If you’ve been regularly reading this newsletter then you know that when I’m not doing this job, I’m working as a bartender at a local golf club. My coworkers there have provided me with endless ideas for stories and experiences to be had in the area. One coworker, Kathy, has talked to me about her love of fencing. When I think of fencing, I think of it as somewhat of an exclusive sport in the same way that golf, tennis and racquetball feel exclusive. They have a country club aura about them that can make it feel as though they’re an activity set aside for the wealthy. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I think this sport sometimes feels a little out of reach, but believe me, our club is not that. And compared to other sports, it’s not as expensive as people think it is,” said Board President of Three Swords Fencing Club Laurie Lapp. “You’re going to buy a pair of running shoes, that’ll probably cost you around $100. You can suit yourself out for fencing for $300.”
When Laurie Lapp signed her son up for fencing classes, she had no idea how much it would end up impacting her own life.
“My son started fencing when I was 12. As a single mom, I was sitting here cold and waiting. The coach said, ‘Hey do you wanna fence?’ and I started. It gave my son and I the opportunity to travel together.”
This time spent traveling together for competitions was precious. As Laurie’s son entered his teenage years, their shared love for fencing and competing kept some of those emotional growing pains from seeping into their relationship.
“It can get hard to relate to them as they get older. But if you have an activity that you do together and a purpose, then you find that time together and it’s valuable.”
She and the team at Three Swords Fencing Club want others to see the abundance of value that fencing can bring to one’s life. It’s something that can be done at all ages and skill levels. At fencing competitions, the fencers aren’t grouped by age or size.
“That’s one of the cool things about this sport. In a local tournament, I could end up fencing with someone who’s way better than I am. You don’t have that in other sports. There is a rating and classification system, but if it’s mixed or open anyone from an A [classification], which is the best, to a U which is unclassified, can fence in that tournament. So I could enter as a U, and end up in a bout against an A fencer. I’ll probably lose 0-5, but I’ll learn something from it.”
Laurie says that competition is a fun and fulfilling part of the fencing experience. But before you run, you’ve gotta learn how to walk. There are fencing classes for adults and for kids. The class structure varies for each, but the basics don’t. New students first learn the footwork. Being quick and light on your feet is the basis for being a good fencer. Next, they’ll learn how to hold their sword properly.
“We start by teaching them to stop treating it like it’s an ax. It’s not a board sword. You think of swordplay in movies, there are all these grand, big actions. That doesn’t work in the Olympic sport of fencing. The movements are much smaller and planned. You learn to control the tip of the weapon with your thumb and index finger.”
There are three styles of fencing, depending on the style of weapon or sword – foil, epee, and saber. Three Swords follows the epee style of fencing. When competing, this means that no part of the body is off limits for scoring a point. Touches are scored through an electrical box attached to the fencer when the tip of the blade makes contact with the opponent. Facing off with someone wielding a sword is no doubt at least a little intimidating, but you can’t turn your back while in a bout. Like any other challenge in life, it has to be faced head-on.
If you’re interested in classes for your child, they can be signed up for through the Learning Enrichment and Athletic Program (LEAP) website. Any class designated Beginning 1, 2, 3 of 4 can be selected. Also, kids don’t have to be a TCAPS student to sign up.
For adults, the first class is free. There is a drop-in every Friday evening at 6 p.m. where the basics are gone over. If it’s something that you want to pursue, you can signup for membership through .
Three Swords Fencing Club became a nonprofit organization in 2010. It was started by head coach Robert Bartle and Doug Schultz. Soon, they’ll change their name to Traverse City Fencing Club.
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