Beginning at the Higgins Armory Museum in 2009 and continuing privately after the Museum's closing in 2013, we are a community of people exploring Historical European Martial Arts—the art, science, and spirit of the sword and other weapons as they were used in both serious combat and friendly encounters. Members of our community may attend different clubs but train together!
At our classes you will receive expert, safe, and martially realistic instruction in the knightly longsword, the Renaissance rapier, and the classical stick, staff, dagger, and dueling sabre. We offer a progressive system of instruction that builds overall fitness and coordination as you learn swordplay traditions both handed down from the days when a person’s life might depend on skill with a blade and reconstructed from the detailed treatises left to us by fencing masters of the past.
Weapons we study include:
Bâton: A traditional two-handed stick system that forms the basis for the other weapons
Canne: The stick in one hand, based on using a walking stick for self-defense
Sabre: A traditional Franco-Italian system dating from the 19th century
Foil: "Classical" French and Italian fencing, taught with reference to dueling practice
Épée and smallsword: The dueling sword and the eighteenth-century "court sword" from which it descends
Rapier: The thrusting-and-cutting sword of the 17th century as practiced by Capo Ferro, Fabris, and Giganti
Longsword: The two-handed "knightly" sword, mostly as practiced by journeymen in the early modern Holy Roman Empire and transmitted by writers such as Joachim Meyer
Messer and sword and buckler: Medieval and early modern sidearms.
We believe that swordplay is for all. We encourage everyone, all abilities and backgrounds, to participate with us. We are an inclusive group and reject all bigotry and hate. Fencing is for everyone!
Ken Mondschein, PhD, M.Ed., Maître d'Armes Historique
Ken Mondschein (website) received his PhD from Fordham University in 2010, his fencing master’s certification in historical fencing from the US Fencing Coaches’ Association in 2013, and his M.Ed. from UMass-Amherst in 2021. He is also certified as a Prevôt in modern foil and épée and has an M.Ed. from UMass-Amherst. Ken has studied fencing and historical martial arts for since the mid-1990s, and has competed successfully in several local historical fencing tournaments. He also holds a second-degree black belt in traditional Japanese karate and is an avid equestrian and jouster. Ken’s philosophy differs from that of most historical martial arts instructors, as it is based on both primary sources and living traditions of foil, épée, sabre, and European stick-fighting.
On the academic side of things, Dr. Mondschein is a college professor who was a 2008–2009 Fulbright scholar to France, a Visiting Fellow at Harvard from 2009–10 and at UMass Amherst’s Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies from 2010–12, and was a Research Fellow at the Higgins from 2009 until the Museum’s closing in 2013. Besides numerous other writings, invited talks, and conference presentations, he is the translator of Camillo Agrippa’s rapier treatise (Italica Press, 2009; revised edition, 2014), as well as a book on the Getty manuscript of Fiore dei Liberi (Getty Publications, 2011), the Italian school of the two-handed sword (SKA Swordplay Books, 2012), conference proceedings on HEMA subjects (Freelance Academy Press, 2014), Game of Thrones and the Medieval Art of War (McFarland, 2017), The Art of the Rapier (SKA Swordplay Books, 2020), and On Time, a history of timekeeping (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020). Dr. Mondschein’s academic work concentrates on what fencing books can teach us about European history, and he is widely known as one of the foremost experts in this field.
Chris Palagi has studied with Ken Mondschein, beginning at Higgins Armory Museum, since 2009. He is the assistant coach for MHS at the Worcester Fencing Club. He is certified as a moniteur of historical fencing by the USFCA and an engineer by trade.
Bryan Larkin has been a part of MHS since 2013. He began studying HEMA at Acadamie Duello (Vancouver, BC) in 2008.. His main weapons are rapier and longsword and he is a public school teacher. He is an Assistant Moniteur in training.
The circle inside the octagon is adapted from Camillo Agrippa's "Treatise on the Science of Arms, with a Philosophical Dialogue" from 1553 which was translated to English for the first time in 2009 by Dr. Mondschein. Agrippa explains that just as a branch taken from a tree is suitable for drawing any number of figures so to, is everyone capable of learning to fence no matter what their body.
In recent years our club has grown and changed in many ways. In 2018 the logo was changed and simplified for a more modern look to reflect our growth. The helmet featured in the previous logo was a tribute to the Higgins.