Jim Tschen Emmons



Jim began fencing foil in 1987 and has had the good fortune to work with several well-respected maestri since that time: Maestro Edwin “Buzz” Hurst (at UC Santa Barbara, CA), Maestro Al Couturier (at UC Santa Barbara and Salle d’Armes Couturier, Culver City, CA), and Maitre Delmar Calvert (at Salle Trois Armes, Portland, OR). Of these masters he spent the most time with M. Couturier and his assistants. Al was a student of Maestro Joseph Vince, a graduate of the Hungarian fencing program, who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s.

A firm believer that one remains a student no matter how long one has studied, how much one has achieved, or how many certifications one might hold, Jim continues to study and train with other coaches as often as possible. He is a member of the USFCA (United States Fencing Coaches Association) and takes classes as often as possible. He is a moniteur d’escrime in sabre.

Competitive Experience

UC Santa Barbara, late 90s

Prior to fencing, Jim spent several years in Tae Kwon Do as taught by Grand Master Jhoon Rhee and his coaches, especially Jeff Smith at the Annandale Do Jang. This system is a mix of Chung Do Kwan, ITF TKD, and elements Rhee added. Thought Rhee’s approach was self-defense oriented, Jim competed for several years in the DC and Mid-Atlantic region; that experience was good training for the vagaries of competitive fencing. Jim competed in sabre as member of UC Santa Barbara’s Fencing Team from 1991-3 and 1994-6, as well as in USFA tourneys in the SoCal division. He left competitive fencing to focus on classical fencing in 1996. Focused now on teaching, Jim spends more time organizing rather than competing in events.


Jim began teaching when assigned by his maestri, first Maestro Couturier and his assistant coaches, then later by Maitre Calvert, to help newer fencers with drill. Jim’s approach to teaching individual fencers is a mix of what his masters taught him with adjustments made for age, conditioning, and personality (not everyone learns the same way). Much of his approach, thus, comes from the tried and true method formulated within Italy and France over the last few hundred years, though he also looks to his time working with diverse audiences as a community college professor. By choice Jim likes to collaborate with others–every teacher is first (and always) a student and working with colleagues is a great way to learn.

Group instruction, in many ways, mirrors the individual lesson, but places higher demands on student and teacher alike. There is no substitute for individual lessons–it is still the best method through which to learn to fence–but group classes allow for drill with partners of different sizes, speeds, and skill-levels, all of which are valuable in our growth as fencers. Classes are regimented–they start out with warm up, footwork drills, and then turn to specific lessons and drills. Time for directed bouting or free-bouting normally occur at the end of class.

In addition to running SdTS Jim teaches youth and adult fencing classes at Chehalem Parks & Recreation.

Community Building

One of Jim’s goals is to build a viable historical sabre community in the Portland area specifically and the PNW in general. This is happening by fits and starts. The first sabre seminar Jim put together, in 2015, covered Henry Angelo’s infantry sword manual (1845), the system under study at Academia Duellatoria (now defunct), where Jim occasionally fenced and helped prepare students for the AHF tourney. In this first seminar he collaborated with Velah Gilbert, now a close friend, and a serious student of sabre.

Christopher Bigelow explaining the thrust from 2nd

In 2016 he and his friend, Will Richmond (NWFC), were invited to introduce sabre (Italian/Italo-Hungarian) to Grit City HEMA in Tacoma. The success of that class led to further seminars, first at Indes WMA, where Jim worked with Brent Lambell to turn Indes’ KdF fighters into sabre fans, then twice at Herzstich Dueling Guild in Tacoma (the last time with Christopher Bigelow from Northwest Fencing Academy).

First of several lectures on reading medieval fight manuals

From 2016 to 2018 Jim headed the sabre program at Northwest Armizare. In 2019 Jim taught additional sabre seminars at High Desert Armizare, in Bend, and returned to Indes (now Indes Ferox Gladio) to provide a refresher course. In between these seminars Jim taught sabre or helped out with demonstrations everywhere from the Oregon Renaissance Faire to the Sherwood Robin Hood Festival. He has presented at Swordsquatch (2017), the Thundermark Armored Deed (2018), and the University Club of Portland, this last in concert with other area historical fencers. While still on social media, Jim assisted Velah Gilbert and Jay Maas in managing the largest page devoted to sabre on Facebook, the “Military/Classical Sabre” page, with over 3,000 members from all over the world.

