Fencing Master's Certificate Program

The Sonoma State University Fencing Master's Certificate Program began August 8-19th 2006.

We are now accepting enrollment for our Summer 2006 session , July 24-29. (enroll here)

The Sonoma State University Fencing Pedagogy Certificate Program is one of only two fencing teacher’s training programs offered by institutions of higher learning in the United States.  Fencing is one of the oldest physical training disciplines and it develops in its practitioners an exceptionally high level of mental and physical training that develops tactical skills and rapid reflex responses.

Fencing has a long and distinguished past and our course of study includes the exploration of the historical roots of modern fencing, as well as an in-depth analysis of the traditional Italian school of fencing, bouting practice, and how to teach all of the above to students of every level of accomplishment from beginner to advanced competitor.

The knowledge and skills candidates will gain by taking the course are:

  • Mastery of fencing theory and practice in the Classical Italian fencing tradition
  • Facility with the history of fencing
  • How to run a club or fencing program
  • Introduction to alternative fencing venues such as theatrical and historical fencing

There will be three levels of completion in the program: Instructor, Provost, and Master at Arms. Students will be expected to have competency in each of the above categories in accord with the level of certificate they seek. For example an Instructor should have familiarity with the main concepts in fencing theory in one weapon (foil, Epée, or Sabre), a Provost should have an instructors level understanding of all three weapons, whereas a Master at Arms should have a complete understanding of the theory and practice of all fencing arms.

Our school grows out of, and is closely allied with, the San Josť State University Fencing Master's Program. Our curriculum is based on Dr. William Gaugler's definitive books on fencing (see sidebar) and are available at the The bookstore@Sonoma Sate University. This curriculum draws on the classical Italian fencing system used by the Scuola Magistrale Militare di Roma (Military Fencing Masters School of Rome) as it was practiced during the last century.

Director and Instructor of the program

Dr. John P. Sullins is a Military Master at Arms, certified by the San José State University Fencing Master's Program (1994). He teaches: foil, epee, sabre, and various historical arms. Dr. Sullins has trained in fencing pedagogy under many skilled fencing masters including: Maestro William Gaugler and Military Master at Arms Ralph Sahm (1986 to 1994); Maître Daniel Revenu (1988); Maestro Ferenc Marki (1988); Maestro Niccolo Perno (1988); Maestro Enzo Musumeci Gerco (1988); and Maestro Lucio Nugnes (1989). Dr. Sullins has taught at numerous fencing schools and programs since the mid 1980's and was a cofounder and manager of the Tri Cities Academy of the Sword in Binghamton New York 1998-2002. In addition to directing the SSU Fencing Master's Certificate Program, Dr. Sullins is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Sonoma State University.



How many units is your class and how are candidates graded?

Class may be taken for 3 credit units.

Credit/No credit based on classroom performance.  For information concerning incompletes and withdrawals please consult the current schedule of classes.

What levels of accreditation do you offer?

There are three levels of certification:  

  • Instructor at Arms (six semester units);
  • Provost at Arms (twelve semester units);
  • and Master at Arms (eighteen semester units).  

The Candidate for Provost must hold a Instructors certificate or proof of equivalent professional experience. The candidate for the Master at Arms certificate must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, as well as a provost’s diploma or proof of equivalent professional experience.  The written, oral, and practical examinations for all three levels are given at the end of each session provided there are qualified candidates.  A written letter of intention to take the examinations must be given to the Director during the second meeting of the course. The student is allowed a maximum of two (2) chances to pass each level of examination.

Who accredits your program?

We are a new program so we are just beginning the accreditation process. Right now the San José State University Fencing Master's Program has agreed to recognize 3 units of our program towards their certification requirements. Eventually we will be able to have our certificates fully certified and we continue to work towards that goal.

Who is your program designed for?

We are a teacher training program and therefore prospective students need to be interested in teaching fencing and also must have extensive experience in fencing before they enter our course of study. We are not focused on training for competitions If you have any questions regarding your ability to take the class please contact the program Director, Dr. John P. Sullins.

Why does your Program focus on the traditional Italian School?

The program focuses on traditional Italian fencing pedagogy for these reasons: First, rules in competitive fencing change yearly and fencing actions that might have been useless in competition one year are back in vogue the next. Traditional fencing does not change and serves as a storehouse for fencing practices that would be lost quickly to future generations if we focused on capricious fads in fencing, a fencing teacher must know all of fencing theory in order to give his or her students the tools they need to thrive in the modern fencing world. Second, fencing is a practice that can only be fully taught by example from master to student, we have a living tradition of master student relationships that stretches unbroken to the Scuola Magistrale Militare di Roma from its formation and beyond that to the earliest fencing masters of the Renaissance. We honor this tradition by keeping the fencing actions that have been handed down to us alive and well. Third, not everyone is interested in modern sport fencing, a fencing master must be able to converse with those interested in both historical and modern sport fencing, traditional schools such as ours serve as a vital bridge between these two divergent fencing communities.




Enroll now for our January 21 - 22, 2006 session through the Sonoma State University School of Extended Education.


Required Texts

  1. William M. Gaugler, The Science of Fencing Revised Edition ( Bangor, 2004).
  2. Gaugler, The History of Fencing:  Foundations of Modern European Swordplay ( Bangor, 1998).
  3. Gaugler, A Dictionary of Universally Used Fencing Terminology ( Bangor, 1997). 
  4. Class Reader  


These volumes can be bought at the SSU Bookstore or ordered directly from the publisher, Laureate Press, with a credit card by calling:  1-800-946-2727.



  1. Italian foil with flat, rather than offset, crossbar.
  2. épée with flat, rather than offset, crossbar.
  3. sabre,
  4. three-weapon mask,
  5. fencing glove,
  6. elasticized bandage, wrist strap,
  7. underarm protector,
  8. sweat suit, Please avoid dark colors
  9. athletic shoes appropriate for Gym use.  


American Fencers' Supply Co.

The Fencing Post

Tri Cities Academy of the Sword


Associazione Italiana Maestri di Scherma

Classical Fencing Mailing List

Fencers Quarterly

In Ferro Veritas

La Spada Nimica

Martinez Academy of Arms

San José State University Fencing Master's Program


Tri Cities Academy of the Sword

US Fencing





Fencing Master's Certificate Program
(707) 664-2277• 1801 East Cotati Ave • Nichols Hall 316, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

Last modified on: March 3, 2006