These athletes get the point 0
CFB PETAWAWA - At the movies, who hasn't been thrilled by the sights and sounds of a good sword fight?
Tapping into that romanticism is one of the big appeals of the sport of fencing, which has quietly taken hold within the Ottawa Valley, courtesy of the Petawawa/Deep River Fencing Club.
Possessing between 15 to 20 members who are split into groups meeting Mondays and Thursdays at Petawawa's South Side Community Centre, and Wednesdays in Deep River, the club has been teaching people 10 years and up the science, art and skill of fencing.
Nick Chan and John Wills coach the fencing team.
Chan said while Deep River's club has been around since at least the 1960's, the Petawawa group spun off only three years ago. Still, the club, which is registered with the Ontario Fencing Association and the Canadian Fencing Association, has made inroads in the Ottawa Development Fencing Circuit, which serves as an introduction to tournaments.
At one such competition, held March 31 at the RA Centre in Ottawa, club members Dan Sullivan placed first in open epee, while Chloe St. Amand won a silver medal in women's open foil. At the same event, Ameesha Isaac received a fifth place ribbon.
Epees and foils, as well as sabers, are the names of the swords used in fencing, each used differently to score points in what Chan admits is a pretty complex system of scoring.
"Fencing is one of those things where it is hard to understand the rules," he said, adding it can be difficult for spectators to follow. Depending on the sword used, fencers score by striking or touching different parts of their opponent's upper body while avoiding others.
For the Petawawa and Deep River club, while it is encouraged, the focus is more on the basics rather than competition, as most who have taken part are in it to try something different in their personal pursuits in fitness.
"A big part is people see movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean and that's how people get hooked on it," Chan said. "In my case, I wanted to try something less main stream."
Chan said fencing is great for improving hand-eye coordination, developing timing, precision and concentration, and one works up a real sweat doing it. He noted one of the good parts of the sport is it isn't really restricted by age.
"You can be a kid or a senior and you can keep on fencing as long as you like."
Club participants are loaned all of the safety gear and swords they need, and only require running shoes, long loose pants and a light short sleeved shirt to take part.
"We teach the basics," Chan said, such as the standard stances and moves, how to correctly attack and parry and other such fencing moves. "We also try to nurture that desire to go on (and progress in the sport).
"We do try to encourage our members to get their own equipment," he said, if they decide to take up fencing seriously.
Ameesha Isaac said she enjoys being allowed to attack people in a controlled way, while Chloe St. Amand said she gets so focused on her opponent, she doesn't realize how much of a work out fencing is until after the bout.
Jing Jing Wang, another member of the Thursday night class, said she enjoys how different it is as a physical activity.
"It is not a sport you usually see," she said, adding she likes learning how to defend herself. One of the challenges in fencing is learning not to flinch when an opponent lunges at you with a sword.
"I can do that, but it is still loud when it hits the mask."
For further information on the Petawawa/Deep River Fencing Club, contact Nick Chan at 613-687-2373 (email: email@example.com), or John Wills at 613-584-2879 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The club also has a webpage and is on Facebook.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist