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The Master of a Secret Machete Martial Art

Nov 06, 2017 | 831 videos
Video by Jonathan David Kane

The Haitian Revolution of 1791 was the only successful slave rebellion in recorded history. Without access to guns or ammunition, the rebels defeated Napolean’s army with the only tool at their disposal: the machete, which they used to toil sugarcane fields.

Thus was born the martial art of machete fencing. Known as Tire Machet, it is shrouded in secrecy; only a select few Haitians have mastered the craft. In Jonathan David Kane’s short documentary Papa Machete, we meet one such master. Professor Avril shares the contours of what he describes as a gift that works through him. “I don’t use this gift to kill people,” says Avril in the film. “But I have it. So if you attack me, you’ll be in a bad way.”

“This martial art is generally practiced in secrecy, and that secrecy dates back to its origins,” Kane told The Atlantic. “There were even moments during filming where Professor Avril was reticent with aspects of his own practice. What he shows us in Papa Machete is a rare gift—one which my team and I are truly fortunate to have been allowed to document and share with the world.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.