Fencing Offers Fun, Fitness, Focus and Competition to People Across the Spectrum

Swashbuckler wannabes of America, En Guarde! Fencing, once thought only to be a sport for the elites (and Europeans), is on the rise. Just ask Margaret Brunelle, owner of Chico Swordfighting at My Fencing Center. Modern fencing has been around since the early 18th century, but it has only been since the American women won Gold in the 2004 Olympics that the sport has moved out of the hallowed halls of the Ivy League and into hometown USA. Fencing clubs have grown, and as the proliferation has continued, the competitions have become bigger and better. Margaret herself began fencing in 2004 and by 2005 competed at the US Nationals. She has won Gold medals in all three primary weapon categories: epee, saber and foil.  Now her focus is on training others – some with experience, and many who are new to the sport.

Fencing requires discipline and focus. It seems that this combination has drawn an unexpected niche of students to the sport. Margaret has students in their very early teens up into their 40s from all walks of life, but a growing number of fencers training with her are at various places on the autism spectrum. It seems that having a structured practice regimen based on focus and discipline appeals to these students who might otherwise not be comfortable in team sports. However, that is not the only reason that they do it, as 28-year-old Brandon told me, “I’ve always been fascinated by sword fighting and pirate movies. That is what keeps me going with this.”

Fencing also helps to develop coordination and embraces the strategic thinker. As the saying goes, “Fencing isn’t really fighting, it’s more like chess… with a chance of puncture wounds.” While fencing is not physical in the way that football or basketball is, success does depend on good footwork, speedy recognition of your opponent’s intent and quick reflexes. The work involved in developing these skills is aggressive, sweaty, physical and demanding. Strong leg muscles must be developed for quick footwork and balance. Core strength aids in avoiding opponent’s strikes and in the precision of your own attacks.

Chico Swordfighting at My Fencing Center and Margaret have also endeavored to give back to their community while exposing more and more people to the sport. They have done a number of charity fencing tournaments with proceeds going to youth-centered organizations including the Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Make A Wish Foundation of Butte County.

If you want to add something new to your fitness routine, or have a child who might need to work on coordination or is intrigued by one of the oldest games in existence, look at http://www.myfencingcenter.org. Margaret has been coaching fencing for more than 12 years and at any given time has 30-40 fencers training with her. Try something new by jumping into something old.

Let’s face it, for all of us, autistic or not, sword fighting is very cool. 

Michael Orr
About Michael Orr

Michael Orr is a Father, writer, reader, science geek and musician who lives, works & plays in Paradise, California

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