How old are your students?
The ones I am teaching “junior fencing,” one is nine and three are seven. It’s like herding cats sometimes, but they pick it up pretty quickly.
What do you teach?
My class [at the Academy Ballroom] is modified very slightly from adult fencing instruction. I teach a very basic offense. The thrust—extending the arm out—and then the lunge, which is following that extension with a large forward step. Once they’ve learned how to attack—how to be offensive—I teach the three basic moves, or parries, used to defend three distinct areas of the body.
What’s your fencing background?
I’ve had my fencing experience entirely in Knoxville. In 1999, I began at the University of Tennessee—they have a fencing club—and I proceeded fairly quickly to be the most advanced student who was left, which isn’t to say I was all that advanced. I felt a responsibility to start teaching. People were looking at me, “You know the most, why don’t you tell us what to do?”
What were you studying?
Classic civilizations—the Greeks and Romans—but it was really a sideline interest to fencing. Now I work as a sous chef at the Dancing Bear Lodge. I became very fortunate in 2004-5, when I had the opportunity to study with Yuri Traechuk. He trained with the Moscow University of Physical Education and knows a great deal, not just about fencing, but teaching people how to fence. He was working in Oak Ridge, but has since moved to California.
When did you start teaching kids?
These are the first. Several parents sort of came to me all at once, “Hey, I’d like my 7-year-old to learn to fence.” I did ask Yuri a lot of questions via e-mail and over the phone. I had my doubts, but the kids have amazed me.
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