John McDougall took up fencing while attending Stanford University in the mid-1950s. He decided early on that he would dedicate his life to the sport and focused on becoming a fencing master. He opened his first fencing club, the San Francisco School of Fencing, and hired Jack Nottingham and Charles Selberg as instructors for fencing.
He also hired a judo instructor, a trampoline instructor and others to make his place a variety pack of activity. When Selberg moved home to Fargo and after a falling out with Nottingham, John hired Julius Palffy-Alpar to relocate from Canada to San Francisco.READ MORE...
Within a year, Alpar took the head coach position at UC Berkeley, and John closed the business and assisted Hans Halberstadt for the last few years of Hans’ life. Hans had for years ran a fencing equipment supply company and he taught John that business.
John opened American Fencers Supply, a long-running fencing equipment manufacturer and supplier. Upon the death of Halberstadt, John hired first Selberg, and then Michael D’Asaro to take over teaching duties at the Halberstadt club. His second club was the Freedom Fencers Club in Freedom, CA, which he set up in an old hay and feed barn on the main road between Watsonville and Santa Cruz. He ran it for only a short time, eventually turning over the keys to Len Carnighan.
Moving to Ashland, OR, John opened up yet another club and taught for many years prior to finally retiring to his beloved hobby of raising pigeons. His teaching was influenced by some of the great coaches to work in California. Besides Hans, he also trained with the great Italian maestro Aldo Nadi, and the Hungarian champion George Piller.
A number of people over the years have done impersonations of the inimitable Hans Halberstadt and they range wide in both style and substance. Charlie Selberg knew Hans well and would often quote him during fencing lectures or footwork drills.
Serendipitous. Is that a word? Spellcheck isn’t trying to correct it, so I guess I’m on firm ground. Serendipitosity happens a lot around here. I find one piece of information, an image, a packet of photos. Time passes. I find another piece that fits into that puzzle. Then, quite unexpectedly, something comes across my desk…
The above picture has been assumed to be Hans Halberstadt for a very long time. I thought so myself, even after scanning it (thanks Kathy Krusen!) at high resolution and having every opportunity to review it with a critical eye.
If I don’t write something about Aldo Nadi for too long, I get this annoying twitch in my eye that will only begin to calm down with a collection of images and some quality time with my laptop. Buckle up!
Some time back, I wrote a story about Boffers. Designed by fencer/coach Jack Nottingham, they were the Rolls-Royce of polyethylene toy swords.
Time flies when you’re having fun and it’s been almost 4 years since I shared any of Charles Selberg’s Instructional Film Loop series, so let’s dive back in!
A recent gift to the Archive has me dumbfounded. It’s existence was something I had speculated about in a vague way, but never dreamed of finding proof for. Much less, having the proof come directly to me as a donation to the Archive.
At some point I will outgrown my available storage. It’s not in any way imminent, but down the road it will be something to deal with. Storage space wasn’t a consideration when I began to purchase relatively low cost university annuals on Ebay.
I have to face the fact that there is, for me, a certain romance in the imagery associated with fencing. This has been true for me as far back as I can remember.
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