Antique martial arts weapons worth thousands stolen from B.C. man
Neil Ripski says all of his most cherished possessions are gone
A Kootenay man is searching for his most treasured possessions after his antique martial arts collection, which police say is worth several thousand dollars, was stolen from his property.
Creston resident Neil Ripski says his collection included a red jade sword, a purple heart spear, two Adam Hsu swords, a dragon well forge sword, a traditionally-made guandao pole and custom and retail knives.
Ripski, 46, works as a Zuì Quán Kung Fu teacher and says it took him decades travelling to countries like China, Taiwan, and Nepal to acquire the artifacts.
"I had half a dozen things that were made for me by blacksmiths around the world," he said. "Things I can't just go buy."
Ripski kept his collection in a large shed on his property, which he was turning into a kung fu studio. He says he planned to host kung fu classes out of it, using his antiques to connect with students.
On the morning of March 2, Ripski says he walked to the shed and found the lock had been cut. The walls, decorated only the day before with 100-year-old weapons and custom-made equipment, were bare.
Ripski estimates his collection was worth $28,000. It wasn't insured.
According to Kevin O'Hern, a blacksmith with Baltimore Knife and Sword and a star of the popular web series Man at Arms: Reforged, handcrafted and antique swords frequently command prices of thousands of dollars.
O'Hern used to live in the Kootenays and had some knowledge of Ripski's collection. He said some of Ripski's swords were "easily" worth over a thousand dollars.
O'Hern also said there is a demand for antique and handcrafted weapons on the black market. For example, he noted that Baltimore Knife and Sword recently had a box of swords worth about $10,000 disappear while en route to a renaissance fair.
"What we do is more popular than one might think," said O'Hern. "If you have it, it's easy to sell. People want these sort of things."
More than the financial loss he's facing, Ripski says the emotional toll of losing the items is devastating.
Among the stolen antiques is a Chinese opera mask that belonged to a close friend who died by suicide. The mask was given to Ripski at the funeral service.
"The only thing I had left of him is gone," he said through tears.
As a teenager, Ripski took up Buddhism and said he uses the shed to worship. In addition to the martial arts weapons, several religious artifacts were also taken.
"To me, that wasn't my martial arts studio; that was church," said Ripski. "I do feel violated."
RCMP say they have exhausted all leads and are asking the public for help. Anyone who may have knowledge of the whereabouts of Ripski's collection or its individual items is asked to call the Creston RCMP at 250-428-931, citing file no. 2022-570.