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Nicole Allen, left, on a wooden horse, and Theresa Wendland, riding Chebanse, demonstrate late 14th century mounted combat techniques Friday Sept. 11, 2009 at the 9th annual International Western Martial Arts workshop at the DeKoven Center in Racine, Wis. Western martial arts encompass a variety of fighting techniques from Europe from the 13th century to 1650, including swords, daggers, jousting, and wrestling. The workshop runs through Sunday, and includes a jousting demonstration with two horses Sunday at 1 p.m. They are members of the Chicago Swordplay Guild. (AP Photo/Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg)

RACINE - Chivalric ideals and the bonds of brotherhood are not dead.

More than 160 people from all over the world were at the DeKoven Center Friday afternoon wielding historical weapons and wearing gauntlets from the medieval times. A passion for martial arts and the Middle Ages and Renaissance time period bonds them.

They gathered from all over the world at the center, 600 21st St., for the 9th annual International Western Martial Arts workshop, from Thursday through Sunday.

"We keep something alive - something special about our past," said Craig Johnson, who made a living as a sword smith in Minneapolis, Minn. for the past 25 years.

Nicole Allen, chairwoman of the four-day workshop, said there has been an increasing interest in historical martial arts in the past decade through the help of the Internet.

Friday afternoon the participants engaged in different combat classes, utilizing various techniques and weapons - blunt, for training purposes - since the 13th century. A vendors' tent displayed swords, javelins, shields, gauntlets and protective gear.

Karl Jacobs, 40, of Milwaukee, said historic martial arts is a combination of a physical and intellectual study that develops a moral code and builds perseverance to continue learning and training.

For example, he said, a friendly bout plays by an honor code, where the person hit has to call it.

Greg Mele, 38, of Wheaton, Ill., was one of more than 25 instructors. He said he got involved in historic martial arts during his last year in college, when he came across an old history book on fencing.

Mele went from practicing the antique combat strategies with his fellow reenactor friends to co-founding the Chicago Swordplay Guild in 1999.

He said he had always been drawn to swords and historical martial arts was a cultural combination of his love for history, especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance time periods. The joy comes from the swordplay as well as the reconstruction of history.

"It's a fascinating physical and intellectual challenge," he said, "where a part of history comes to life."

For more information on the workshop or the guild, visit or

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