About Academia Duellatoria: History
In 1991 Jeff Richardson met John Husky in Ashland Oregon. A mutual love for fencing, martial arts and history quickly led to the two getting together for practice with the rapier. Shortly thereafter Mr. Husky started a club at Southern Oregon State University in Ashland, Oregon. Shortly after the two were joined by Matthew Howden who was also a student at the university. Deciding that there needed to be a deeper study of the art they were trying to practice Jeff began bringing in discussions of the writings on the historical fencing masters. Training through the study of these writings combined with their various martial arts and fencing backgrounds and much trial and error started in earnest.
The club began to grow with university students, members of the Society of Creative Anachronism and members of the local community. The three quickly found themselves taking on the position of instructor to an eager group of students. In the small University town the club at one point had as many as 25 members in it’s class. The three were eventually joined by Lt. Col. John Czekala who brought his own extensive martial arts experience to the group. Study by the four was largely based on the available English writings of the Italian and English historical masters of fence and the limited available analysis of other historical fencing masters done by scholars that was available at that time.
Using their theatrical backgrounds Jeff and Matthew began putting together theatrical fights for presentations at theatrical and charity events in Southern Oregon and Coastal Northern California. Jeff and John Husky began giving presentations on historical fencing to the community and at martial arts events.
Matthew and Jeff eventually found themselves intriqued by descriptions of a Spanish method of fencing known as Destreza and equally frustrated by the lack of available material on the subject other than some descriptions and pictures form the manuscripts. A friend handed Jeff an article written for the esoteric community by John Michael Greer analyzing the fencing manuscript of Girard Thibault. Having discovered that Mr. Greer was working on a translation of this text Jeff quickly contacted him and discovered that Mr. Greer had self published his translation of the first 8 chapters. While Jeff and Mr. Greer became friends by way of the internet, Matthew and Jeff went to work doing their best to decipher this text on Destreza but failed to garner the interest of the others in Spanish influenced fencing. Matthew left school and returned to the Portland area in 2000 where he continued to take students and continued his study of Thibault. He also began intensive work on the German fencing text of Jacob Suttor.
Having exhausted their available source material Jeff continued to look for additional translated material on Spanish fencing and discovered the studies and writings of Maestro Ramone Martinez at the Martinez Academy of Arms in (location?). Having given up in frustration his search for English translations of the Spanish material Jeff sent the Maestro an e-mail asking if he could share his source material. The reply was simple, “I am sorry there is nothing in English, I read them in the original Spanish. I am however available to travel to teach seminars.” Never having met each other a discussion ensued. Jeff had already determined that the group had platued and they really needed a qualified instructor. Using e-mail and phone Jeff found that there was enough interest and using his background as a promoter of Eastern Martial Arts seminars and tournaments started to make arrangements.
In the Spring of 2001 using a rented gym in Ashland, Oregon Jeff brought together all of the then recognized experts on Destreza to teach a seminar. The instructors included John Michael Greer, Maestro Ramone Martinez, Maestro Jaennette Acosta-Martinez and the maestro’s assistant Jared Kirby for a weekend seminar. The seminar garnered interest from the film and theatrical community, the fencing community, the Society of Creative Anachronism and the Silat martial arts community. 35 students attended some coming from as far away as Chicago and Phoenix Arizona for what was to be the first seminar of it’s kind held in the United States. In attendance at that seminar was fight choreographer and performer Anthony DeLongis who was known for his portrayal of Spanish fencing on “Highlander” and “Queen of Swords” and he quickly became friends with Jeff and the Maestro’s. This seminar has since been lauded as groundbreaking by the historical fencing community and it’s model has been used by others to promote their own seminars. Two more seminars on Destreza followed.
The resulting friendships led to the creation of the Maestro’s video on Destreza that was produced by Anthony’s production company Palpable Hits Productions in 2002. The video features still images from various Spanish fencing texts and a method of creating Girard Thibault’s fencing circle diagram provided by, Matthew Howden, Jeff Richardson and John Michael Greer.
John Husky left the University and without representation by the instructors it became difficult to maintain the fencing group at the University. Practices moved out to the local parks. Jeff Richardson, John Husky and John Czekala formulated the concept of Academia Duellatoria (meaning Duelling Arts Academy), a martial arts school based on historical European martial arts studies. Jeff became the head instructor and Mr. Husky and Mr. Czekala became assistant instructors. The three quickly established themselves as a source for educational presentations and began teaching at locations around the valley.
Academia Duellatoria eventually found itself a home and rented space from the Medford Oregon Elks Lodge. Advertising and promotional events began and the school started it’s commercial operation with Jeff Richardson as it’s head instructor and John Czekala as assistant instructor. Shortly thereafter Lt. Col. Czekala was called up on full time active duty in the Army and had to leave the school.
In 2005 John Husky, a military veteran himself, eventually moved to Portland. He was following his longtime girlfriend and her children that he had helped raise. The oldest son had died in the latest conflict in Iraq. Shortly thereafter, he died in the hospital after a tragic motorcycle accident on the Portland expressways. His funeral and wake brought former students who had become friends from all over the United States to Portland. His jovial presence, personality and enthusiasm is sorely missed by the group.
In 2006 John Michael Greer’s completed translation of Girard Thibault’s fencing text finally saw a publication date. Mr. Greer coordinated with Academia Duellatoria to put together a book release party and an accompanying martial arts seminar in Southern Oregon. The book release was scheduled for Friday night at the Medford Barnes and Noble. Lectures on history and philosophy of the material by John Michael Greer were accompanied by discussion and demonstrations of technique by Jeff Richardson and Student Jason Vickoren. The lecture was enthusiastically received by the standing room only crowd and all but 1 copy of the available books were quickly sold out. Saturday and Sunday saw an intensive 2 full days of hands on work taught to attendees of the seminar by Matthew Howden and intensive lectures on the history, philosophy, symbolism and accompanying non-martial disciplines by John Michael Greer. This was again the first intensive seminar on this subject to be taught anywhere and it again received excellent reviews. The following weekend saw a lecture by John Michael Greer in Ashland at the University Library.
Pending a coming move to Portland by Jeff discussions began about reformatting the school as a partnership. Jeff moved to the Portland Oregon area in January of 2007. Academia Duellatoria LLC was reformed as a partnership between Matthew Howden, Jeff Richardson and John Czekala. The school in Medford became an affiliated club in the hands of it’s senior students Brian Pearson, Jason Vickoren and Travis Hardy while awaiting the return of instructor Lt. Col. John Czekala from military service.
Academia Duellatoria located a space to teach in the greater Portland area and opened its doors in April of 2007. Instructor John Czekala returned to Southern Oregon in January of 2008 and has retired from the military. The Southern Oregon school was relocated to the Phoenix Oregon Grange Hall. Classes are taught in Portland by Jeff Richardson and Matthew Howden and in Phoenix by John Czekala. Subject matters for study are chosen on a quarterly basis.