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Happy birthday to us! Special Rates for January

We salute you, Houston Sword Sports members!

We salute you, Houston Sword Sports members!

One year ago, Houston Sword Sports held its first practice. It’s been a great year, and to celebrate we’re offering a discounted rate for all of our Bellaire Rec Center classes.

This special ends January 31st, don’t wait! Please contact Liz at Liz@HoustonSwords.com with any questions.

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The Benefits of Fencing

Epee, foil and saber at Houston Sword Sports

We all have a lot of things competing for our time. Work, family, friends, school, hobbies, pets… The list goes on. A common refrain from those who would like to try fencing is there is no time for it. While I can sympathize with that – my schedule is as maxed out as the rest – I’d like to make the case that some of your precious free time should be spent fencing.

An easy reason to try fencing is that it’s fun, although I’m sure many of the things you do are – why do workouts or hobbies that don’t bring joy after all, right? But more than that, let me make the case that fencing has so much more to offer than the occasional bruise or blister.

1. An individual sport with a team element.

Fencing is at its heart a positional game like chess that you play with swords. Learning the stance, movements, and actions needed to be an Olympian is easy. Honing them to become proficient enough to win some matches takes focus, self-discipline, and practice.

As an individual sport, you can set your own goals. How far you progress is up to you. You make the effort to learn and develop, you are the one who plays with new tactics, and you are the one who ultimately succeeds at your goals. The support network of your club mates forms a team that helps you through this. We all fence together and give one another feedback – if my teammates become stronger, so will I. There’s also great emotional support to help with plateaus and valleys as you learn to fence.

2. All the essential elements of physical exercise.

Fitness is divided into 4 broad components:

Muscular endurance – the ability to maintain a high level of performance over time. This includes aerobic (using oxygen) conditioning which fencing trains by getting on strip and fencing someone for an extended period, and anaerobic (not using oxygen) conditioning which is periods of intense activity followed by a recovery period in the flurry of activity leading to the touch. Both are important to your overall health and wellbeing.

Muscular strength/power – how much weight you can lift and how explosively you can push it. The rapid changes in direction of the anaerobic conditioning part of fencing leads to a stronger set of leg and core muscles. We are purported to have some of the best glutes in sports…

Balance – those rapid changes of direction also improve your balance. working for the touch forces us to learn new and interesting ways to move our bodies. Our pride gets us to develop the balance to not fall on our faces when we do it. This improves our coordination – the more balanced and grounded you feel, the easier it is to do fine motor tasks like scoring a point.

Flexibility – reaching that little bit more for the point or twisting to your utmost to avoid your opponent’s blade. Fencers become pretty flexible in more than just their mental abilities. Most people have done fencing lunges to stretch out for other sports. There’s a reason for that.

Fencing blends all these into one workout for the body and the mind, bringing us to…

3. Mental stimulation.

The brain is like a muscle in that the more it’s challenged, the stronger it becomes. Fencing is a puzzle – how do I hit and not be hit? Is my opponent laying a trap, or making a mistake? Am I really doing what I think I’m doing (it’s surprising how often this isn’t the case)?

Fencing is so great for mental stimulation that scientists have used fencers to study the way that “open-skill sports” (that is, sports where you react to an opponent) affect the brain’s ability to process information (source). We all get a little slower as we age, but one study found that fencers don’t get slower as fast – and middle-aged fencers have better accuracy, which is a pretty good tradeoff (source 1source 2 ). Fencing is a great two-fer, since it improves your health both physically and mentally.

4. Finesse, not strength.

Most martial arts will give you some version of the elements above, but the difference between fencing and most martial arts is that our sport is based on finesse rather than strength. You don’t have to hit very hard at all to score a touch in fencing. Most martial arts have you stand with your dominant foot in back, which grounds you and gives power to your attacks. In fencing we stand with the dominant foot in front, which makes us more nimble and allows for light, fast attacks.

What this means is that fencing appeals to people who’ve tried a lot of sports and not yet found their niche. Emphasizing quick, light touches instead of power means that kids who weren’t the biggest or the strongest can compete on an equal footing. You don’t even have to be very fast, if you’re sneaky and have good timing.


 

Have all these benefits made you think you should carve some time into your schedule and give fencing a try? Great, now’s your chance! We are holding free introduction to fencing classes on September 2 and 3. If you can’t make those, your first class at the Bellaire rec is always free. Sign up for a free class or email liz@houstonswordsports.com for more information.

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Learn to Fence for free, September 2 & 3

July free adult class

In July we had a great time offering free introductory fencing classes, so we’re doing it again!

