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Have You Tried the Sport of Fencing?

Step outside conventional exercise and try fencing to improve your balance, poise, strength, and self-discipline.

It's never too late to begin fencing, says Keith Hurrell, 82, of Grass Valley, Calif., a lifelong student of the sport, and now an instructor of it, too. For encouragement, he answered questions beginners frequently ask.

  • Why take up fencing? Because you can get a good mental and physical workout with excitement thrown in.
  • What does it do for the body? Fencing improves balance and poise, making the body more graceful, flexible, and agile. It gets my adrenaline flowing and makes me push myself more than I normally would. If I expect to beat my opponent, I have to be faster both mentally and physically.
  • How long does it take to become a good fencer? Like any other martial art, it takes self-discipline. Students may be able to fence each other a few weeks after their first lessons, but it takes months or years before real skill is developed.
  • What is meant by "self-discipline"? Self-discipline involves training the body into shape and keeping it there. It means exercising to strengthen and stretch the necessary muscles and tendons. A fencer should be able to do 100 squats followed by 25 full lunges. A full lunge requires the fencer to do some tough stretching exercises and do them frequently enough to avoid next-day aches and pains.
  • What is the sport? Fencing is a game of athletic chess. There are many methods of making an attack and also of performing a defense. In a competition, both fencers keep adjusting their distance to acquire what they consider to be their ideal. They analyze their opponents to find their strengths and weaknesses. At the most opportune moment, a lightning-like strike takes place—and one of the fencers has been hit.
  • At what age can a person fence or start fencing? Practically speaking, the youngest age for fencing is probably 12, but some fencers begin training at 5. One student in our club started at 75. I began fencing at 31. I have more than 50 years of experience. My wife, Lynne, also fences. The great part about the sport is that no matter what your age, you can still be fencing and learning.

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