(This article first appeared in the August 2, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Fencing oftentimes generates images from films like The Princess Bride, Zorro, The Count of Monte Cristo, or even Star Wars. Beyond that it’s an uncommon thought, but 25-year-old Hanna Heldenmuth from Miami, FL aims to change that.
After years of competing at a national level, earning herself an athletic scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson University, an NCAA Division I school, Heldenmuth is teaching her knowledge to others. Currently, her company, Noble Knights Fitness and Fencing, offers lessons to individuals or groups in the privacy of their homes in Miami or The Hamptons, and she’s aiming to expand to Manhattan and parts of New Jersey.
Intrigued by fencing, I made my way to meet the young athlete. Suited up and a brief lesson later, I envisioned myself as Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap.
We practiced with three different swords. Can you explain them and their uses?
Sabre: Cutting-style weapon with target area from the waist up, including the head.
Foil: Point/thrust-style weapon with target area consisting only of the torso.
Epee: Point/thrust-style weapon with target area from head to toe.
Sabre and Foil are “right of way” weapons, meaning that the person whose action has the right of way receives the point. (Example: Fencer A attacks, fencer B blocks the attack and then both hit simultaneously, fencer B would receive the point because his hit came after fencer A’s initial attack failed.)
Epee is a non “right of way” weapon, meaning that if both people hit simultaneously both receive the point.
You used some of the basic terminology, explain what it meant.
Advance: Taking a step towards one’s opponent.
Retreat: Taking a step away from one’s opponent.
Lunge: Most common attacking technique, in which the fencer launches themselves at their opponent by pushing off from the back leg.
Attack: Movement or series of movements by which a fencer tries to score a point.
En Garde: Position taken before fencing commences.
Parry: Defensive action in which a fencer blocks his opponent’s blade.
Piste: French term for the fencing strip.
Strip: Fencing area, 14 meters long by two meters wide.
Bout: Fencing match.
What’s the important history of the sport? I imagine it dates back to when swords were used as weapons.
The foil is a descendant of the light court sword formally used by nobility to train for duels. Target is the torso and follows a right-of-way point system based on the historic dueling masters who instructed their pupils to only attack the vital areas of the body.
The epee is a descendant of the dueling sword. Touches are scored only with the point of the blade, and the entire body, head‐to‐toe, is the valid target area, imitating an actual duel. There is no “right of way” as the epee takes after a duel style that’s goal was to first blood rather than death. For this reason if both fencers hit simultaneously both receive points.
The sabre is a descendant of the slashing cavalry sword. The sabre is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon; therefore, sabreurs can score with the edge of their blade as well as their point. The target area of the waist up simulates the cavalry rider on a horse (hitting below the waist would harm the horse).
Where do you see the sport going?
The sport is becoming more mainstream, due in great part to an increase in media coverage. There is also a strong urge in the fencing community to develop foundations geared toward increased accessibility to the sport, offering programs, equipment, and scholarships. I believe fencing is on its way up in popularity and soon enough its presence will be much more common.
What made you start a business? How’d you come up with the name?
I’ve always loved coaching and having the chance to introduce the sport of fencing to people. The name of my business, Noble Knights Fitness and Fencing, comes from my NCAA fencing team mascot, the Knight. Plus the idea that those who are noble (possessing qualities of high ideals, morals, and talent) are obligated to be noble and reach their potential.
How can fencing aid in a child’s future?
The sport of fencing offers a wide range of physical and mental benefits for children. Because fencing is comparatively a small sport, goals of succeeding competitively are attainable to individuals that are willing to train and work hard.
Fencing not only stands out on a college application but also has the power to influence university admission, especially at one of the many schools that have NCAA fencing teams.
Talk about the fitness aspect of fencing. I know I definitely felt it in my thighs and arm muscles.
Fencing uses a unique set of muscles and requires a great deal of balance and core strength as well as lower body (squatted en garde position) and upper body with high-speed blade work.
Since it’s about precision, would you say it’s a mental workout too?
Fencing is definitely a mental workout. The sport requires tactical skills, mental focus and split second reaction time.
What would you say to those who haven’t tried fencing before?
Everyone and anyone can benefit from the sport of fencing. Fencing is great for people of all ages, from 5 to 105. Sessions can be one-on-one with a coach, as a couple or family, or with a small group of friends. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to have a private fencing master bring the sport of fencing directly to your home. Just like in the movies!
Noble Knights Fencing sends a coach directly to an individual’s home, but can also provide sessions at camps, gyms, or any outdoor space, such as parks or beaches. A basic fencing package with all necessary introductory equipment runs about $300 and they provide all the gear necessary for an introduction to the sport. Those interested in pursuing things further can then rent or purchase equipment packages through the company itself.
Are you ready to en garde? Contact Hanna Heldenmuth at http://www.nobleknightsfencing.com , call at 305-333-6580 or find them on Instagram @NobleKnightsFencing.