Fencers face-off at Center School

Jan 27, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — On Monday nights, the sounds of clanging metal, electric buzzers, and the calls of “en garde, ready...fence!” echo through the Center School gym as part of Mattapoisett Recreation’s fencing program led by Michael Olson, of Blackstone Valley Fencing Academy. 

The eight-week program helps teach the fundamentals of the sport, and give participants a chance to face off against each other in fencing bouts. From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Olson leads a group of fencers aged 7 to 12, and from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., fencers 13 and up hone their skills, and engage each other in bouts.

Olson has been coaching the program for four years, and he has two decades worth of coaching and fencing experience. He said that the sport is good for people of all ages because it builds coordination, strength, and the ability to develop skills that are both physical, and mental. 

There are three main weapons used in fencing, the sabre, epee, and foil, and Olson said “they are all awesome for their own reasons,” but the Mattapoisett Recreation program uses the epee because it is the most intuitive to learn, and has a fairly simple ruleset. 

Fencers are awarded a “touch” when they stick the point of their epee anywhere from head to toe on their opponent. The epees are equipped with a button on the end that registers a point when it is pressed against the opponent, and sends an electronic signal that lights up a buzzer, signaling that a touch has been scored. 

Olson said that the program offers two main types of practices. In “drilling” practices he teaches techniques, and helps fencers perfect their skills. In “bouting” practices fencers compete one on one in matches up to five touches. 

On Jan. 27 the younger group of Olson’s athletes competed against each other in a bouting practice, with each athlete competing three times throughout the night. 

At just 7-years-old, Kirra Uhline held her own against other fencers, and scored some impressive touches. She said that she likes fencing because it is both fun and intense. This is her second year in the program, and her older brother Kai is now in his fourth year in the program. 

Their mother Ariane said that she got her kids involved in fencing in part because it is a “good strategy sport.” 

As bouts continued throughout the night, athletes helped direct their peers by calling “en garde, ready...fence” to begin bouts, and “halt” to stop the action, and announce a touch. 

Olson also gave pointers, as needed to help the young athletes improve their skills. 

After each athlete competed in their three bouts for the night, Olson led the young fencers through some practice drills to improve their balance and footwork. After a series of advances, retreats, and charges, the athletes were dismissed until their next practice session. 

To learn more about this program, visit: https://www.mattrec.net/kids-fencing.