Steve Behrends says curiosity brings most people to the Des Moines Fencing Club.
“For some of the younger ones, it’s the prospect of working with a sword.”
We’ll be working with an epee.
“They’re not sharp, there’s no point on them, there’s no edges,” explains Behrends.
But before we’re given our weapons, we warm up with some agility moves and dynamic stretching. Behrends says fencing takes some basic athleticism and quick thinking.
“You also have to have a good tactical sense. Fencing happens very, very quickly. You need to be able to interpret what’s going on and make decisions within a hair’s breath.”
Steve is one of a few dozen fencing masters in the U.S. He begins our lesson by teaching us the basics; The ready and en guard positions. We continue with the advance and the lunge, followed by some choice reaction drills.
“You have one of two things that can happen,” explains Behrends. “You have to decide on the fly which one it is and react accordingly. Because it’s not just enough to do the movements you have to do the right movement, at the right time, for the right reason.”
It doesn’t look terribly taxing, but you do work up a sweat and use some muscles you may have forgotten about. Finally, we’re ready for our weapons. The advanced fencers make it look easy, like they’re engaged in a dance.
“Sometimes you’re actually working with them to set up a nice rhythm, a nice tempo, so you can break it and hit them,” says Behrends.
When it comes time for us to do some hitting, we miss the mark. Steve assures us we will get better. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the challenge to our body and our mind.