In Haiti, the traditional art of machete fencing goes by many names, among them Tire Machèt (“Pulling Machetes”). Tire Machèt has roots in the Haitian Revolution, when the revolutionaries were often forced to fight with fewer guns than soldiers. Its combination of African stick-fighting techniques and European fencing proved highly effective both in battle and as a means of individual self-defense. Since that time, a multitude of styles and training methods have proliferated. Though many of these practices remain shrouded in secrecy, Haitian master fencer Alfred Avril extended an invitation to foreigners serious about learning this martial art to come to Haiti to train with him. Over the course of our ten-year collaboration, we have had the opportunity to learn and to introduce many others to his practice.
Professor Avril’s endeavors are the subject of an award-winning short documentary film, “Papa Machete.”
The story then took a sad turn. Again from The Haitian Machete Fencing Project:
On December 1st, Professor Avril succumbed to a fever and died, leaving
behind his wife Eunice and dependent grandson Makinley (whose mother, Professor Avril’s daughter, was killed in the 2010 earthquake). Apart from teaching fencing to foreigners through our project, which brought him a very modest side income, Professor Avril was a subsistence farmer. Without his contributions, his widow and grandson are now in a precarious situation. To assist them in meeting their basic needs in the coming years, we have created the Alfred Avril Memorial Fund, which will be soliciting donations through Indiegogo until March 23 2015. All funds raised through this campaign will be dispersed to Madame Eunice Avril in quarterly installments of $500 until the fund is depleted.
For those of us whose love and temper is bent toward old, obscure, “impractical” things, the survival and recognition of this martial art is cause for great satisfaction. Hats off to The Haitian Machete Fencing Project.