Traditionally the perpetuation of any martial art to future generations is through a chain of direct transmission from master to disciple. The martial art and science of fencing is no different. Martinez Academy of Arms as a traditional academy of arms adheres to this philosophy.
Maitre Agustin Grisier in his 1847 treatise Les armes et le duel best articulates the transmission of knowledge through the traditional process.
“ de nombreux assauts particuliers ou publics, l’usage cotinuel de plastron avec la maître le rasuraient-ils sur la science qu’il avait acquise, alors se glorifiant du nom de son maître, recourant chaque jour à ses bon avis, il ovrait une salle dans laquelle il apportait les traditions sages qu’il avait recues. L’art si noble et si utile de l’escrime ne périclitat pas, et le professeur émérite, heureux des succés de son disciple, remettait avec confiance à une main plus jeune la fleuret devenu trop pesant pour son bras affaibli.”
“ numerous private and public assaults, continual work on the plastron with the master will assure him of the science which he has acquired, then glorifying in the name of his master, seeking his good advice every day, he opens a salle to which he brings the wise traditions that he has received. The art of fencing, so noble and useful, would not come to ruin, and the professor emeritus, happy with the success of his disciple, bequeaths with confidence to a younger hand the foil that has become too heavy for his weakened arm.”
As a tribute to Maitre Frederick Rohdes and his master Marcel Cabijos we have included their biographies along with photos and newspaper articles. Maitre Rohdes also trained with Maestri Luigi Barbasetti and Aurelio Greco. Therefore, we have included brief biographies of these masters as well because their teachings directly influence the instruction imparted at Martinez Academy of Arms.
Frederick Rohdes was a Maître d’ Armes (master of arms) who taught the art and science of fencing in New York City at his own academy for decades. He was one of the last fencing masters who continued to teach fencing in the old tradition.
Born in 1897 in Western Prussia, he first learned fencing in his native Germany as a boy. While still in his teens, just prior to World War I, he emigrated to the United States.
Rohdes taught fencing as an assistant instructor on the west coast for some time before moving to New York City. He also continued his training under several notable masters, among them Maestri Luigi Barbasetti and Aurelio Greco eventually becoming Provost and Master under Maître d‘Armes Marcel Cabijos.
He was also a professional ballet dancer, having studied with the old masters including Luigi Albertieri, Mikhail Mordkin, Adolph Bolm, and Michel Fokine. He was associated with the Corps de Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as a soloist for ten years.
During the 1930s, Rohdes organized a fencing club at the Metropolitan Opera Company to teach members how they could stage realistic “battles” with swords. Some of the members took up fencing for the sheer love of the art that Maître Rohdes cultivated in them.
Maître Rohdes opened his own fencing academy in 1948, which was located above the Loew’s Orpheum building on 169 East 86th Street in New York City. In addition to fencing, he also taught dance, as many fencing masters of past centuries had traditionally done.
At the Rohdes Academy of Fencing, classical/traditional fencing was taught in the dueling tradition of personal combat. Maître Rohdes never looked upon fencing as a sport but rather as a martial art, and the structure and method of his instruction reflected this spirit. His academy was modeled after the fencing academies of the past. As a result the Rohdes Academy was a school that was highly formal and disciplined in all of its aspects.
Maître Rohdes continued to teach at his Academy until his death in early 1984.
Marcel Cabijos was a Maître d’Armes (master of arms) who taught the art and science of fencing in New York City in the old tradition. Born in France, in 1893, Maître Cabijos began to fence at the age of 12.
Cabijos served in the French Navy as Marine Carpenter aboard the cruiser Jurien de la Graviere during World War I, from 1914 to 1919. He was also a combat instructor and served in the Fusiliers Marins, a combat unit that was deployed to the land from ships.
During his enlistment he founded a fencing society aboard ship, and became the fencing champion of the French navy. While his ship was stationed at Athens, he also participated in a contest that took place before the King of Greece, in which Cabijos soundly defeated the Greek champions.
After the war, he received his Maître d’Armes (master of arms) diploma and taught in the south of France for several years before emigrating to New York City in 1924.
