Fencing in Lakewood, Colorado
The air hangs still. Two figures, dressed in white and armed with three-foot swords, walk to the center of a large room. They face each other and momentarily raise their weapons to their faces. Then the combatants whip their blades toward the floor in a salute of defiance. Pausing only long enough to pull mesh masks over their faces, the two opponents take their stances for battle. Suddenly, they attack, their blades slicing the air amid the crash and scrape of steel.
No, this is not the latest movie about warriors in the Middle Ages. This is real life. This is now. This is fencing. And the action takes place at Lakewood's Link Recreation Center.
Fencing, or the sport of combat with blades, boasts a long tradition. As far back as 1190 B.C. Egyptians engaged in a rudimentary form of fencing. During the 16th and 17th centuries weapons and techniques developed along more modern lines, primarily in Spain, Italy and France. Today fencing takes places worldwide, with the sport dominated by Russia and several European countries. However, ongoing efforts by the United States Fencing Association (USFA) to raise the stature of American fencing are challenging that dominance. At the same time fencing within the United States is enjoying increased popularity.
Locally, the tradition continues with Lakewood's Mile High Fencing Club. A member of the USFA, Mile High Fencing Club recently began offering classes through Lakewood's Department of Community Resources. Previously affiliated with Foothills Parks and Recreation, it moved to Link Recreation Center as part of the transfer of Foothills facilities and services to Lakewood.
The club was officially started in 1987 by club coaches Larry Platt and Frank Adler. Frank taught classes for beginners while Larry gave individual instruction. They have continued this arrangement to this day. Two more coaches, Bob Block and Tom Raffey joined the club in 1990 and 1993, respectively, and they also give individual instruction.
To many, fencing might seem a wild and furious activity. In fact it is a sport that requires a good deal of control and discipline. To be effective a fencer must master very specific rules and techniques. Sometimes called physical chess, fencing is largely a contest of mental agility. While physical ability is important, its mental aspects make it a sport suitable for a wide range of ages and physical abilities. Just about everyone can exploit some personal characteristic to her or his advantage.
Fencing is also a safe activity. Unlike football, a high contact sport, fencing is listed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a moderate contact sport (the less contact a sport has, the lower one's risk of serious injury). Further, safety takes a high priority in the fencing world. Many of the sport's rules are designed to protect its practitioners. These elements, combined with careful design of equipment and uniforms, have resulted in a low occurrence of serious injuries.
Fencing instruction is provided for those with no experience in two six-week courses, a beginner's class followed by an advanced class. The club, open to experienced fencers and successful graduates of the advanced class, meets for open fencing on Wednesday nights. There is additional open fencing on Saturday mornings.
In addition to being good exercise, fencing has several benefits. It develops self-discipline and teaches good sportsmanship, providing a unique sense of satisfaction. So join a class and come see what fencing is all about.
by Rob Favero