The Grand Assault of Arms is an open classical fencing tournament, the ultimate test of martial skill among fencers, and the finals take place this Sunday, November 15th, at the Thompson Athletic Center in an event open to the public. This is your chance to see masters of the craft at their best, and, whether you're an experienced fencer or just really liked The Three Musketeers, isn't swordfighting kind of awesome?
The Grand Assault runs from 1:30-4:30 pm and a ticket gets you a seat to see the finalists compete in 4 weapon categories – Foil, Dueling Sabre, Dueling Sword (épée), and Singlestick. You will also be treated to an elaborate opening ceremony with a Grand Salute of Arms and an overview of the various schools of fencing and proper usage of weapons. Demonstrations range from the above finalist weapons to cane fencing and dagger fighting.
Tickets are only $8 if purchased online in advance, and $10 at the door (available starting at 1:15 pm). Advance tickets are highly recommended to ensure that you get a seat. To purchase tickets online, click here.
The Grand Assault really developed in the 1860s and 1870s as part of the opulence and prosperity of the Gilded Age in France, La Belle Epoque. These fencing contests and exhibitions were important social events, drawing huge crowds to glamorous locations. The fencing bouts, with their pre-determined match-ups and degree of newspaper coverage, were similar to prize-fighter boxing matches today.
In the 1880s, the Grand Assault came to America and was widely celebrated here as well. Fencing was popular and was one of the four events in the original 1896 Olympic Games. The Olympics, however, also shifted focus toward finding the single best competitor, and away from the wider demonstrations of skill found in the Assaults. World War I and II further stamped out these illustrious society gatherings and the last true Grand Assault took place in 1922.
In 2003, the Association of Historical Fencing brought the tradition back to New York. Join the AHF this year at the 2009 Grand Assault to experience a return to those glamorous events of old and to see top-notch fighters duel it out in an exhibition of skill you won't find anywhere else.