• Early Years and Official Formation, 1940s

    The first meeting leading to the formation of the United States Fencing Coaches Association was held in 1941 at the first National Collegiate Fencing Championships, held at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

    According to Charlie Schmitter, who served as the association President from 1952-54, “Nothing of any importance developed there (at this first meeting) because of a lack of rapport between the professionals and the amateur coaches who were worried about their amateur standing.”

    A small group of professional coaches formed a society, over a glass of wine at Garavelli’s Café in St. Louis in 1942 during the second National Collegiate Fencing Championships at Washington University. This society would eventual become the NFCAA and the current USFCA. Robert “Bobby” Grasson the late fencing coach of Yale was the prime mover in getting the group together. The other four coaches present were Alvar Hermanson of the University of Chicago, Maxwell “Mac” Garret of Illinois, Orest Meykar of Washington University (St. Louis), and Charles R. Schmitter of Michigan State. The life of this young organization hung by a thread during the remainder of World War II because there was a hiatus of the National Collegiate Fencing Championship from 1943 through 1947.

    Small meetings of this infant professional fencing coaches society were held in New York in 1946 and 47. The five persons present in 1946 were Bobby Grasson, Clovis Deladrier, Charlie Schmitter, Georges Conte of Cornell and Dernell Every, President of the Amateur Fencers League of America (AFLA). Clovis Deladrier was elected the first President in 1946 and reelected at the 1947 meeting. The first Vice-President was Julio M. Castello of NYU and the first Secretary-Treasurer was Bobby’s brother Maurice Grasson.

    Deladrier (1885-1948) was the Belgian born coach of the Naval Academy (1933-48), which won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) championships twice (1938, ’43). In 1948, Clovis Deladrier passed away and Joseph Fiems, also of Navy, succeeded him as President. Clovis’ son Andre Deladrier served as Secretary Treasurer from 48-50 and later as President 60-62.

    The National Collegiate Fencing Championships resumed after the war in 1948 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The meeting at these championships, with coaches from over thirty colleges, began what may be considered the official formation of the association. At that time it was named, “The National College Fencing Coaches Association of America” or NCFCAA. This name reflected the focus of the Association during the early years. The membership was made up primarily of college fencing coaches. These college coaches comprised the majority of the professional Fencing Masters in the United States. Later, to reflect a broader constituency, and to include the expanding number of club coaches, the name was changed to the “National Fencing Coaches Association of America” or NFCAA. In 1982, after the Amateur Fencers League of America AFLA changed its name to the United States Fencing Association USFA, the NFCAA became the USFCA.

    During these early years, many of America’s most famous college coaches served the association as president. Maxwell (Mac) R. Garret the famous coach at Illinois and Penn State served as president in 50-52, 60-63, and again in 82-84. His wife Diana helped organize many association activities during his three terms. The Penn State Collegiate Open is named in his honor.

    Other past presidents included Stanley Sieja of Princeton 54-56, Irving DeKoff of Columbia 58-60, Hugo M. Castello of NYU 63-66, Archie E. Simonson of Wisconsin 66-70, and Michael “Mike” DeCicco of Notre Dame 70-74. DeCicco was named USFCA Coach of the Year four times.

    The first coaches training clinic was organized in 1953 by Stan Sieja in New Jersey at the Polish Falcons Camp.

The First Accreditation Committee

Michel Alaux, the famous French Fencing Master and US Olympic coach, joined the NFCAA in 1965. He formed the first Accreditation Committee which implemented the protocol for certifying Fencing Masters and other teachers of fencing in the United States. The first Fencing Masters were certified under this new protocol at the University of Detroit in March of 1965. They were Michael Bischko, Jules Goldstein, and Richard Gradkowski, all of whom were American born coaches. They were examined by the NFCAA Accreditation Committee comprised of Hugo M. Castello, Edward F. Lucia, Stanley S. Sieja (Princeton), and Michel Alaux (chairman). These three received diplomas signed by Castello (NFCAA president), Archie E. Simonson (NFCAA secretary), and Michel Alaux (chairman of the NFCAA Accreditation Committee). Jeffrey R. Tishman, Historian, USFCA

Prior to chairing the NFCAA Accreditation Committee, Michel chaired The Committee for the Development of A Text for Defining Fencing Terms (1962-63), whose members included Mac Garret, Irving Dekoff, Archie Simonson, and Julius Palffy-Alpar (1908-2001) of the University of California at Berkeley (1962-75). M. Alaux was head coach at the New York Fencers Club until his untimely death in 1974 cut short his brilliant career.

The United States Academy of Arms (USAA) was established at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NFCAA on March 27, 1974, at the NCAA Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. The USAA was created to allow Fencing Master members of the NFCAA to join the International Academy of Arms (AAI) beginning in 1976. The USAA existed as a separate entity from the NFCAA until 1982. Jeffrey R. Tishman Historian, USFCA, Swordmaster Summer 2003

Muriel Bower holds the distinction of being the first woman Fencing Master accredited in the United States, by the USAA in 1976.

