is a good way to build on those skills.
“It was very fun and just like other martial arts, it’s very rigid and I kind of like that. I feel I need a bit more structure and it was very good for exercise,” Last, 25, said. “I think this is a good showing for the community. There’s a lot of young kids who are excited about this kind of thing and want something to do and this is a great beginning.”
The first lesson is free and if students choose to stay with it there is a one-time membership fee of $150 and a monthly fee of $50 to help cover the rent. Practices take place every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone looking to join the club is invited to attend a practice on Tuesday or email email@example.com.
“If anyone wants to join and we don’t have enough fencing material, then that’s a good sign that the club needs to invest in more stuff,” Feissli said. “If this is the future of our club, let’s say it’s pretty bright right now.”
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