Fencing club lets locals sharpen foils-manship!

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Randy Hanes graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in mechanical engineering. But his grade in fencing never got higher than a C.

The system for the foil sport doesn’t base its results on test scores, however. It’s about the skill of a swordsman.


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&uot;I competed in several circuit events in college,&uot; says Randy, who now works for the Joint Training and Simulation Center in Suffolk. Held four times a year, these occurrences took place in New York City, Cleveland, Montreal, Dallas, and other large cities.

It was during this time that Randy’s grade rose just past the passing level. &uot;The rating system in the United States ranges from E to A,&uot; he explains. &uot;The guys who are ranked A are the best, the ones that are at the Olympics.&uot; After his mark rose from E to D during his Kansas State years, Randy got to C in the early 1990s.

But Randy got more than a degree from Kansas State; he found his future wife, Vicki, who taught fencing to students at the college and members of the military. &uot;That just means that I knew just a little more than most of them!&uot; she points out with a laugh.

On and off, the Haneses have continued to sharpen their swordsmanship since their college years. &uot;We never lost our commitment,&uot; Vicki asserts. &uot;It was just hard to find a club.&uot; Last year, their hopes came true in the form of the Isle of Wight Fencing Club, which meets from 7 to 8:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday at Smithfield High School.

The club was the brainchild of Ebor Ross and his wife Debbie, both of Smithfield. &uot;Our son Colby was fencing at Virginia Wesleyan College, and we had to drive there every week,&uot; Ebor recalls. &uot;We just put our heads together and decided to start a new club here.&uot;

No longer just a student, Colby, 15, is an instructor for the class. &uot;I’ve been taking it all in real fast,&uot; he says, watching a group of students attempt to foil one another. &uot;You have to have really good stamina and stay on your toes for the whole match. You have to take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses.&uot;

On the other side of the gym, Collin Norman, also 15, teaches a beginner’s class on keeping one’s arm in the correct position. &uot;It’s best to keep it like this,&uot; he explains, bending his elbow just to the side of his waist, fist up. &uot;There’s a lot of wrist movement, because you have to lift to defend against an attack and counterattack.

&uot;If you start on the defensive, that’s OK, because a person with a good defense is hard to beat. But if you’re aggressive, you can keep your opponent from retaliating.&uot;

But fencing is far more than a physical sport, says student Anna Hatter. &uot;You have to rely on both your physical and mental abilities,&uot; explains the 15-year-old. &uot;Sometimes I get nervous, especially if I’m against someone really good. But for the most part, you don’t have time to think about that, because you’re occupied with the competition.&uot;

It’s an occupation that can keep one addicted to fencing for decades, Vicki says. &uot;Age is not a factor. Gender is not a factor. You’re not going to find yourself too old for fencing unless you want to. You can go to tournaments and see 18-year-olds competing against people in the 50s and 60s. Sometimes, the older people win!&uot;

That’s probably due to the health benefits of the sport. &uot;The truth is, fencing is one of few sports that allows you to be combative, with your opponent, but still safe,&uot; Randy says. &uot;You’re wearing an outfit that’s three or four levels of canvas thick, and a mask. Exercising in all of that for 15 minutes is like taking an hour of aerobics. You get hurt far more rarely than people think.&uot;

For more information on the club, contact Ebor at 357-7355.