She is the author of the foilist’s classic textbook “Foil Fencing”, now in it’s 8th Edition. In the forward to that text’s second edition 1972, then-former FIE President Miguel de Capriles described her as “a sensational teen-age Pacific Coast champion before the war (who subsequently) returned to competition to win a well-earned No. 3 national ranking. She is one of the small but bright cluster of California women who dominated the national fencing scene in those years.”

She coached the California State University Northridge team during the early 70’s and has subsequently been inducted into that University’s Hall of Fame. She served on the NCAA Committee for Men’s and Women’s Fencing.

She was women’s foil coach to the American team at the 1964 Olympic Games fencing in Tokyo, managed the American women’s fencing team at the World University Games, Russia, 1973, and served in protocol to fencing at the L.A. Olympic Games, 1984. She subsequently served as Western region Vice-President of the USFCA for two terms 78-80 and 86-88, and also as Commisioner of the Western Regional Intercollegiate Fencing Conference and Championships.

In 1982, after much spirited debate, and a new interpretation of AAI requirements, the majority of NFCAA members decided to form the USFCA and meld the USAA into it. In order to conform to international standards, the Certification and Accreditation Board was established to assume the USAA’s role of certifying Fencing Masters. This role was expanded to include the certification of two new levels for fencing coaches now designated by the AAI. These new coaching certifications included the titles of Moniteur (Instructor) and Prevot d’Armes.

Reverend Lawrence “Larry” Calhoun is known to American fencing as the “Father of the Junior Olympics”. Father Calhoun jump started the Junior Olympic program and led the development of high school fencing in the USA for many years. He was the first chairman of the Junior Olympic committee for the USFA and hosted the first two Junior Olympic National Championships in Niles, Illinois in 1972 and 1973. He served as chairman of the USFCA Awards Committee for 22 years which is responsible for the “Coach of the Year” and collegiate “All American” awards. However, his greatest accomplishment is the growth and development of the many young fencers at Notre Dame HS, Niles, IL. 1966-76, St. Francis HS, Mountain View, CA. 1975-76, Le Mans Academy, Rolling Prairie, IN. 1977-79, Culver Military Academy, Culver, IN. 1979-85, Chaminade Prep, West Hills, CA. 1987-2002, and as assistant coach at the University of Notre Dame 1977-79.

A second generation of American Fencing Masters began to assume leadership of the USFCA. Some of these masters were students of the predominantly French, Italian and Hungarian masters who made up a significant portion of the original membership. Many other coaches from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe joined the association.

Emmanuil Kaidanov and Wieslaw Glon formed a powerful coaching duo and won ten NCAA Championships at Penn State. Both were selected twice as “Coach of the Year in 90-91. They both served on the Certification and Accreditation Board. Janusz Bednarski, another certification board member, assumed the head coaching position at Notre Dame from former vice president and certification board member Yves Auriol. Edward Korfanty settled in Portland, formed a non-collegiate club and eventually produced the first American Olympic gold medalist, Mariel Zagunis (2004 and 2008 Women’s Saber) since 1904.

Guglielmo “Gil” A. Pezza received his Fencing Master diploma in 1985 from the Italian Academy of Arms with one of the highest scores in the history of that academy; and in 1986 he received his Diploma of Fencing Master from the USFCA. While a fencer at Wayne State he won two NCAA championships in men’s epee’ and was coached by longtime association member Istvan Donasi. He returned to his alma mater as head coach and served as USFCA president from 90-94. Edwin (Buzz) K.Hurst who was an All-American in saber at the Naval Academy and head coach at Stanford served as president 94-96. He also served as vice-president of the USFA and was the first member to be on the executive committees of both these organizations at the same time.

In June of 1996, in the first contested election in USFCA history, the late Robert F. Scranton was elected president. He was a student of Maitre Gillet and a graduate of the AFA. In his acceptance address he recalled that Gillet had taught him that “one should always give back to fencing” Bob Scranton brought the USFCA into the 21st century. He worked tirelessly through three terms from 1996-2002 to institute many reforms and innovations. Among his many accomplishments are the regional training clinics, rejuvenation of the Annual General Meeting and Conference, certificates of attendance, the apprentice program, the website, a transparent certification process, and cooperative programs with the USFA and other AAI member academies. At one time, he was both webmaster and editor of the Swordmaster in addition to his duties as president. In 1999, he appointed Greg Paye as webmaster who was responsible for a total redesign which included the first “members only” accessible pages on the website. That same year, Scranton appointed Jeremy Schmid as editor of the Swordmaster. Moniteur Schmid (1999-2006) produced some of the most notable Swordmaster editions in the history of the USFCA.

In 1997, Wendell J. Kubik was the first American Fencing Master to graduate from the German Academy of Arms (ADFD). Wendell was another fencer trained by one of the association’s early masters who returned to his alma mater as head coach 86-90 and later became president of the USFCA 02-04. Hungarian born Master Nick Toth, Vice-President of the NFCAA 70-72, was his famous coach at the Air Force Academy 60-80.

