Forteza Fitness

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Walking into the Forteza Fitness club in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood is like strolling into a cultural time machine.

On some days, the time machine takes us back to Victorian England, circa 1895, as instructors teach bartitsu, a mixed martial art popular in late 19th century Britain, which includes elements of jiu-jitsu, bare-knuckle boxing, French kick-boxing and combat techniques that utilize a cane or walking stick.

On other days, the time machine goes back even further, as instructors teach traditional European martial arts techniques like armizare, an Italian form of sword fighting dating back to the medieval era; or sabre fencing, which goes back about that far too.

And while these ancient fitness and self-defense techniques may seem like the personal trainer’s version of a historical re-enactment, participants say they’re actually much more than that.

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