The Decatur School of Arms is a not-for-profit community organization dedicated to teaching Italian Renaissance rapier fencing. Classes are taught by Master at Arms David Coblentz, Master at Arms Dori Coblentz, and assistant instructor Ben Hay. We offer fencing clases to students of all levels of experience at the Decatur Recreation Center in downtown Decatur. In each five-week course, students learn footwork, body mechanics, and how to use the quintessential Renaissance weapon, the rapier. A great workout for people in any physical condition, this class offers a fun and personalized approach to mastering the “Art of Defense” useful for actors who want to build their stage combat skills, students who want to take up a unique sport, and adult learners looking for an interesting way to incorporate important anaerobic elements into their fitness routines.

Our approach to teaching looks both backwards to the long historical tradition of Italian fencing and forward to emerging trends in coaching. We foreground the same three fundamental elements that have been discussed across centuries of fencing manuals: tempo, modo, and misura, or timing, technique, and measure. To train these skills, we work with students in group and individual settings. Classes typically begin with footwork drills and games designed to develop reflexes, muscle memory, and general fitness. Then, we do paired work to internalize individual techniques such as the straight thrust and disengagement. Finally, we engage in free fencing or restricted bouting to connect the techniques to practice.


We welcome students of all ages and fitness levels to join in our learning community. While we enjoy competition – in fact, our school co-hosts SERFO, one of the largest historical rapier tournaments in the U.S. – we most of all emphasize personal growth and helping our students to identify and work toward their individual goals.

We value the diversity that members in our learning community bring, and are committed to promoting inclusivity in our classroom and in the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) community more broadly.

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