Healthy Obsession: Fencing

Shawn Smith can tell you a thing or two about fencing.


First introduced to fencing in the sixth grade, Smith went on to become a member of New Trier’s fencing team and then fenced at Michigan State. Today, Smith is back to his roots as the fencing coach at New Trier High School’s Extension program.

Is fencing comparable to any other sport? What are the mental and physical benefits?
Fencing is an anaerobic and aerobic sport. It involves a lot of hand/eye coordination, balance, timing, patience and stamina. As with any sport, it’s physically demanding, but fencing is also about the mental game. It’s often referred to as “physical chess,” as the quick strategic thinking challenges your mind. Fencing is an exhilarating workout for your entire body and a great stress reliever. I’ve been involved competitively in many sports, but none have compared to the challenge of fencing.

What does a class entail?
For a beginner, a fencing class involves learning the basic footwork, bladework, strategy, and general knowledge of the sport itself.

How does one get started in fencing? Are there age restrictions? Advice you’d give a newcomer?
Getting started is as easy as finding a local program and signing up! The USA Fencing website lists all the clubs in our area and many park districts and adult education programs offer classes, as well.

Fencing is an NCAA sport and there are programs that offer both men’s and women’s fencing as a varsity sport. Many colleges also have strong club programs that compete among each other or with NCAA programs. USA Fencing offers competitions to fencers as young as 7-years old and up to 60+ years.

At NT Extension, who takes classes other than former fencers?

Both children and adults take fencing classes. Kids see the sport and think, “Hey, I’d like to try that. It looks cool.” Adults want to try something new or have fenced before and want to try it again. There are those that take class for stress relief but mostly it’s for the experience.

What kind of equipment do you need? Do classes, including those at NT Extension, provide equipment?

Most classes have the basic equipment, but also give you the opportunity to purchase your own. All New Trier Extension classes provide the necessary equipment.

Any other tips or things I’ve missed?

You’re never too old to learn how to fence and enjoy it. I’ve coached many adults who fenced in college, but then forgot about it for a while. I see them come back and take a class and fall in love with it all over again.

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate