Training in Haiti
Each year, the Haitian Machete Fencing Project offers a 9-day training intensive in Haiti for serious-minded foreigners seeking to explore traditional Haitian fencing in context and in depth. Though our 2020 program had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are hoping it will be possible to hold our next one in the summer of 2021. Firm dates have not yet been set. 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.
Seven solid days of training with Professor Avril’s sons Roland, Jean-Paul and Fredo will be the centerpiece of the program. We will devote five hours each day to intensive instruction with the Avril brothers, facilitated and translated by HMFP program coordinator Michael Rogers and logistics coordinator Reginald Turnier. 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 background. New students train with wooden replicas until they're ready for live blades.
The cost of the program is $2000 per student (of which $1000 goes directly to the Avril family for tuition, and the remaining $1000 covers the basic food, lodging and transportation services we provide).
In order to provide as safe and stress-free an environment as possible, this year's program will be held on Reginald's sprawling family lands in the countryside region of La Vallée, about 45 minutes drive outside the city of Jacmel. We will stay together in a comfortable house along with the Avril brothers, and have all our meals prepared from local produce by a skilled local cook.
We will provide transportation to and from the international airport in Port-au-Prince and any necessary trips into Jacmel during your stay. We will also be happy to guide you around the region on day trips if there is interest, and translate for you to whatever extent you need.
Space is limited to 6 students.
If you are 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 have 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, near 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