Worcester Historical Swordsmanship began at the Higgins Armory Museum in 2009 and moved to its current home at Worcester Fencing Club after the Museum’s closing.
WHS is a community of men and women exploring Western martial arts—the art, science, and spirit of the sword and other weapons as they were used in both serious combat and friendly encounters. Here, you will receive expert, safe, and martially realistic instruction in the knightly longsword and dagger, the Renaissance rapier, and the classical stick, staff, and dueling sabre. (Want to see what we do? Here's a video of some spadone fencing, and here's some bâton and canne.)
The class is led by Dr. Ken Mondschein, who has the unique qualifications of holding both a PhD in history and a fencing master’s certification. 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. Dr. Mondschein is an internationally known scholar in this field.
Classes are held on an ongoing basis Tuesday evenings from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm and Saturday mornings from 11 am - 12:30 pm. A monthly tuition rate of $125 applies. Per-class tuition is $20, and the discounted rate for yearly tuition is $1100 and includes a WFC membership (a $1400 value). You can find out more info and sign up for classes on this page. (NB: There's a small step-up charge for PayPal fees.)
Private lessons with Dr. Mondschein in longsword, rapier, smallsword, sabre, stick, dueling sabre, and classical weapons are also available at a rate of $25 per half hour or $40 per hour (plus a $10 floor fee to WFC). Dr. Mondschein also teaches at the Pioneer Valley Fencing Academy in Easthampton.
The class is open to any person age 16 or older (younger with instructor’s permission). Loaner equipment is available. Please wear comfortable athletic clothes with long pants and (and an athletic cup for men). Low-top sneakers are preferable. These classes are somewhat strenuous in nature, involving aerobic and anaerobic exercise. If you have a preexisting illness, injury, or other condition, please consult your physician and inform the instructor.
Please note that WHS is separate from Worcester Fencing Club. It is insured by the HEMA Alliance and not governed by USA Fencing.
About the Instructors
Ken Mondschein (website) received his PhD from Fordham University in 2010 and his fencing master’s certification in historical fencing from the US Fencing Coaches’ Association in 2013. He is also certified as a Prevôt in modern foil and épée. Ken has studied fencing and historical martial arts for almost twenty years, 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 beginner jouster.
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), and conference proceedings on HEMA subjects (Freelance Academy Press, 2014). He has numerous other works forthcoming. 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. His extensive experience in higher education includes "Medieval Swordfighting: History and Practice" at Westfield State University—a unique class that combines the academic and the physical.
Chris Palagi has studied with Ken Mondschein for five years, and is certified as a moniteur (instructor) of historical fencing by the USFCA. He is an engineer by trade.