In 2020 & 2021 Jim delivered several online lectures/discussions. One, an examination of problems in interpreting illustrations in Bolognese sources, Jim delivered online at Northwest Armizare. Looking at a later period, this time at Sala della Spada, Jim shared research he was working on that concerned an odd interpretation of the lunge in historical fencing circles. In related work, Jim had the honor to chat with the renowned scholar of Persian martial arts, Dr. Manouchechr Khorasani at Razmafzar TV (Youbtue), first about historical fencing generally, and then in association with Ken Jay about French smallsword, and with Mike Cherba, Radaellian sabre. From time to time Jim has happily provided a target for Mike Cherba, Northwest Armizare, a key researcher in the marital arts of the Republic of Georgia, and acted as Mike’s pell when he and Dr. Khorasani discussed the intricacies of Georgian sword and buckler and when Mike presented at Swordsquatch.

The excellent Michael Knazko (Barbasetti Military Sabre since 1895), and Jim, SabreSlash, October 2021, Prague, Czechia

More recently (Spring/Summer 2021), he advised the broadsword pod of Northwest Armizare (the school, because of Covid, met in small groups by topic). Jim also began classes again at CPRD, though in limited sizes to remain pandemic friendly. In October 2021 Jim flew to Prague, Czechia, as a visiting instructor at SabreSlash 2021, a two day event consisting of workshops, a sabre tourney, a cutting seminar, and truly excellent comaraderie and pilsner.


A trained historian (PhD, medieval history), and the author of several books, Jim calls upon this research background in his ongoing study of historical fencing, especially the Radaellian school of sabre, French smallsword, and the development of fencing generally. As a Latinist, Jim has assisted the gifted teacher and translator, Chris Holzman, with the Latin portions in several of Chris’ translations, including Marcelli’s Rules of Fencing (1686), Pallavincini’s Fencing Illustrated (1670), and Rosaroll and Grisetti’s The Science of Fencing (1803).

Click “Research” in bold below for lecture transcripts, interview links, etc.


Comrades in The Collective

SdTS works closely with several other Oregon clubs, chief among which are High Desert Armizare (Bend, OR), Northwest Armizare (Sherwood, OR), and Rogue School of Arms (Medford, OR). We work closely together, support one another’s clubs and students, visit one another’s classes whenever we can, and seek to push the Art by working together. There are links to the schools in the “Links” section, but here are some brief bios as well:

Josh Campbell: a long-time student of broadsword and claidheamh dà làimh, Josh is an active member of the SCA, The Cateran Society, and a frequent collaborator with both Mike Cherba and Jim. In addition to these pursuits Josh leads an historical fencing group in Medford, Rogue School of Arms. Over the course of the pandemic Josh has made the long trek north to fight and compare notes with Mike, Jim, and other local fencers.

Mike Cherba, Northwest Armizare, Sherwood, OR

Mike Cherba: Though well known for his years of experience with Armizare, Mike is also one of the leading researchers into the martial systems of the Republic of Georgia. What started as a translation project of a Soviet-era take on the more playful style, Parikaoba, has blossomed into a full-scale study of Lashkroba, the most warlike expression of this folk art. Of note, Mike works with several leading Georgian scholars, martial artists, and sword-makers: perhaps more so than anyone else Mike has helped spread this fascinating, extremely fun, and viable art in the English speaking world. Northwest Armizare, which Mike founded after leaving Eugene, has arguably become the largest, most successful historical fencing school in the state. The inaugural armored deed NWA hosted pre-Pandemic will, it is greatly hoped, return soon!

Sean Mueller, American Bastone Project & High Desert Armizare

Sean Mueller: Sean Mueller, a close associate of Alex Spreier, has studied Armizare with Alex for years, but recently began a close study of the bastone of Cerri, the approach of Zachary Wylde to smallsword, spadroon, and quarterstaff, and Insular broadsword. The last he pursues as a member of the group studying with Erik Artz, more recently located in Bend from Seattle where he studied with Lonin League.

Alex Spreier, High Desert Armizare, Bend, OR

Alex Spreier: From armored combat (he fought in the Fiore 600 in 2010) to classical Italian foil, from empty-hand and grappling to the pole-axe of Le Jeu de la Hache, Alex has acquired not only deep skill, but also a complex understanding of the ways in which universal principles of fight apply across systems. His class “Spear as Foil” is just one such example. He and Mike met at Nortwest Fencing Academy, the school of Maestro Sean Hayes, and when life lead them to new locations they both created groups in order to continue training and share the Art with others.

Richard Tillman, NWA, Robin Hood Festival, 2018, photo by Tommy Dragna

Richard Tillman: Richard joined Northwest Armizare with a background in MMA and wrestling. Study of Fiore led to work in harness, so in addition to fighting in blossfechten Richard is one of the school’s regular armored combat participants. Richard has also studied Italian sabre, knowledge that has informed his leadership of NWA’s broadsword pod. This subgroup of the larger club formed in response to restrictions for meeting sizes during the Pandemic, but has continued to meet and thrive.

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