Vincent “Vinnie” Bradford holds the distinction of being the first woman Fencing Master to be elected to the USFCA Certification and Accreditation Board in 2002. Bradford was USFA national foil champion 84; national epee champion 82, 83, ’84, ’86). She was NIWFA foil champion (1975,’77) for San Jose State, Assistant Director USFA Coaches College (1992-98) and was coached by Hall of Famer and USFCA Vice-president (82-86) Michael D’Asaro Sr.

Rob Handelman, D.C., Maître d’Armes After fencing on the Binghamton University varsity sabre team, coached by Paul Pesthy, Rob was accepted in 1972 to the Fencing Master school at the Institut National des Sports (INS) in Paris France. He spent nearly three years earning his Fencing Master credential in all three weapons (sabre, foil, and épée). He is one of only three Americans to ever graduate from the INS.

He was an A-rated competitor in the three weapons and fenced in many European “A” World Cup competitions. Over his coaching career, his students have been national finalists, national team members, and national champions in all three weapons.

During his career, Maître Handelman was the head coach for the varsity team at UC Berkeley, taught coaches’ clinics for the US Fencing Association at the Olympic training center at Squaw Valley, and training camps for our top junior fencers. He has coached US teams at the Olympic Sports Festivals, World Cup Events, and Junior World Championships.

Rob also had a private practice as a Doctor of Chiropractic specializing in sports injuries from 1983 until he retired from chiropractic in 2010. He served on the USA Fencing Medical Commission for 4 years.

For six years Maître Handelman was the chair of the USFCA’s certification and accreditation board. He revamped the testing system to certify coaches, made it more objective, and started the system to allow one weapon masters.

Currently, he is serving as the President of the USFCA and has made his goal to create, develop, and implement a National Coaching Developmental Program (NCDP) for the USA. This program will set the standard for an inclusive American system using common traits from all coaching styles. The NCDP is starting its first phase in 2023 with completion in 2025.

On August 17, 1930 in Antwerp, Belgium; a group of Fencing Masters from all over Europe came together during the World Championships to express a will of a world union uniting all Fencing Masters. Of course, this was easier said than done, and twenty-eight more years passed before a temporary committee was formed in 1958 to begin the process of providing agreed upon statutes designed to unite all National Academies. This achievement took form with the official establishment of the Academie D’Armes Internationale (AAI) on April 21 and 22, 1962 in Basil, Switzerland thirty-two years from conception and four years in formulation.

The AAI was formed in accordance with laws and texts in effect that govern the activities of the teaching of fencing and physical training. Its goals are:

  1. To unite all existing National Academies around the world and to encourage certified Masters to constitute National Academies when one doesn’t exist in the country where they practice.
  2. To assure and to maintain friendly relations between National Academies.
  3. To represent its members to public and private institutions and to all other organizations.
  4. To contribute to the development of principles, rules, techniques and methods of teaching of fencing in all its aspects.
  5. To assure the dissemination of all relative documents relating to fencing.
  6. To encourage the technical and educational development of its adherents throughout the world, through the following formats: The organization of seminars and the publications on its website www.escrime.org.

The AAI is committed to goals relating to the development of examination protocol, as well as the composition of panels to examine candidates; and the organization of contests, such as the World Fencing Masters’ Championships. The AAI also organizes meetings and international events related to fencing.

At the 1998 annual Congress in Vichy, France, M. Marcel Dubois was elected AAI President and served for two four year terms until 2006. Votes are cast by each nation according to membership size. The AAI Executive body consists of the President; who appoints a Secretary- General and Treasurer; and four Vice Presidents.

On Wednesday, August 23, 2006 the AAI Congress elected the current Executive Committee in Brussels:

    • President Mike Bunke, Germany


  • Roberta Giussani, Italy
  • Gérard Delavaquerie, France
  • Mike Joseph, Great Britain
  • Anthony Gilham, USA

The USFCA has been an active participant in AAI activities. Beginning in 1965, when the USFCA established its accreditation protocol, USFCA members have participated in many AAI initiatives.

USFCA Past President Jean-Jacques Gillet was a Vice President from 1986-1999.

Secretary-Treasurer Richard Gradkowski was the North American representative to the Commission on Pedagogy.

Fencing Masters from the USFCA competed at the World Fencing Masters’ Championships: in 1970 at the Crystal Palace in London, Ed Richards won the gold medal in foil, Michael D’Asaro won the bronze in saber, and our foil team won the gold. In 1986 in Sindelfingen, Germany, Wes Glon won a bronze medal in saber, as did Edward Korfanty in 1994, in Graz, Austria.

Anthony Gilham, past executive committee member, currently serves as an AAI Vice President and as the Commissioner of Sport Fencing, (rules, organization, and championships).

Current member nations with official AAI National Governing Bodies include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, and there are affiliated individual members in many other nations.