By Mikael Krummel

Armizare (are-mit-TZAR-ay) is a martial arts system once favored by aristocratic warriors in medieval Europe. Its roots date back 1,500 years, and its techniques were first expertly codified in a series of manuscripts authored 600 years ago by an Italian, Maestro d’Armi Fiore.

The Northwest Fencing Academy offers armizare instruction based on the writings of Fiore. Academy classes also provide fundamental and mastery-level training in hand-to-hand European martial arts skills: wrestling and the use of a dagger, a real sword, a shield, poleaxe, and an improvised weapon.

Maestro d’Armi Sean Hayes is the founder and head instructor of the academy. The school relocated from the Churchill area to new facilities in downtown Eugene. The move has helped contribute to increased enrollment and expanded class offerings. Students range from teens to seniors.

Hayes says he was “immediately drawn to the physicality” of fencing as a young man. In the 1990s, he pursued masters studies in the sport at San Jose State University. He established the Fencing Academy in Eugene as a modern school for historical European martial arts. 

According to Hayes, European and Asian martial arts traditions have many parallels: both involve combat on the ground and horseback; both embrace a variety of weapons used with overlapping techniques; and both incorporate armor and armorless combat. Though there are differences rooted in Christian cultural perspectives versus Japanese religious traditions, both approaches place strong emphasis on the integration of body and mind.

It’s a core notion, Hayes contends, that plays out as a demand for alternating attention to intellectualism and intuition during combat situations. To reinforce the point, he cites a passage from a 14th-century Fiore manuscript: “When you come to face off against somebody, you should immediately assess them. Are they young or old? Are they strong or small? Do they stand in the darts of the art or do they stand in some other way? Make these assessments. This is how you will proceed.”

Hayes hesitates a moment as he reflects on lessons learned from personal experience. “In competition,” he offers, “once the blades engage, you can no longer think. You simply have to feel, understand, and respond.”