Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Algonquin Times January 2013

I figured I would publish this on MY blog since I know that newspaper archives often vanish without warning.... 
This was an article published in the Algonquin Times, written by the Journalism Student Christopher Mines.  My comments are below. 

Shining knight swerves sword for students

By: Christopher Mines

Most teachers would get fired for hitting their students but there is one class where students pay to be hit with swords while wearing medieval armour.
Once a week medieval sword handling expert Bill Fedun teaches students how to parry, strike, takedown an opponent, basic shield tactics and how to use different forms of armour.
This general elective course offers students a glimpse into the past by offering accessible medieval sword handling workshops for students. Fedun teaches his students many forms of stick fighting and how to assemble chain armour.
Fedun and associate instructor Jeff Greenwood use several synthetic European broad swords and Japanese katana’s. “We don’t want anyone to lose an eye,” said Greenwood. Greenwood is a graduate of Algonquin’s print media program and has worked with Fedun for over five years.
The goal is to encourage students to take things in big bites and to become more passionate individuals said Fedun. Students exercise and become more confident in their everyday lives
The class is “meant to be honourable,” said Fedun. “I don’t want my sword fighting to be a poser.”
Fedun has taught this course for over 10 years and he emphasizes “How to be chivalrous and not an expert in sword handling,” said Fedun. “Some people lack respect and courtesy which makes them fearful.”
Fearful people overreact and look for places to hide. Fedun believes this leads to violence but if people learn the right symbol than they do not have to be afraid.
“The sword is a way better symbol than a weapon,” said Fedun. “It is a symbol of warrior ethos.” “If you are honourable and courteous then what the hell is there to be afraid of?”
Fedun served in the military and holds a black belt in Kenjutsu, which refers to the ethics and honour that comes with sword handling. “It means the gentleman’s way,” said Fedun.
Algonquin graduate Jason Russet has taken several courses with Fedun and keeps coming back. “It is pure fitness,” said Russet. “I love medieval arts and they use armour.”
Fedun said that Algonquin obviously likes his teaching style because “It fill seats and strikes a chord of humour and courtesy.”


The usual errors of course,
We don't use steel battle swords in training and we require safety glasses because we don't want anyone to lose an eye. 
Christopher misheard or misunderstood or perhaps over edited my original line....  The class is meant to be "honourable, courteous, chivalrous, and accurate to the time period...I don't want my sword fighters to be considered "posers".  
 One or even two classes in sword handling will not make you an expert in sword handling, but it WILL help you to be Chivalrous and Honourable.  These, added to Respect and Courtesy are elements of knighthood, and as we all know, knights are not fearful.  The rest is a little awkward, but I don't mind letting it stand, clearly the young reporter had trouble with the concepts. 

I do NOT, of course, have a black belt in Kenjutsu.  Practitioners of Kenjutsu are not generally concerned with belts such as used in the Judo world, but of course, some take these awards very seriously, and I hasten to point out to anyone who might be offended...it was not I who claimed I had a black belt in this beautiful art.

The line "if you are honourable and courteous, what the hell is there to be afraid of?" is correct, but out of context here.  This may have been my fault...a very complex concept that the reporter simply did not "get".  Essentially, I told him that people to bad things to each other for only two reasons...because one is a bully, which needs no explanation, and because they are afraid, which leads to actions which are often violent.  A cognitive dissonance prevents people from recognizing that their actions are often predicated on fear...fear of the black ghetto resident, fear of the gay man, fear of the foreigner, fear of the Moslem man, even fear of the skateboarder or the gangsta.  This fear is spread and used by sensationalist media to sell newspapers (or advertising air time)  but the result is a fearful mindset which causes people to fire gay teachers without cause, or beat them up.  You can insert the ethnic-religious-nationality of your choice into that last statement.  If you get rid of the fear, you get rid of the stupid behaviour.  Building a set of ethics is a very good way to, well, perhaps not get rid of fear, but at least handle it appropriately.
This is a VERY difficult concept to get across, and I fear I failed in this case...the reporter valiantly tried to get the concepts across, and for that I must give him full marks.

But hey....how often do you get to state ANYTHING you believe in and have it published!

Now, get training for Osgoode Village Medieval Festival!


  1. I believe this course has been a consistent money maker for Algonquin College since we started them in 2002? i believe. Good idea to have the agenda driven reporter's article translated so that it makes sense.

  2. Yeah...I would not give him many marks in MY journalism class. There were several errors which could have been picked up with some due diligence. But in my experience with journalists, this is not unusual. I have never been to an event which I read about later which I could identify!
    The nature of journalists is to seek an "angle", what you called an "agenda" which will presumably lead to dialogue. Just plain reporting is very boring. But if you try to be entertaining, (the opposite of boring) you have to have some sort of training in being entertaining. You have to remember that only a year ago, this fellow's entire communications skill set was in punching LOL into his cell phone! I had to give him full marks for attempting to convey some VERY complex conceptual memes, and in a very real way, I know how difficult it is to write in any meaningful way.

  3. And that comment needs to be edited...grin! Please remove "and in a very real way"...

    So its not just journalists! grin!