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Ala mazza in the mountains

Greg Reimer and Brooke Taylor mentor a Jasper local, Heather, on Medieval swordfighting techniques at the Jasper Legion. | E. Matthews photo

by Evan Matthews | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

Though the traditional garb, speak and culture associated with the Renaissance and Medieval eras are now things of the past, two people from Valemount want the era’s hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting techniques to stay relevant.

Vancouver natives Greg Reimer and Brooke Taylor, who relocated to Valemount in April 2016, are offering Italian sword fighting classes by request.

“The last year-and-a-half has been a totally new experiment in what I do… For seven years I was teaching at a school,” says Reimer, owner of Swordfight Canada and one-time instructor at Vancouver’s Academie Duello, where you can learn everything from the basics of handling a rapier to mounted swordplay for about $150 per course.

But now Reimer is a business owner, and with Valemount as the duo’s home base, the two don’t have access to the same population Vancouver once provided.

“It’s been the realization over the last while… Swordfight Canada is just Brooke and I in a town of 1,000… but what it’s kind of become is Swordfight (Western) Canada, unofficially,” says Reimer. “We’ve been through the western Canadian cities a couple of times now — right from Vancouver to Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Kamloops, etc. — but we have regular offerings in Valemount, Jasper and Hinton,” he says, adding a number of local people have been exposed to Swordfight Canada.

Reimer says the aspect separating Swordfight Canada from other groups, whether it be sporting, exploratory or re-enacting groups, is that sword fighting focuses on commitment and skill development, according to Reimer.

Winning doesn’t matter, he says, nor does reviving ancient cultures or language. Rather, Reimer says developing a person’s skills consistently over time is the main goal.

“Winning will come if you develop your skills enough, but it’s a by-product,” says Reimer. “There is a way to cheat and hope you’re going to win, but there is also a right way to do swordfight. You want to do things the right way, and adhere to the art.”

Much of Reimer’s teaching could have been seen in Europe between the years 1400-1600, he says.

Though Europe back then wasn’t what it is today, Reimer says it’s easy to see why the techniques were so prevalent.

“You obviously couldn’t jump from one end of the continent to the other in an hour or two, but it was still a pretty small place, and there was still plenty of travel, mixing of ideas, and sharing of cultures,” says Reimer.

“Professional soldiers and mercenaries were some of those people. But the commerce of sword fighting, and warfare, would have been something that flowed throughout Europe.” 

Swordfight Canada mainly focuses on weapons used in-hand in the late 1400s, according to Reimer, which are the dagger, two-handed longsword and the spear.

But sword fighting isn’t just about the weapons.

“Swordfighting gives the ability for people to experience things that are deeply human, and allows them to grow in all sorts of ways,” says Reimer. “It allows them physical, emotional and mental opportunities.”

By taking up swordfighting, a person enters into a worldwide community, according to Reimer. Any major city has swordfighting enthusiasts.

And all of Swordfight Canada’s students are pushed to become better versions of themselves, Reimer says, which makes the community better, too.

Reimer has been actively training since 2006, he says, as he nears 12 years of experience and more than 5,000 hours of teaching. Reimer is also Provost certified, he says.

If a person has the necessary equipment, they can even take online sword fighting classes online at duello.tv., Reimer says, submitting videos to instructors for final critiques.

“You begin with learning the principles of the fight, and beyond that it’s just learning to handle the nuance within the fight… Learning the details and nuance of a particular weapon,” says Taylor, Reimer’s protégé. Taylor has been training since 2013, and is now moving into Rapier training.

“Swordfighting is a perfect medium between intellectualism and athleticism, and connecting the two. It’s a very holistic pursuit.”

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