GOLD, ALUMINUM, ELECTRIC WIRE
I won the gold medal at the Maryland State Fencing Games in 1999 as an épée fencer and it’s been all downhill from there.
I've been a member of Halberstadt Fencer's Club in San Francisco since 2016. After being off strip for a few years, I couldn't have imagined a more welcoming and encouraging club to be a part of while clambering my way back into competition shape.
My initial impressions include mostly pain, but I'm getting there.
FOOTWORK IS LEGWORK
My entering fencing class at Johns Hopkins consisted of forty newcomers. That whittled down to twenty recruits and finally to three, one person for each weapon (by coincidence, not by design).
I learned to fence from the incredible Coach and US Fencing Hall of Fame Honoree, Richard F. Oles (1934 - 2011) who, despite being known to put the fear of God into us “barbarian unwashed” newcomers, built homegrown fencers into individual and team conference champions year after year. We were all fueled by his persistence and inspired dedication.
I specialized in epee and most of my accolades were won with that domain. My two other teammates would each go on to win the Mid Atlantic Conference championships in their respective weapons, sabre and foil.
LEARN FENCING, NOT HOW TO FENCE
Coach Oles taught us everything---from theory and history of the sport, strategy, to armoring our own weapons, electricity 101, to watching Douglas Fairbanks fight pirates in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Beneath his trademark curmudgeonly grumpiness, was a leader who crafted each of us by immersion. He wasn’t there to teach us how to fence, but to teach us fencing---in all its aspects: physiological, tactical, strategic, technological.
That was just the way he built championship teams.
Fencing is a sport that you can stay active in as long as your hands and feet will allow. If I could have the blitz-fast hand speed of Coach Oles by the time I’m in my 70s like he was, I’ll be in pretty good shape.