Jerry Berg is fusing the art and history of swordsmanship to educate the public.
Berg is the founder of Swordsmanship Museum and Academy, which now offers digital historical lectures, online classes, and sanitized and socially distanced swordsmanship classes. Most of the classes are held at the Caledonia Resource Center, 9749 Duncan Lake Ave. SE in Caledonia, while others are held across the Grand Rapids area.
Berg and his instructors offer up to four classes per week. Each class consists of three or four sessions of about two hours, which are spread out one week apart so that each month has new classes.
“When people hear ‘swordsmanship,’ they immediately think of fencing,” Berg said. “But our classes are something different and something unique. What we do goes under many different names, though ‘historical martial arts’ seems to be the most inclusive. Essentially, what we do is we find surviving books, manuals and treatises from a time when swordsmanship was a legitimate skill, we translate, transcribe and practice those techniques, then take those skills and pass them along to students.”
Berg said the academy’s most popular class is its four-level longsword curriculum, which teaches techniques from a manual written in what is now Germany in the 1570s. The academy uses manuals written as far back as the 1300s.
“This truly is the most educational martial art around, and at the SM&A, we try to promote that education as much as possible,” he said. “If the museum has a relevant artifact in our collections, we will bring it to the students, so they get a hands-on experience with the artifacts that were actually utilized using the techniques they are practicing. It makes for a very unique experience and learning opportunity.”
Students can improve their swordsmanship skills by sparring with students in other classes or graduates of other contemporary combat systems, such as rapiers, sword and buckler, and Polish saber, among other areas.
In 2021, Berg said they will be adding a new stage combat curriculum and increase the number of classes to up to six per week. As a result, he will be adding three historical swordsmanship instructors, one stage combat instructor and one historical archery instructor.
Current classes are $79 for a four-session class or $59 for a three-session class. The prices can vary a bit based on the required equipment and facilities. For more information, click here.