This class will be a great way for anyone who’s never fenced before to try it out. You will learn the basics of our sport and get to fence with your friends in this one-hour class. All you need to do is come dressed to move, in close-toed shoes and pants or long shorts.

And if you have a great time, we’ll be ready to help you sign up right there. All new members who sign up for at least one month of classes before they leave get a free Houston Sword Sports t-shirt!

Wednesday, September 2
Location: West U Rec
Youth, ages 8-18: 6:30-7:30
Adults, ages 18+: 7:30-8:30

Thursday, September 3
Location: Bellaire Rec
Youth, ages 8-18: 6:00-7:00
Adults, ages 18+: 7:30-8:30

Can’t make either of these classes? Check out our schedule and find another time that works for you!

To sign up, fill out the form below or email liz@houstonswordsports.com.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Add me to the HSS email list!

Which class will you attend?

How many participants?

For each participant, tell us their shirt size and whether they are right or left handed:

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From Mom to Musketeer – The Buzz Magazines

Originally published in The Buzz Magazines, September 1, 2009:

From Mom to Musketeer

Cheryl Laird

Writer Cheryl Laird salutes before fencing at her first Summer Nationals tournament. (Photo: Christopher Germano)

Life-changing moments come in all shapes. For me, it was a beekeeper’s mask. Actually, it just looked like a beekeeper’s mask, with its black metal mesh.

“It’s for fencing,” said my husband. I finished unwrapping his Christmas present and posed awkwardly for a photo. The gift came with fencing lessons.

“For me?” I thought. “You shouldn’t have. Really.”

He explained that since I rode horses and loved fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings, he figured that all I was missing was the sword.

It was the most thoughtful present I ever had received. And I didn’t want it. Fencing was way out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t like to do things I didn’t know how to do.

Besides, I was a mom to two young kids. Moms don’t poke other people with long sticks. Moms apply too much sunscreen and fall asleep at 9 p.m. It had taken time for me to embrace motherhood, but now I had settled comfortably into my role.

At the first class, I felt as if I had wandered into the wrong room and didn’t have sense enough to leave. It was embarrassing to jog with the younger students with all my extra mom softness flapping around.

When we picked up our weapons, my teacher told me to hit her. I tentatively reached out. It felt wrong to stab her so that the steel bent. Unlike the adolescent boys in the class, I hadn’t grown up play-fighting. My sister and I didn’t wrestle. When I got hurt, I didn’t tough it out in silence.

It took a while, but I came to relish those nights. My bruises became badges of honor. Maybe the foil wasn’t a real sword, but I felt like a hero. When I got a touch, I felt a rush of primal satisfaction. I liked competition. How could I have forgotten that?

It slowly dawned on me that as rewarding as motherhood was, it wasn’t the final chapter in my life. I was still the same tomboy I used to be. Saying vows and giving birth didn’t make me a girly-girl.

Some of my friends didn’t get it. But others who had passions – art, horses, work – did. We shared our guilt over time spent away from family. We wondered whether we were good role models. I wished out loud that I had fallen for cooking or something useful. But I felt undeniably alive.

This summer, I placed well enough in local tournaments to qualify for the year-end U.S. Summer National Championships. I drove up to Dallas with a friend from my West University-area fencing club, Salle Mauro.

The convention center was packed with competitors, most under drinking age. But there were a surprisingly large number of people my age and older.

At first, I went into my old mode of “Oh, isn’t it funny that I’m doing this?” If I didn’t act as if I wanted to win, then it wouldn’t hurt to lose. Not surprisingly, that attitude didn’t pay off, and the results of my first foil event were nothing special.

The next day, I competed in epee. In epee, you can hit your opponent all over, while foil has different rules and a smaller target area. I was newer to epee and didn’t expect much.

But sometime during my bout, I realized that my opponent didn’t know me, or that I was someone’s mom. She was scared. Of me. I began to predict what she would do and beat her to the punch. It worked. And then it worked on the next girl. And almost the next one.

I lost to her 15-14. When I lost, I threw back my head and yelled in frustration. And it felt awesome. I had done all that I could do, and she beat me fairly. But I could have beat her. And the next time, I would. I realized, finally, that I deserved to be there as much as anyone.

The final day was a foil event for women in their 40s. The veteran fencers’ actions were clean and beautiful. Until they took off their masks, you couldn’t tell their age. It was inspiring, and I was satisfied with placing in the top half.

Afterward, I learned that a woman in her ‘80s was fencing that week. “The shell ages,” she had said, “but the desire to compete is the same.”

I get it now. Thanks to the gift of a beekeeper’s mask.

– See more at: http://thebuzzmagazines.com/articles/2009/09/mom-musketeer#sthash.OeaNftQj.dpuf