About Academia Duellatoria: Instructors

John Czekala , Lt. Col. Ret. – Instructor at Arms (Southern Oregon)

John has a long standing interest in Western Military History starting with his instruction in Polish Sabre as a youth in 1961. He developed an interest in Eastern Martial Arts during his extended military time in Asia and continued it’s pursuit upon his return to the US and through college. He achieved his Nidan in Kenpo and studied the art of Iado for ten years as an early member of the North American Iado Society.

While attending advanced studies at the Army Command and General Staff College, John rediscovered his interest in Western Military History. He has been involved since 1994 with his fellow instructors in what is now Academia Duellatoria. His initial area study focused on the work of Vincent Saviolo.
Following 911, John's final term of active duty with the Armed Forces found him stationed on the East Cost. While there John achieved his Advanced Certified Archery Instructor Certification and placed third in the NFAA National Indoor Archery Championships. During this time he also studied Spanish Rapier under Maestro Ramone Martinez at the Martinez Academy of Arms. Most recently he has been working with Jeff and Matthew on achieving fluency in the rapier system of Girard Thibault.

John is currently retired from a 38+ year military career, ending as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves, as well as from a 35 year civilian career. He dedicates his time to improving his skills with the rapier and maintaining the Southern Oregon Salle of Academia Duellatoria. John is a long standing member of the American Bladesmith Society. In his spare time he is leisurely pursuing a doctorate in Military History as well as his Journeyman and eventually Master Bladesmith Certifications from the American Bladesmith Society.

Matthew Howden

Matthew Howden - Instructor at Arms (Portland)

Matthew's love affair with personal combat began at an early age as a by-product of excessive exposure swashbuckling movies and chivalric literature. He began studying arms and armor typology while still in grade school and, by high school he was learning stage combat, break-falling and physical theater. He sought out instruction in modern fencing and eastern martial arts, but nothing seemed to be quite what he was looking for.

In the mid 1990s Matthew began studying late 16th Century Rapier treatises and the love affair became an obsession. Since 1999 Matthew's primary area of study has been Gerard Thibault's "Academy of the Sword," a rapier treatise after the Spanish tradition originally published in 1628. His additional studies include the early 17th Century Italian tradition of rapier (based on the works of Ridolfo Capo Ferro and Salvatore Fabris), and the Liechtenauer mixed weapons tradition which was predominant in Germany in the 15th-17th Centuries.

Matthew's teaching career began at the historic fencing Club in Ashland, Oregon before his relocation to Portland where he has been running classes for the last five years. In addition to his own classes and workshops, Matthew has spent considerable time teaching through the Portland chapter of the Tattershall School of Defense as well as through the Society for Creative Anachronism. He currently holds the latter organization's highest award for excellence in rapier combat (The Order of the White Scarf), as well as its highest order for research and scholarship (Order of the Laurel).

Scholarship and historic accuracy are very important to Matthew and he has helped further the research of western martial arts in numerous capacities over the years. He assisted with the instructional video "La Verdadera Destreza, The True Art and Skill of Spanish Swordsmanship" featuring Anthony Delongis and the Maestro's Martinez, helping to supply the still images used in the video. Currently he is involved in a project to translate Jakob Sutor's "Neues Künstliches Fechtbuch," a German combat treatise from 1612.

Jeff Richardson

Jeff Richardson - Instructor at Arms (Portland)

Jeff grew up on medieval fantasy novels, swashbuckler movies and bad kung fu flicks. He began studying Eastern martial arts in 1982 in Eugene Oregon. He spent two summers studying Shotokan and then spent three years with the study of TaeKwonDo under Sensei Joe Gates until moving to Ashland in late 1986 at the age of 17. In Ashland Jeff studied modern fencing under former U.S.A. Olympians Gay Jacobsen-D’Asaro and Michael D’Asaro until moving to Phoenix Arizona to attend trade school in 1988 . He returned to Ashland in the summer of 1990 and continued to train periodically with Gay until 1993. In early 1992 he became an assistant instructor for The American Karate Academy and helped run and promote the local school Until 1998, in 1995 he earned the rank of Black Belt in American Open Style Karate under Hanshei Jerry Piddington. Instruction at the American Karate Academy also came from Sifu Tom Spellman, Sensie Robert Owens and Sensie Gerri Rose. Jeff served dual duty as the local tournament promoter and worked as the publicist for American Karate Academies National Association. During this time Jeff also cross trained with Sifu Tom Spellman in Daimon Ryu JuiJitsu working as his assistant.

Since the late 1980’s Jeff has spent time doing rapier and epee stage choreography for local theatres and working with independent film projects and can be seen in the indie films Westender and Spin of Fabrications. Jeff came to historic fencing in the early 90’s while helping to found the club in Ashland, Oregon which eventually became Academia Duellatoria. He has researched and taught historic fencing and provided public demonstrations ever since. He served as apprentice armorer to Ironcastle Armories learning the art of historic armoring. With a primary focus on the rapier, a study of the works of Thibault led him to meet Maestro Martinez and John Michael Greer and hold the first West Coast seminar on the subject in Ashland Oregon in the Spring of 2001. A continued involvment with Western Martial Arts has led Jeff to join the Association for Historic Fencing where he currently serves as a member of it’s board of directors.

Jeff’s primary studies in historic western martial arts include the early 16th century Italian tretise of Morozzo and the later 16th century rapier treatises of Giocomo DiGrassi and Vincent Saviolo. In addition he has pursued a study of the primarly Spanish tradition of rapier fencing known as Destreza with an emphasis on the work of Gerard Thibault. Most recently it has been Jeff’s pleasure to to background research and peer review for Jherek Swangers forthcoming translation of Camillo Agrippa’s groundbreaking 16th century Italian rapier tretise.