West End Swords fencing club is the next chapter of a long journey started by Ron Jackson in 1997. His mission was to create a club where recreational fencers and martial artists could receive full and dedicated training, without the sole purpose of pursuing competitive achievements. His goal was to celebrate the experience and mastery of an age old art, while making everyone feel welcome and valued. Each chapter brings a new name or location, but the mandate remains.
The first home of the Company of Cavalier Gentlemen was in the basement of a dance studio on James Street South in Hamilton. Ron teamed up with Scott Nichols during this time since the only weapon he had studied was the rapier. The requirements for involvement, were a white shirt, black pants, gorget, mask, rapier, and a willingness to study and practice hard. The intent was to truly understand the weapon as a legitimate martial art.
The club membership grew to 10-15 active participants, which meant they required more space. They changed their name to Oakville Swords Fencing Academy, and rented a martial arts studio on North Service Road at 4th line in Oakville twice a week. In order to cover expenses the club now branched out into the study of modern foil as well. It was during this time (1999-2000) that Ron met Maestro Marian Zakrzewski from the Mississauga Fencing Club and began training in foil fencing.
As numbers steadily increased in their foil and rapier classes they again found it necessary to look for a new location. As luck would have it, Mr. Larry Cain (Olympic gold and silver medalist in canoe) was an active fencing member. His connection got them a room to rent at the Burloak Canoe club on Water Street in Oakville. With the help of Maestro Marian the club really began to blossom. They began offering youth programs, and they maintained between 50-60 active members. This is where Ron met many long-standing members including Craig & Bernadette.
Maestro Marian provided Ron with the opportunity to take over a pilot program he had begun with the City of Mississauga. Ron started with one youth class with 14 members in Clark Hall, and steadily grew to 150 fencers in various community centres throughout Mississauga. At this time, Ron also started a fencing program in Guelph which ran twice a week, ran programs through Oakville Swords Fencing Academy twice a week, and started teaching archery once a week at Burnhamthorpe Community Centre.
Over the course of the next few years Ron’s involvement with the various clubs changed as the Mississauga program continued to grow and develop. He left Oakville, handed off the Guelph program to one of the senior students, and began to improve his skills in archery. By 2009 the Ontario Centre for Classical Sport was born. The OCCS had a partnership agreement with the City of Mississauga to offer fencing programs and camps, but it wouldn’t be enough revenue on its own. With the help of Bruce Savage (OAA) and George Wagner (the Bow Shop) Ron and Scott were able to organize a quality archery program to make the business viable.
OCCS opened their state of the art facility on Laird Rd in 2010, and grew their club membership again. Craig moved back from BC to coach fencing and archery full time. In 2011 Scott left for Peterborough, leaving the OCCS with Ron and Catherine. It was a time of uncertainty, but the OCCS held true to their vision and came out stronger for it. Our members developed as athletes, and many joined the team of dedicated staff adding value and depth to the OCCS. Ron and Craig worked as a team to lead programs and create welcoming club environment. Bernadette & Gianfranc joined us as foil coaches, bringing a higher level of fitness & focus to our classes. Vlad joined us as a historical coach on the Rapier class, and took initiative through his own studies to create our Italian Longsword program. Jen took over as General Manager in 2013, making it possible for Ron to decrease the amount of administrative work he was doing.
The OCCS became a home-away-from-home for many of our fencers and archers. Programs ran 7 days a week, with an active membership of roughly 400 people. In 2017, Ron and Catherine moved to Kingston leaving the reins with Craig and his team of dedicated and knowledgeable coaches. Though our fencing programs had its strongest year, archery registrations took a swift and steep dive in the spring of 2018 making it impossible to keep up with rising operational costs. So, at the end of June, the OCCS closed its doors with a promise to rise again.
During the summer, Craig & Jen established West End Swords fencing club with the support of Gianfranc, Bernadette and Vlad. In September 2018 we will begin running programs out of Star Academy in Mississauga. West End Swords will continue the philosophy of fencing for love of the sport, and will strive to build a community where everyone feels welcome.