Cascadia Martial Arts instructor Seth Fleming-Alho experienced swordfighting at its best in Las Vegas recently.
The soft-sword “chanbara” instructor, who also studies the combat styles of medieval and renaissance Europe, competed at the prestigious CombatCon, a convention that featured real martial artists, stage combatants, stunt professionals, experts in tactical combat and personal protection, and professional authors.
Fleming-Alho, who also has a black belt in taekwondo, entered the longsword, single stick and cutting events. The 18-year-old martial artist came back home with a bronze medal in the longsword competition, his favourite weapon.
This is not the first time Fleming-Alho has medalled in a tournament, but he feels this was the best so far because the event featured an array of international competitors.
“It had people from all over the world,” said Fleming-Alho.
“There were over a thousand people there. This was a higher level of competition.”
In longsword, two combatants face each other in the ring. A hit in the head is worth four points, the body, three, the legs, two, and to the arm, one. Whenever a point is scored, the match is stopped and the points are awarded. There is also grappling involved, said Fleming-Alho, who is an engineering student at Vancouver Island University.
“A controlled grapple with a strike is worth a substantial amount of points, depending on how well it’s executed,” Fleming-Alho explained. He added that if you don’t defend yourself, you can get disqualified.
The Parksville instructor said the experience was exhilarating. Not only did he do well in the competitions, he was also able to attend seminars and meet instructors from all over the world.
“It was so cool,” said Fleming-Alho. “I learned a lot from being there. I learned about the different techniques for cutting mats. There were also special forces that taught knife fighting, which was interesting. It was so exciting to be there with everyone who has the same passion as me. To be able to learn. You can always learn a little bit from everyone. I tried to take in as much as I can and bring it back to share them with students here in Cascadia.”
Before Fleming-Alho turned to the ancient art of swordfighting, he first got into the chanbara, a Japanese form of sword fighting. He trained first with master Steve Large of Woo Kim Nanaimo Taekwondo. He then developed a strong yearning to spar in swords and went on to join Black and Iron Martial Arts and learned under principal instructor Lee Smith.
Fleming-Alho enjoyed the experience so much that he is planning to go back to Las Vegas next year and also head to Europe to compete.