Training in Haiti
The Haitian Machete Fencing Project typically offers a 9-day training intensive in Haiti each year for serious-minded foreigners seeking to explore traditional Haitian fencing in context and in depth. Though we have had to cancel our program scheduled for January 2020 due to ongoing political instability in Haiti, we are hoping to be able to run another training intensive in the summer. If you are interested, please read the details below and then if you think you might be up for it feel free to contact us. We will be happy to keep you informed as the situation develops.
Seven solid days of training at the Avril family homestead will be the centerpiece of the program. We will devote five hours each day to intensive instruction with Professor Avril’s sons Roland, Jean-Paul and Fredo, facilitated and translated by HMFP program coordinator Michael Rogers. The Avril family method is an incredibly fun, exhausting and rewarding way to learn functional fencing and self-defense skills, guaranteed to challenge you, and very likely leave you sore at the end of each day, regardless of your athletic or martial-arts background. New students train with wooden replicas until they're ready for live blades.
Tuition is $1400 per student (of which $1000 goes directly into the hands of the Avril family, and the remaining $400 to HMFP logistics coordinator Reginald Turnier for his work in setting up the program). Space is limited to 4 students.
We will be happy to arrange transportation to and from the international airport in Port-au-Prince and help you choose a hotel in the Jacmel area, though you will be responsible for all travel and accommodation expenses. We will also be happy to guide you around town and translate for you to whatever extent you need.
If you’re interested, contact us and tell us some basic information about you: your age, your experience with martial arts or other athletic pursuits, and whether you’ve ever traveled to the developing world before. Typically the next step would be to schedule a phone call to discuss in more depth what you can expect from the experience. If you have any questions, just let us know.
Haiti is a poor country with a rich cultural life. The city of Jacmel, where our program is based, is particularly well known for its arts and music scene, its nightlife, and especially its annual Carnival celebration. Haitian traditions of costume, music and dance come together in neighborhood parades known as Rara, which grow more frequent around Carnival season. Year-round, those who wish to can encounter traditional Haitian Vodou in its various forms, from showy Vodou "performances" in town to all-night communal celebrations deep in the countryside. Though material poverty is a very real factor in Haiti, and as a visitor you will be confronted with the reality of this poverty on a daily basis, the overwhelming impression left on visitors is of the undeniable spiritual and creative force — unlike anything anywhere else in the world — that guides so much of life in Haiti.
Art galleries line the streets in central Jacmel, where the vibrant and varied work of master craftsmen is always on display. The Jacmel Arts Center is a great place to keep up with events, as is the Jacmel chapter of Alliance Français if you speak some French. Haiti's internationally recognized film school Ciné Institute is one of the central institutions of the city's arts scene. Another is the art school Fosaj, with its concert space and large gallery showcasing local talent.
Despite centuries of over-exploitation, you can still find pockets of Haiti's original natural beauty hidden away in the mountains, or while away an afternoon on its sunny beaches, as beautiful as any in the Caribbean. Bassin-Bleu, a series of pristine waterfalls and natural pools, is less than an hour's drive from Jacmel. You can hike there and back in a day, or even rent a horse for the trip. Beaches near Jacmel range from the small cove La Saline, which is just at the edge of town, to the crowded Raymond-les-Bains, where you can always find a party and reasonably priced fresh seafood (about 20 minutes away), to the more relaxed Ti Mouyaj (about 15 minutes beyond that). Farther afield, you can find secluded beaches of almost unimaginable beauty, but you should be prepared to make a day of it, and may need to rent an SUV. This video shows images of Haiti's surprisingly gorgeous coastline. This site by the organization Caves of Haiti is devoted to the conservation of Haiti's extensive network of limestone caves, and promotes spelunking tourism. If you are interested in extending or altering your itinerary in order to explore more of Haiti, we will be happy to facilitate that as much as possible.
The upper pool at Bassin-Bleau