The National Park Service prohibits battle reenactments that involve hand-to-hand combat out of respect for those who died – and for the sake of safety.
But Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is nevertheless offering sword fighting classes this fall for those interested in the clash of steel. The classes involve drills using blunt training swords with rubber tips, and there’s no actual fighting, said Fort Vancouver’s spokesperson Elaine Dorset.
“We’re showing the public the drills that they used to do to teach soldiers and sailors how to use their swords during battle,” Dorset said. “But we don’t touch each other. Everything is choreographed… It’s a drill. There is definitely no battle being represented in reenactment.”
In December 1855, nearly 100 U.S. Army Dragoons arrived at Fort Vancouver, according to NPS. They were mounted infantry who carried a variety of personal weapons, including sabers. Participants in the fall course will learn how the Army’s 1st Regiment of Dragoons trained back then.
“Training and drills for sword work are similar to other martial arts techniques, and so provide the opportunity to work on muscle memory, motor skills and coordination,” said Dorset. “It’s a great way to get exercise, learn some regional history and do something fun and unusual on your own or with your family.”
The seven-week course runs on Sunday afternoons from Oct. 16 to Nov. 27 at a cost of $100 per person. Anyone age 12 and up may participate. Training sabers and safety equipment are provided.