Welcome to the Evangelista School of Fencing
My name is Nick Evangelista, and I teach a form of fencing based on the centuries old French school. I did not create what I teach. It existed long before I was born, and it will continue to exist long after I die. It has its origins in the use of weapons designed for killing. The skills I teach once helped men survive sword duels. Some folks, because of the books I have written about fencing, have lumped me into the category known as classical. But I reject this label. I refer to what I do as traditional, because, while the approach I follow upholds long held values and skills in fencing, at the same time my teaching is tenaciously grounded in the present. I do not espouse fencing as a flight into the past.
The essence of what I teach is based on what has been referred to as the logic of the sharp point. This concept asks a question vital to intelligent fencing: What would I do if these weapons were sharp? This is the lynch pin that keeps fencing from devolving into a mindless athletic acquisition of touches, and instead opens up an exploration of mastery. The logic of the sharp point gives all information found within the traditional rules of fencing both meaning and purpose. Suddenly, we are presented with a guide for effective fencing behavior. I require straight arm attacks, immediate ripostes following parries, and point in line. I look for true priority of actions based on actual physical advantages and disadvantages, not arbitrary designations of inalienable “rights” on the fencing strip. Basically, I ask for discerning thought rather than someone’s made-up notions.
Although the foundations of fencing are found in other times, I do not promote anachronisms. If fencing was nothing more than a colorful, romantic alternative to reality, I could not have spent my life doing it. I would have been bored to death. I do not live in the past. The qualities of what made the game I teach valid as a killing exercise three hundred years ago continue to make it a life affirming skill right this very moment in the 21st century.
If you were to work with me, you would become familiar with concepts such as the language of fencing, the aforementioned logic of the sharp point, hitting and not be hit, the meaning of conventions, speaking and thinking in the language of fencing, the psychology of fencing, advantage and disadvantage, the fencing strip as a foreign country, being on purpose with your fencing, and fencing as a life skill. Not only do I teach these things, but I teach them within a very assertive, vigorous physical process.
I must say, I do employ the age-old names for fencing actions—coulé, coupé, doublé, croisé, liement, degagé, contre-temps—as this represents a respect for fencing’s unique character. But I do not revert to gobbledygook to explain them. In time, I expect students to understand how everything in fencing fits together naturally, holistically, like a puzzle unfolding. I sometimes call this connecting the dots. This is how one learns to think and converse with his or her opponents. But this internalized language should not be overly complicated. The essence of effective fencing is simplicity. The balance one achieves here comes only through patience, practice, and dedication.
Moreover, I believe that all that is learned within this traditional approach has a positive, life affirming quality that transcends the boundaries of fencing. It is not about champions or winning or medals. It is not about dominating others, but controlling our own inner impulses. In a world that has alienated many, and created a sedentary spectator creature, homo passivus, the traditional fencing mindset leads us to be the best we can be, which, if we have the courage to try, ultimately makes us more human.
In the fencing I teach, there are no scoring boxes, no rules without logic, no screaming or victory posturing, only standard French weapons, and the skill it takes to produce a simple touch that all recognize as a touch by sight. I do not rely on technology, or artifice, or excuses, or intimidation. Nor do I stand on undue, pompous formalities, or ceremonies that have no place in modern times. I am irreverent, because I am no guru. I laugh when I fence with my students, because I enjoy fencing. I fence for fun, and to teach others what I know.
What I teach, I learned from my master. And while this has gone through numerous personal modifications over the last forty-five years, at the center of my game is a very long, unbroken thread stretching into a most active past. This, then, is what I will be teaching until the day I die. But do not mistake my adamant nature for either elitism or ire. I am always happy to teach anyone who is willing to learn.
Again, and always, I say welcome.