Local group offers fencing lessons on Mondays
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Every Monday evening, the swords and foils come out at the Copperas Cove Civic Center during the Swordplay: Recreational Fencing classes. The classes, taught by Jo Tye, are $50 a month per student and held Mondays 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Cove and Thursdays 5:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Harker Heights. Classes first started in Harker Heights around eight years ago, and Tye began offering classes in Cove in May.
Fencing, a form of sword fighting using different weapons, such as foil, epée or sabre, is for anyone who can walk, talk and think, Tye said. In Tye’s class, each student begins on the foil, which has a flexible blade with a tip. After three months of practicing on the foil, students can try and test up to the next weapon, the sabre.
Grace Walker’s three homeschooled children and niece were among the first students and is a way for local homeschooled students to gain their P.E credit. Eventually, the class grew to seven girls as well as one boy, Walker’s son. Prior to the class, Walker said her family didn’t know what fencing was.
“We’re from the country, you know,” Walker said. “When we say fencing, we’re putting up a fence with a come along and stuff like that.”
Her son’s interest grew the more he attended the fencing class, Walker said. Her niece, Andrea Pullin, 6, also gained a strong interest in the activity.
“She has really picked it up. She really loves fencing,” Walker said. “She can’t wait; she gets excited to come to fencing.”
The age limit for classes is seven and up, due to the attention span of students younger than seven, Tye said. She made an exception for Pullin and said she’d make exceptions if needed. Tye’s husband, Roy, began fencing at age 64. With fencing, age does not matter, Tye said.
A common misconception about fencing is that it just teaches people to fight but that’s not the case.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than just hitting somebody,” Tye said.
Students learn and hone their decision-making skills; have to be quick thinkers and strategists; gain physical agility and work on their coordination with the foot work and leg work involved, Tye added. During the classes, the students work on open footwork and blade work, go through drills and practice fighting. When learning footwork, they learn each step very slowly at first until they are able to do the steps as quickly as they are required. At the end of each class, they play a game that incorporates different fencing skills into it.
Tye put together a curriculum for the students to take home that can be incorporated into their learning at home. Walker said she uses the sheet with different fencing words on it when she teaches her daughters for language arts, handwriting, memorization and spelling. She added that when her kids first started fencing, she looked up books that had fencing, such the “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, where one of the main characters is a girl who fences, much like the majority of the Cove class.
Walker also found out that colleges offer fencing scholarships and that even the military has a fencing team, she said.
Ethan said he enjoyed fencing because he thinks it’s fun and he enjoys being active and not being a “couch potato,” which is something his mother agreed with.
“I like it because it’s recreational and like he said, it gets him off the couch. They’re not just stuck to their video games or doing this or doing that,” Walker said. “They’re active. They have to work for it. It’s a brain activity because you have to think ahead every time.”
It’s an activity that challenges both the mind and the body, Walker said.
“For me, for my 3 kids and my niece, it is the best $200 I’ve ever spent,” Walker said. Her kids have done other activities before like soccer and football but fencing is the best one so far, she said.
At Monday’s class, the students had the opportunity to try fighting with the sabre, to help prepare for the upcoming tournament, which will be held at the Carl Levin Park in Harker Heights August 5, at 9 a.m. The tournament will have four styles of fighting: foil, epee, sabre and Florentine.
The last Monday of each month is an open class, where students get to try out new weapons and test for the next level weapon.
These classes are the only recreational fencing program in the Central Texas area, with the other closest one a competitive program in Round Rock. Tye has a Facebook group for the program called Swordplay Harker Heights/Cove Recreational Fencing where information about the classes and pictures of the students are posted.