Fitness Fridays: Emily Rack sweats through a sword fight

Bill Fedun spars with a partner during a sword fighting workshop

Emily Rack (blog/Twitter) is a 21-year old journalism student, split cross-continentally between Canada (school) and England (family). She loves adventuring around the world, planning unconventional dates, going to music festivals, baking caramel sea salt brownies, and dancing the night away. She is joining forces with LTOttawa to bring you the very best weird and wonderful fitness classes throughout the city.

Alternative fitness fanatics of Ottawa: I realize I owe you an apology. So far here at LTOttawa I have mainly catered to the hip-swirlers and the booty-shakers of the city. I’m planning on evening out the score today by taking a look at the more macho side of alternative fitness. What I am about to show you is not only for the strong-of-bicep, but also for the brave-of-heart.

European broadsword handling is what I’m talking about. Yes, although the clanging of swords, the rustling of chain mail and the battle cries of would-be knights sounds a little medieval, swordfighting has made its way into the fitness scene of the 21st century.

In Ottawa alone, there is a variety of sword fighting classes that have proven to be extremely popular. The more delicate European-style of fencing, the Japanese sword art of Kenjutsu, and what I like to consider the main event: a class that is entitled “Chivalrous Broad Sword Handling.”

Bill Fedun crafts some armour

Ottawa’s foremost armour-maker, Middle Ages enthusiast and seasoned sword handler, Bill Fedun, runs the class. After training in martial arts for years, he decided to combine his Kung Fu and Kenjutsu skills with his love for medieval times and open his class to the public. Fedun teaches classes not only on swordplay, but also on armour-making at Algonquin College and the Plant Recreation Centre throughout the year.
“There is no better empowerment than to know how to use a battle sword with finesse and skill,” says Fedun. “Anybody that has an interest in honour, courtesy, loyalty, chastity, faith, courage, and prowess, will also have an interest in armour.”

Not only that, but I would argue that anyone who has an interest in getting in shape through a mixture of weight training (those swords certainly aren’t light) and martial arts would also be interested. Swordfighting is a great way to get moving, work on your agility and exercise muscles you normally wouldn’t use. (Seriously; What day-to-day activities are similar to a swordfight??)

Now, although this sounds like it could be dangerous, Fedun says his main concern is safety. While he says many other medieval organizations have a lenient policy on safety and violence, it is something at the top of his priority list.

“Our goal is to spar safely, effectively and efficiently. We’re looking for the long term benefits; the camaraderie, and the fact that you’re engaging in a martial art and won’t hurt yourself.”

The classes are predominantly made up of young adults, who may be interested in the novelty of the sport at first, but come to find a real solidarity with it. As well as simply getting some exercise, students of the class are schooled in honour, kinship and the art of graceful competition, something that prompts many beginners to continue into the advanced classes.

Bill Fedun's South Tower Armouring Guild, where he makes weapons and chain mail

Four times a year, Fedun and his wife Brenda hold a swordplay tournament on a piece of land near their home in Metcalfe, allowing students and medieval buffs alike a chance to get together and show off their skills. Up to 80 armour-clad fighters participate in duels, and they always attract a large number of spectators.

If swinging a sword and duelling with a worthy opponent is the kind of thing that gets your heart rate up, maybe you should give it a try. Until next time, en garde!

More information on Fedun’s classes can be found at his website: http://www.southtower.on.ca/

More information and events about medieval swordfighting in the Ottawa area can be found here: http://www.ottawasword.com/

If fencing sounds like a better fit, try the EXO Fencing Club on the University of Ottawa campus: http://exo.ottawafencing.ca/

And kid-friendly swordfighting classes and more classical swordfighting options can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/ottawaclassicalswordplay/

Wow! Exercise AND adventure! We can’t wait to see what you get up to next, Emily. Have any ideas for interesting fitness? Leave a comment below.