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 master who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, and was a graduate of the Hungarian fencing program.
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).
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. In the past two years he and Brent Lambell (Drei Wunder WMA) have put together an invitational sabre tourney, one that continues to grow and, which is designed to provide a venue for experienced sabre fencers. A beginner’s tournament is also in the works.
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 looks to his time working with diverse audiences as a community college professor too. 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. Jim’s classes are regimented–they start out with warm up, footwork drills, and then turn to specific lessons and drills. Time for directed bouting, and once in a while for free-bouting, normally occur at the end of class.
In addition to running SdTS Jim teaches fencing at Chehalem Parks & Recreation, youth and adult classes when there isn’t a pandemic ruining everything.
One of Jim’s goals is to build a viable historical sabre community in the Portland area specifically and the PNW in general. This has happened 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, from Frias to Del Frate.
In 2016 he and his friend, Will Richmond, 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).
From 2016 to 2018 Jim headed the sabre program at Northwest Armizare. This past year (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 has 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. Online, Jim for a long time 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.
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 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.