En-garde: The History of The Oxford Parks Commission’s Fencing Program.

The Oxford Parks Commission’s Fencing Program, was started in 2017 by Coach Linda Margarete. OPC’s fencing program is offered to children ages 10-18. Coach Margarete tries to teach her students discipline, dexterity, and endurance in her classes. OPC Deputy Director, Mike Young says that he has seen the fencing program grow steadily while working at the Parks Commission. Even though the Fencing Program doesn’t have huge enrollment numbers, Young said OPC is more concerned with the program’s quality, which he feels Coach Margarete has consistently delivered every year.

Dating back to 1200 B.C.E., fencing was an ancient form of combat in warfare. Though the sport’s origins are rather violent, modern-day fencing is less about training to kill the enemy and more geared towards besting one’s opponent with superior speed, agility, and endurance. While fencing was a sport that rose to prominence in Europe during the 14th century, the first American fencing school was not opened until 1874. Then in 1896, at the Olympics’ first modern games, fencing was finally recognized as an Olympic sport. To register points, players’ swords and vests are electronically wired to the scoring box via a cord. Fencer’s compete on a “piste” that is 46 feet by six feet wide strip with hash marks to warn fencers where boundaries are on the strip.

The most important piece of equipment in fencing (besides protective attire) is the weapon itself. Fencers use three different blades: the epée, the foil, and the sabre, each a separate event. The epée is the heaviest of the three swords. The entire body is a valid target area in epée duels; fencers must be able to anticipate their opponent’s moves and strike at the correct time. The foil is a lighter, more flexible blade used for thrusting at your opponent’s torso (including the lower part of the bib of the mask) and groin; the arms are considered off-target. The sabre is both a cutting and thrusting weapon. Unlike the other two swords, sabre fencers can score by slashing their opponents with the edge of the blade. The general target area for sabre bouts is the entire torso, arms, and head. However, the legs, hands and feet are not part of the valid target area. At the Olympics, fencing matches are contested over three three-minute rounds; the first fencer to score 15 points or the fencer with the most touches after three round is the winner.


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