Sword Play: EHCC to Host Free Fencing Demos on First Friday in Hilo

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It might not be the first place you think about when it comes to learning about the art of fencing, but the East Hawai‘i Cultural Center in downtown Hilo invites everyone to sharpen their sword knowledge this week on First Friday.

Fencing instructor Frank Perry. (Courtesy of Frank Perry)

Free fencing demonstrations by fencing expert Frank Perry are scheduled for 7 and 8 p.m. Friday, July 1, on the EHCC lānai.

Perry will give a brief historical overview of the sport, touching on the philosophy and context behind its creation. A show-and-tell segment will feature the 14th century arming sword, rapier, small sword and dueling sabre, with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.

The highlight of the event will be a sparring demonstration, showcasing the 16th/17th century Italian rapier, 17th/18th century French small sword and 19th century English dueling sabre.


Perry began fencing in his 60s and realized he needed to get serious about getting and staying in shape.

“I had a gym membership, but found the repetition boring,” Perry said in a press release from EHCC.

After experimenting with tai chi, he discovered he was able to focus better during physical activity when it involved something in his hand — and what could be more engaging than a sword? That started him down the path to learning to wield a sabre.


Perry also had just published a steampunk novelette that included a dueling scene and decided to find out whether his description was anything like the real thing. To learn more, he joined the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historical Swordsmanship, branching out into studying rapier and small sword soon after.

Fast forward a few years and Perry is now a fencing instructor.

“Fencing is an excellent exercise for aging,” he said in the press release. “It is not too taxing and it focuses on balance, coordination and reflexes. That, and it pushes fast thinking.”


For the past seven years, Perry has been part of the Hawai‘i Island Fencing Association, practicing his craft and instructing others. He teaches for free so he can have a selection of fencing partners.

“I am paid in blood!” he joked in the press release.

The East Hawai‘i Cultural Center is located at 141 Kalākaua St. in Hilo. For more information about Perry’s First Friday fencing demonstrations or other EHCC programs, click here or call 808-961-5711.

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