Founder and Director of Athletic Development
Alexandre Ryjik began fencing at age eight in St. Petersburg, Russia. At age 17, he earned a Master of Sport in Fencing of the USSR, one of the most prestigious certifications in this sport. As a coach he has produced a number of national champions and medalists, World Cup and world championship competitors. He was designated United States Coach at the 2009 World Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and head of the U.S. delegation at the 2010 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. He developed a curriculum and trained coaches at the High Level Technical Courses at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is also a Professor of Fencing at American and George Mason Universities.
Director of Historical Swordsmanship
Head Coach Bill Grandy is a noted authority on Historical Swordsmanship throughout the globe. He has been teaching at VAF since 2001 and is a highly decorated competitor of Historical European Martial Arts tournaments from over the past two decades. He combines an athletic approach with extensive historical research. Coach Bill has been invited to teach all across the world, and has also been granted access by European museums to study antique arms, armor, and period fencing treatises. He has written numerous articles in martial arts publications on the Medieval and Renaissance swordsmanship, training methodology and pedagogy. Coach Bill teaches intermediate and advanced Rapier and Longsword classes at VAF, as well as beginning and intermediate Olympic sport fencing classes.
Head Olympic Sport Coach
Coach Russ has over thirty years of experience in fencing. He was an All-American and All Ivy-League fencer at Columbia University. Russ was trained by legendary fencing master and U.S. Olympic coach Csaba Elthes. A member of three U.S. national under-20 teams, he was 1983 National Under 20 Sabre champion. He was also a member of the 1985 USA Maccabiah Team and won a bronze individual and a team gold medal in the World Maccabiah Games. As a “AAA” rated international referee, Coach Russ was selected to referee at the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games. Coach Russ holds the rank of "Referee Emeritus" in the United States Fencing Association - this is the highest honor granted a referee. He has served as chair of numerous panels for USA Fencing, and is USA Fencing's Director of Security since 2001. Professionally, Russ is an expert in national security affairs and holds five advanced degrees. In 2010, Russell Wilson was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He coaches all three weapons and at all levels at VAF.
Senior Coach David Rowe
Coach David has been with VAF since 1999 and has more than 20 years of fencing and coaching experience. An internationally recognized expert in Historical Swordsmanship, he studied at Catholic University researching the transcription, translation, and interpretation of medieval manuscripts. A decorated national and international competitor with medals from multiple countries and continents in Longsword, Sword and Buckler, Rapier and Dagger, and Ringen, Coach David is the head of the Competitive HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and Ringen (medieval wrestling and close quarters combat) programs at VAF and has produced numerous medalists under his instruction. His lifelong dedication to fencing has allowed him to develop an athletic yet personable teaching style, and he has introduced hundreds of students to the world of fencing. Coach David teaches beginning, intermediate, advanced and competitive historical swordsmanship classes and private lessons.
Coach Sasha Ryjik
Coach Sasha recently graduated from Harvard University after 4 years on the Div 1 NCAA fencing team. He is a multiple time National Champion, who was ranked #1 in the nation for ten consecutive years. He is a competitive A rated fencer, and a long-time member of the US National Team, representing the U.S. as Captain at the 2009, 2010, and 2012 Junior and Cadet World Championships. He is also a Pan-American Champion, and 2 time Ivy League Champion. He teaches all levels and disciplines of olympic sport fencing.
Coach Eric Piispanen
Coach Eric has many years of coaching experience of elite athletes with the U.S. Olympic squad. An A rated fencer himself under U.S. Olympic coach of 2-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis he been around the highest level of competitive training for over 12 years. As a graduate of Arizona State University from an elite department he specializes in coaching young children with an emphasis on self-respect and personal growth. Coach Eric teaches Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced classes and private lessons in Foil, Saber, and Epee.
Coach Jonathan Gordon
Coach Jonathan has been with VAF since 2008. He teaches German Longsword and Italian Rapier in the Historical Swordsmanship program as well as modern Olympic foil. In addition, Coach Jonathan has a love for all things Scottish and is the vice president of the Clan MacKenzie Society in the Americas. He actively researches and recreates Scottish historical swordsmanship based on period fencing treatises, and has traveled internationally to train with experts in the field. He teaches beginning and intermediate Olympic Sport Fencing and Historical Swordsmanship classes.
Coach Mariana LOPEZ
Coach Mariana has over 10 years of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) experience. As a highly accomplished competitor, her main focus is on the German longsword, Italian rapier, and Ringen. An internationally recognized tournament organizer and referee in both North American and Europe, she was also a founder of the Mexican National HEMA Championships. Additionally, Mariana founded Esfinges, an international organization with thousands of members dedicated to the support and promotion of woman’s participation in HEMA. Coach Mariana teaches beginning classes in both Historical Swordmanship and Olympic Sport, and intermediate and advanced classes and private lessons in Historical Swordsmanship.
Coach Alex Wood
Coach Alex has been involved in fencing for over 25 years, having trained under several Olympic coaches. He attended Stanford University where he became a three-time NCAA All-American in Foil. Coach Wood was a U.S. National Champion, a 5-time World Championships national team member and a 4-time Junior Olympics champion. He served on the USA Fencing (National Governing Body of Fencing) Board of Directors from 2004 until 2012, with the last 4 years serving as the Chair of the USAF Athlete Council. He is currently the Chair of the National Team Oversight Committee, which reviews and oversees all international team development. He teaches competitive classes and provides individual lessons for elite students.
Coach Kevin Comer
Coach Kevin has been with VAF since 2012. He teaches beginning and intermediate Olympic Sport Fencing and Historical Swordsmanship classes. His focus is on Italian rapier, Scottish basket hilt, and German Tingen. In addition to competing, Coach Kevin has also served with distinction as a referee in many fencing competitions since 2013, including Longpoint and Capitol Clash. Coach Kevin is currently finishing his PhD dissertation at George Mason University in computational economics.
Coach Wes Miller
Coach Wesley has been with VAF since 2006. He was trained by the Fencing Master and is a decorated competitor at the regional and national level. Coach Wes was a 2009 Virginia State Champion and was a member of the NCAA Division I fencing team at Cleveland State University. Coach Wes teaches classes and private lessons in sabre and foil.