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June 17, 2009 > Surprise! World class fencing instruction is here in Fremont

Surprise! World class fencing instruction is here in Fremont

By Marty Friedman

Who says that dueling is dead? It's alive and very well at the Fremont Fencers. Under the guidance of fencing Master Will Brown, this is the place where kids, teens, dads, moms and veterans (including grandparents) train in the sport that's centuries old, and a world apart.

Forget about Errol Flynn and those cornball Hollywood movies
Will Brown is the "real thing." He has not only won several medals on the local level, he took third place in the Nationals, Division 2, as well.

Trained with a grimly serious, fencing master from East Germany, Brown offered to put all his training and drive into a program for everyone at every fencing level. The city of Fremont made the space available. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Brown never looked back
Much to no one's surprise, Brown's initial fencing program caught fire and he soon expanded it to six classes, conducting sessions year round (all this while teaching high school English full time).

Centering on foil fencing, Brown might add saber or epee session during the summer. While not as lavishly equipped as some fencing academies, Fremont Fencers does offer two electric strips, along with traditional "dry" fencing: fencing without electronic scoring.

A short course in weaponry
While foil, epee and saber all go way back in time, there are marked differences between the three weapons.

The foil is the tournament weapon with the target area limited to the torso and the wedge above the groin. You can only score with the tip. (Have no fear. The tip is topped with a protective button.)

The epee is where you get down to business. Longer and more flexible than the foil, it is based on the classic dueling sword. Any part of the body is a legitimate target, from the toe, to a finger, to the head.

The saber, perhaps the most "romantic" of the three weapons, goes back to cavalry days. It is the only weapon of the three that can score with the edge. The target area, as it would be against an opponent on horseback, is from the waist up, including the head and the arms, but not the hand.

How safe is fencing?
The sport is very safe. Every vulnerable part of the body is fully protected. The face and especially the eyes are covered by an impregnable mask; the body and groin area are protected by a thickly padded jacket; a specially padded glove protects the hand; and there is additional padding provided for saber fencers.

Get off your duff
You can vegge on the couch next season watching American Idol, or you can become the "heroic figure" you'd always dreamed you could be, beating your opponent's sword aside and thrusting home.

Why should you fence in the first place? Fencing will help you speed up your reflexes, improve your coordination, and get in shape. Above all, you'll learn to do more than out fence your opponents, you'll learn to out think them (they don't call it physical chess for nothing).

If you can walk, you can fence, at any age
One of the finalists in the 60-and-over division of the Nationals a few years ago was 89 years old. (The nationally ranked fencer who wrote this article is 75.)

Just one question
Married for ten years this August, Brown actually met his wife on the fencing strip at Berkley. All we want to know is: who won the bout when they first met?

A final word
World class fencing is yet another in the series on the out-of-the-mainstream sports you'll find in our area. Stay tuned for world class volleyball, badminton, rugby, squash and much more in future issues of the Tri-City Voice.

Fremont Fencers is located at Centerville Community Center, 3355 Country Drive in Fremont. You can contact Fremont Fencers at 510-791-4324. Summer Session runs July 28 -August 20. Teens 5 -7 p.m.; Adults 7-8 p.m.

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