Fencing Grows In Popularity Among Kids (And Adults) In Connecticut

Connecticut students are putting down their iPhones and picking up swords.

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Fencing Grows In Popularity Among Kids (And Adults) In Connecticut
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Fencing Grows In Popularity Among Kids (And Adults) In Connecticut

Connecticut students are putting down their iPhones and picking up swords. WNPR’s Patrick Skahill profiles the ancient sport of fencing, which is growing in popularity around the state.

(Ready, Fence.)

My name is Jim Harris and we are at the iConn Fencing Club in Middletown, Connecticut.

The beauty of this sport is that it’s not just a physical sport. You can’t just run faster, jump higher and win. You’ve got to have a mental edge as well. And that’s what – if you watch the great fencers – they can do.

They combine that ability to control a distance on the strip. To move up and down the strip almost like gliding – faster than you can imagine. And at the same time they are thinking, thinking, thinking at such a high level that you’ll go to do one move and they’re already two steps ahead of you and all of a sudden you’re sitting there with a sword in your chest wondering what the heck went wrong.

There’s three main weapons. There’s foil, epee and there’s saber. Saberists tend to be the little crazier ones. You need a certain attitude and a certain ability to accelerate quickly to be a good saberist. Epeeists are kind of on the other end of the spectrum. You need to be a little more deliberate. You need to be a little more cerebral in terms of thinking about what you want to do because there’s no right of way or rules governing touches in epee. If you’re the first one to hit, you get the touch. And foil – foil’s my weapon so I am kind of partial. I like to say foil is a good combination of the both. You need to have the cerebral aspect to plan what you want to do, but at the same time you need to be able to react quickly to what your opponent presents.

(Simon says lunge. Redouble. Recover. Oh!)

Yes, it’s Joe Rouse. R-O-U-S-E.

Mainly it’s just a great sport to do. And it’s a sport you can do your entire lifetime. I’m almost sixty.

It’s often described as physical chess. (Laughs) And I think that’s a fair description, except that of course, when you’re checkmated in chess – they’re not hitting you with a sword. (Laughs)

Callie Millan. My teacher is scared of me. She said never to get close to me, never get me mad fencing. I’m going to stab her. (Laughter)

Noah Erlick. I’m ten.

I really like strategy games and Star Wars. Every time I saw them battling with lightsabers, I was like, “I want to do something like that!”

In this, it’s just … you have no idea what your opponent is going to do. But then you need to have a strategy at least to be able to know, that I’m going to be lunging after I do this as a fake attack and not as a real attack. And then it’s so much different than all other sports that it’s just unique itself.

(Harris: Look how big that disengage gets. Take the right parry take it. Now look small …)

There’s still certain rules that govern it. It’s still a very classical sport in that way. I guess you could say, a very chivalrous sport, or gentlemanly sport.

Good fencing, you hate to say – it’s pretty to watch. One of the metaphors I use with my students is that it’s kind of like you’re dancing. You have – one of the old classic fencing clichés – is you have a conversation with your blades. You do something, you say hello, they respond. When it’s done right, it looks good. It looks pretty. It looks like two people having a good conversation. When it’s done wrong, it’s two high school kids talking on the phone all night, just yelling over each other.

But yeah, there’s a certain rhythm to it, there’s a certain artistry to the sport.