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Spotlight: Phillip Canzano


Jesse (left) and Phillip (right) doing a little back alley sparring

AHWGers are gonna be some SUPER lucky ducks this coming week! Why, you ask? Because y’all are going to be treated to the exotic, Italian teachings of one Phillip Canzno! This coming Friday, there will be Introduction to Fiore Dagger Workshop at the AHWG home space of Crossfit City Limits. It's free for members and $30 for drop ins (no experience necessary), so tell your friends!


Who is Phillip Canzano, you might wonder?

Pfffft, aren’t you in the know?! Aren’t you a cool kid?


It’s ok. I wasn’t either, but it made it all the more fun to learn about this talented HEMA fighter headed our way. He was gracious enough to share some information about himself, daggers, and general HEMA silliness so, read on to find out more about this guest teacher!


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

First and foremost, I am a dad. I love everything about it after potty training! I love teaching, it really doesn’t matter if it is HEMA, stage combat, or why the hell your interpretation of pathfinder rules stink. I think it is about the debate within. I love it when a student can prove me wrong. It is the best because it means we both are learning something new or seeing something new together. I may be a teacher but I'm not the end all, be all.


I also have 3 cats (Ripley, Darby and Severus) 2 dogs (Geno and Ghost), an amazing wife named Jenifer, and, of course, my 3 year old, crazy Paw Patrol obsessed daughter Rowan.. Everything I ever teach about HEMA you can thank my wife. She came home one day from workout at a new gym. Her quote was “It’s called Forteza. They teach rapier and longswords. I’m taking knife fighting, you should go”.


How did you find out about HEMA?

1999-2000ish. I was still at the College of Charleston as an actor. I did so many Shakespeare plays in which every fight choreographer just used cut and thrust rapier technique if no weapon is specified, so that was a crash course. That and I was looking for formal rapier instruction not just a manual by Cappo Ferro.


What made you want to try it?

Always loved swords and combat and hey, they were fun on stage.


How long have you been training?

Traditional HEMA 6 or 7 years, swordplay in general 20+.


What drew you to Fiore dagger?

Well we had to study it, but when my friend Davis said always carry a sidearm into a sword fight, I was hooked.


How do you feel your HEMA experience has changed over time?

I had an interesting experience in that I had very little formal training with the Chicago Swordplay Guild at their actual Chicago home. I had to pack up and move to Texas within 7 or 8 months of starting. I had been taking classes at least five days a week and during that time, became quite fascinated with the pedagogy because I needed to know it inside and out. While I am far removed from Forteza, I still follow their curriculum though I find myself applying Fiore’s system any which way I can.


How has HEMA impacted other areas of life? What are your hema goals? (competing, fun, etc)

With the birth of my daughter, that became my focus rather than tournaments. There are still HEMA armies to train, they still need teachers. I enjoy the teaching more than formal (not friendly) competition.


Have you been to hema events such as workshops and/or tournaments?

I lost count of the workshops and tournaments. I can say I do love getting called for impromptu teaching (Like hey daggers anyone?!!!!!!!).


What do you appreciate about your club?

What I love most about my club, the mother ship and all the sister schools, is everyone is ready to pitch a hand or give an answer. My mentor Jesse will call me to debate the third remedy of the first master of Largo based on different footwork for hours if need be. One day we will be able to test our theories against each other and that is going to be a good day.


What's your approach to teaching and sharing hema knowledge?

Know the material, know your student, adapt to the individual.


What do you like students to walk away with from your classes?

Bruises….. and knowledge


HEMA Stats

Name: Phillip Canzano


Nicknames: Boston or Philthy


Favorite Weapon: Tough because for everyone it is web shooters. I live in a fantasy land in which I am still a hired actor who can fight with a rapier and dagger. The truth is in the HEMA world I would get rocked doing that lol.


Best HEMA Memory: So my last day in Chicago I had a full day lesson with my mentor Jesse. Jesse is a big guy, a huge wrestler, and a personal trainer. He’s been doing it for years and seriously the person I probably look up to the most in many areas of my life. At the end we did some sparring for the final time and, damn it, I threw him for the first time in a fight! Gear went all over the place and we just laughed for about 5 minutes.


Favorite Drill: Shhhhh Spoilers for the class!


Favorite Color: Green Purple (because...author says purple)


Favorite HEMA Vocabulary Word: Sprezzatura – Fiore- Italian – Disdainful Grace

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