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Fencing club teaches art of swordplay

Date Posted: 1998-02-14

The audience watches the movie screen, mesmerized by the clash of metal upon metal as warriors from a time long past battle each other man-to-man, sword-to-sword. It may e hard to imagine combat was conducted in such a way, especially when combat today seems to be rushing into a computer era. Sometimes a similar sound of metal clashing upon metal can be heard insdie the Riser Fitness Center. Service members and DOD civilians are practicing that age-old form of combat in the form of the sport fencing during meetings of the Okinawan Fencing Club.

"In January 1996, a friend and I who were both experienced fencers decided to form a club," said club co-founder Petty Officer 1st class John Mooers, the leading Tricare petty officer at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester. "We hooked up with the Risner Fitness Center, which allowed us to use the aerobics room and gave us fencing gear. Joining the club is free; all you have to do is show up."

The club meets every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the fitness center's aerobics room. Lessons are given the first hour, then participants get to practice what they've learned during open fencing the second hour.

Any service member, DOD civilian or Okinawan can join, and the club's memberships is comprised of all services. According to experienced fencer Mike Elision, three methods of fighting are taught: foil, saber and epee.

The method all fencers start out with is foil. The target area is from the waist up front and back, not including the arms and head. Touches are scored by sticking or stabbing an opponent with the point of the weapon.

In saber, the target area is from the waist up, front and back, including the arms and head. Combatants can slash as well as stab. In epee, however, the target is the world boy, front and back, including the head, torso, limbs and appendages, In this method, touches are scores strictly by stabbing.

Two style of fencing are conducted. One is Olympic fencing, where opponents fight each other in a 40 feet long, 4 feet wide line. The other is theatrical: opponents have no boundaries and can move anywhere when fighting.

The club holds double-elimination tournaments several times a year for members. "The sport is very safe because the weapons have plastic tips, and participants were fencing mask and jackets,: Elision said.

Club members claim the sport, which is actually a martica art, is very athletic - although the sweat can't be seen underneath the uniform. Fencers exercise aerobically while increasing their strength, balance and hand-eye coordination. Anyone interested in fencing can go to the fitness center Saturday or call Mooers at 645-6944. There is also an Okinawan Fencing Club website on the Internet at www.geocities.com\colisium\track\6491

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