September 19, 2021
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Fencing in Sonoma County

  • Vanessa Derammelaere is seen Attacking making a lunging touch on Jacob Peralta in their 15-point foil fencing bout last Sat. The eleven-year-olds were evenly matched, but Jacob managed to best Vanessa by one point 14-15. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
February 1, 2019

While the sport of fencing has been around for literally hundreds of years, it is one not often considered by people, especially for their children. However, the sport of fencing is not only physically challenging, it is also mentally challenging, and fun. En Garde Fencing in Santa Rosa, which currently trains approximately 90 children and adults from throughout Sonoma County, teaches the three disciplines of Olympic fencing, including foil, epée and sabre. However, En Garde is unique in that it also offers classes in HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), Archery and even an LED Saber class. The diverse offerings help to give individuals and children the opportunity to get an effective, yet enjoyable, workout.

“Everybody needs to do something active – something physical that gets them sweaty,” says Jim Liebich, owner and Head Coach of En Garde Fencing. “But just try dragging an 8-year old into a gym and have them do some pull-ups, push-ups or squats. But if you hand them a sword, they’ll say ‘I’ll do squats!’ ‘I’ll do lunges!’ On top of that their brain is developing too because this is a strategy game. The physical development of a child is intimately linked with their mental development. If you want to have good results in school, you need to be physically active. You will do better at anything if you’re physically active.”

Fencing also appeals to those individuals who prefer an individual sport and it is an activity that an athlete can stay with for years – through college and into adulthood. As a sport it is ranked on the low end of the spectrum for repetitive injuries which are so prevalent in other types of exercise.

“Fencing is basically an individual sport,” says Liebich. “There are a lot of kids who are not interested in team stuff. For some kids the individual sport of fencing appeals to them more than just being another person on a team.”

For Liebich, it is important to offer a space for children and adults to feel safe and not bullied, whether they are good at the sport or just learning. The gym focuses on camaraderie with experienced fencers helping junior ones and all levels engaging in bouts with each other to practice their skills.

“We definitely have people here who are competitive and want to go to tournaments and improve in that direction,” says Liebich. “But we don’t turn away someone because they’re not interested in that. We actually have a recreational emphasis. If you want to come and enjoy yourself and have something that develops your mind and body just for the sake of physical fitness and having fun, everyone is welcome here. I don’t value the competitive more than I value the recreational. They’re equally important to me.”