Learn the fine art of swordplay in Kent

Greg Michaels is confident that he can teach “90 percent of the population to use a sword well.”

Greg Michaels is confident that he can teach “90 percent of the population to use a sword well.”

Instructor Greg Michaels stands confident that just about anyone can learn swashbuckling – the audacious art of sword-fighting and flair.

That’s why the professional actor and former film sword master invites anyone interested in sword fighting to sign up for his class. The course starts Saturday as part of the city of Kent’s recreation program at Kent Commons, 525 Fourth Ave. Participants must be at least 16 years old.

“I think I can pretty much teach 90 percent of the population to use a sword well,” said Michaels, a sword-fighting instructor for more than 20 years. “And we always emphasize safety first.”

Participants only need to bring a thin pair of gardening-type gloves to the class. Michaels provides the swords and lessons.

He’ll teach hand-to-hand theatrical combat, including slaps, kicks and punches, as well as sword play with a broadsword and rapier. After eight sessions of 90-minute lessons, beginning swashbucklers will be ready to perform.

“They’ll be in total control of their weapons and actions, but look out of control, like they are in a life-or-death fight,” Michaels said.

Students in his previous classes at Kent Commons have included 17-year-old girls, men in their 20s and 30s and a married couple in their 50s.

“It runs the gamut,” Michaels said. “It’s a pleasure to get the mix.”

Michaels, a professional actor who has lived for 12 years in Kent, decided to learn about sword fighting after auditioning for a part in a New York production of “The Three Musketeers.”

It didn’t take him long to realize he was no Errol Flynn.

“Once there, I didn’t even know how to pick up a sword correctly,” Michaels said.

Throwing down the proverbial glove, the actor studied swordplay for years under several instructors in New York and Los Angeles. His efforts paid off – Michaels has performed, taught and choreographed for amateur and professional theaters, television and feature films. He went as far as to function as the sword master for the 1999 film “The Thirteenth Warrior,” starring Antonio Banderas.

During that gig, he spent two months on the set teaching a dozen actors, including Banderas, and nearly 20 stuntmen, how to use swords. He also choreographed the main duel in the film. Banderas had just finished “The Mask of Zorro” film, so Michaels found the actor to be a quick learner.

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Michaels said.

But those who sign up for Michael’s current class do not need to be athletes or actors to learn to be swashbucklers.

“I teach magic with sleight of hand and the illusion of violence that you see on screen and stage,” Michaels said. “You can’t imagine it’s something you can learn, but it is. And when you learn sword play, it’s a lot of fun.”

Once students learn the fundamentals, swashbuckling provides exercise for the mind and body.

“It’s a great way to integrate the mind and body,” Michaels said. “You build your stamina and endurance.”

Michaels still enjoys sword fighting as a sport and wants others to learn about it as well.

“I did performing on stage and in film,” Michaels said. “But now it’s time to give back to the community and one of my passions is sword play.”

What: Swashbuckling classes

When: April 4 to May 30

Where: Kent Commons, 525 Fourth Ave.

Cost: $80 for eight Saturday sessions

Register: Call 253-856-5000

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