Twenty-one kids from age 7 to 12 faced off, swords in hand, at Rockville Fencing Academy (RFA) on Sunday to duel for fun and glory. My job as referee was to call the action, enforce the rules, keep order on the strip (the fencing field of play), and introduce new competitors to how we do things.
At RFA, we learn and practice the Olympic sport of fencing. Olympic fencing, described as physical chess at 60 miles an hour, evolved from European sword fighting into a fast-paced combat sport. Today’s fencers use three weapons: foil, epee, and sabre, each with specific rules but all sharing the excitement and challenge of individual combat. Sunday’s tournament was fought with foil which requires considerable technical skill to score touches only with the tip of the weapons on the opponent’s torso.
The fencing hall, or salle, was full of young warriors and their parents, siblings, and coaches who come from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. For several of the young fencers, Sunday’s event was their first foray into competition. At the mid-point of the competition, Kevin Higgs of RFA said, “This is my first competition and so far I’ve won two and lost two bouts. Pretty good for my first competition.” Kevin finished in eleventh place which really was pretty good for his first competition.
Kevin’s RFA clubmate, Amy Germer has competed before and explained why she came to compete on Sunday. “Fencing is fun,” she declared. Her Mom, Pam Chu, said, “Watching your kid fence is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.” This family understands the most important thing about youth sport—having fun.
My husband came out and took a lot of pictures of the action—he’s a MUCH better photographer than I am. Here are some of his images of the day’s competition—from warming up before the competition to the winner giving a post-victory interview.
Fencers wear special protective clothes for safety. These uniforms are almost always white. And with the masks on, fencers’ faces become invisible so it can be hard to distinguish individual fencers. To express their individuality, you’ll notice many fencers wearing brightly colored, patterned socks. Just one of the unique elements in the culture of modern fencing.