Upon his arrival in New York, Cabijos began his association with the Saltus Fencing Club located at the French YMCA as an assistant to Maître Martin Capdevielle. On Capdevielle‘s death, Maître Cabijos became the head Master at the Saltus Club. When the French YMCA was dissolved, he moved with the Saltus Fencing Club to the McBurney YMCA.
In addition to his duties at the Saltus Club and YMCA he taught at several other venues, including the French School for Girls, St. Agatha School, Marymount College, the Collegiate School for Boys, the Brutus Fencing Club, Vassar College, Lehigh University, and the Salle d'Armes Henri IV.
In 1926, Maître Cabijos attained great renown by defeating the sabre and épée champion of the United States, Leo Nunes, with only a twelve-inch dagger, in a well-publicized contest held in New York City. Back in France, newspapers and fencing periodicals lauded his abilities and applauded his efforts to spread fencing in the United States.
In addition to his rank as a Maître d’Armes, he was also an instructor of Judo, Savate, and La Canne.
Maître d’Armes Marcel Cabijos died in 1964 in New York City. He was totally devoted to his art and nothing except his final illness kept him from the fulfillment of his commitment to the Saltus Club. In the tradition of many great fencing masters he continued to give lessons until the very last week of his life.
The following tribute to Maître Cabijos appeared in the McBurney YMCA Newsletter:
Once there were three musketeers...Athos, Porthos and Cabijos. The friends and students of Marcel Cabijos, beloved Maître d‘Armes of the Saltus Fencing Club, will always remember this. Now Marcel Cabijos has gone to join his comrades, and left us with the unforgettable memory of a man who was just, good and charitable to a degree that few men reach...
It may perhaps seem strange that a man endowed with such talents was not more widely known and recognized for them, but anyone who has known Mr. Cabijos knows that he was a man of great humility, with an aversion to any sort of publicity.”
Maestro Luigi Barbasetti
Luigi Barbasetti was born in Cividale, Italy on February 21, 1859. His fencing master was Maestro Giuseppe Radaelli a follower of the Northern Italian School, under whose tutelage Barbasetti was trained to be a military master of arms. In the late 19th century, during the attempted restructuring of fencing in Italy Barbasetti was ordered to go to Rome to be re-trained in the southern method of Maestro Masaniello Parise through courses at the Military Fencing Masters School in Rome. Upon completing his courses Barbasetti remained for a time as part of the faculty. Upon leaving the Military Masters School, he returned to Radaelli’s methods and continued to teach the system of his original master for the rest of his life.
Babasetti taught in Trieste and afterward in Vienna and at Wiener Neustadt from 1894 through 1914. Due to the outbreak of World War I he left Austria and returned to Italy where he remained until he moved to Paris in 1921. During his time in Paris he taught fencing at the Automobile Club and the Golfers Club.
Masetro Barbasetti returned to Italy in 1943 where he lived in Verona until his death on March 31, 1948. Achieving worldwide recognition as one of the finest masters of sabre fencing, he brought international fame and recognition to the Radaellian School via his long career in teaching the art and science.
Maestro Aurelio Greco
Aurelio Greco was born in Catania, Sicily on March 22, 1879. His father Dr. Salvatore Greco die Chiaramonte, Marchese di Valdina, a Sicilian aristocrat, was also a fencing master but Aurelio received his education in fencing from his older brother Maestro Agesilao Greco who was an internationally renowned master of the art.
Aurelio Greco earned his fencing master diploma in 1904 at the young age of 21 at the Royal National Academy of Naples. He was active for many years as a professional competitive fencer until 1922. From then on he dedicated his life to teaching fencing at his own academy, which he founded in Rome until his death in 1954.
Aurelio Greco along with his brother Maestro Agesilao Greco revolutionized fencing with the dueling sword in Italy by insisting that it was a totally different discipline from foil fencing. They designed and created a new type of dueling sword and became the leaders in the instruction of dueling sword fencing in Italy. Maestro Aurelio published the first text on Italian dueling sword fencing in 1907 titled; La spada e la sua applicazione.