Michael Cawelti – Founder / Maestro d’Armes

MC Portrait/Plaid

Michael Cawelti is the award-winning Fight Director and founder of Albion Schoole of Defense. The Albion Schoole teaches modern stage combat for the stage and screen.  The school also has a performance troupe which specializes in historical sword presentations showcasing the training of a 16th C. sword schoole.

Michael Cawelti began his sword career as a collegiate fencer at San Diego State; training for 4 years with Heizaburo Okawa of the Moray Academy and West Side Fencing Center in Los Angeles.  Okawa was the National Fencing Champion for several years in both Japan and then the US.  Michael served as Captain of San Diego State’s Saber Team from 1975 thru 1978.

In 1980, while studying for his Masters in Theater Arts at San Francisco State, Michael traveled for 6 weeks in England to study theatre, armory and stage combat.  While there he worked with Reg Amos (Armouror for the Old Vic and National Theaters), John Waller (Fight Arranger, and  Director of Historical Sword Interpretation at the Leeds Armoury Museum), and William Hobbs (Arguably the finest Fight Arranger to ever choreograph swordplay for film).  During this trip he was also introduced to Guy Wilson, (Keeper of the Blades for The Tower of London).  While at the Tower he studied original sword manuals in the Tower Library and examined and handled hundreds of historical weapons in the Tower’s sword collection.  Later that same year Michael began his career as a Fight Director teaching a 16 week course in Stage Combat at San Francisco State, where he developed his own system of fight choreography based on John Waller’s tenants of theatrical realism and William Hobbs’ theories of dramatic integration and story telling.

During his 18 years as a full-time professional Fight Director, Michael choreographed fights for over 260 professional productions, teaching stage combat at over 45 Universities and drama schools. He won 4 Drama Critic’s Circle Awards, and 3 SF Chronicle “Bernie Awards” for his fight direction.   He is credited with “‘putting Stage Combat on the theatrical map” in the SF Bay Area in the early 80’s.  Esteemed theater critic Nancy Scott of the SF Examiner called him, “That genius of Stage Combat”.  The Chronicle’s Robert Herwitt described his fight direction as, “stunning…  brilliant… terrifying!”

His career included positions as Resident Fight Director & Armorer for: The Berkeley/California Shakespeare Festival (14 seasons), Berkeley Repertory (6 seasons), Theater Works (3 seasons), the Eureka Theater Company (4 seasons) and the San Francisco Mime troupe (3 seasons). He also was Fight Master and Head Show Writer for the Renaissance Pleasure Faires for 25 years.  Michael has worked as a designer of stage combat for multiple seasons at the Actors Conservatory Theater (San Francisco), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Opera, Theater on the Square, The Old Globe Theater (San Diego), Theater Works, and The Denver Center.

In 1986 Michael founded the Albion Schoole of Defense to teach his techniques of infusing theatrical combat with the techniques of historical swordplay. The schoole was a unique expression of teaching safe, effect stage combat expressed through the theme of a 16th C. English sword academy.  Demonstrations of historical sword play were performed in period costume at the original Renaissance Pleasure Faires using period sword techniques and terminology.  The Albion Performance Troupe has performed sword oriented stage shows since 1987 at numerous festivals, faires, conventions and events.

While rooted in the past, the Albion Schoole is constantly evolving.  As period sword techniques are being revealed through international scholarship and research within the Western Martial Arts community, Michael incorporates these new discoveries into his stage combat techniques.

Michael studied Western Martial Arts from such esteemed instructors as Bob Charron, Steven Hand, William Wilson and Maestros Paul Macdonald, and Ramon Martinez. He is especially honored to have studied the techniques of 17th C. Sword Master Salvator Fabris for three years with renowned sword instructor Tom Leoni in Virginia as a member of his Order of the Seven Hearts school.  Michael has taught Stage Combat at several WMA conferences, including co-teaching a class on “Integrating Stage Combat into WMA Demonstrations” with Bob Charron at the Racine WMA conference.

Michael has also been training for the past two years in Japanese sword and staff with Sensei Mark Jones of Aikido Napa Valley.

Michael has been a trophied competitor in the shooting sports of Mountain Man Rendevous (1840’s black powder rifles) and Cowboy Action Shooting (Old West firearms competitions).  He used this experience to become a firearms and black powder safety consultant for the Bay Area theater scene.  He is currently Black Powder Safety Coordinator for the Northern California Pirate Festival and created the cannon/small arms safety program for the State of California Parks, Angel Island.  While serving as BP Safety Coordinator for the Renaissance Pleasure Faires, Michael wrote a comprehensive training manual on black powder safety for historical reenactors.  He has also held an DOJ Explosives Permit through the Sheriff’s Department of San Bernardino County for 10 years.

In recent years, Michael has concentrated on writing and directing sword fighting/comedy shows for his sword students to perform at such venues as the Northern California Renaissance Faire (Gilroy), The Dickens Christmas Fair (San Francisco), and the Northern California Pirate Festival (Vallejo).

His newest passion is immersing himself into the Extended Universe of Star Wars.  Michael is studying Star Wars canon and fan forums to absorb the lore and interpretations of Jedi training,  most especially the use of the lightsaber.  His goal is to use his stage combat and Western/Eastern martial arts expertise to create a practical training system for the martial use of the lightsaber in stage combat and in saber dueling.



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