Anyone who’s watched “Zorro,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even “Star Wars,” or other films showcasing swashbuckling swordplay can appreciate Rebecca Schneider’s initial interest in the sport of fencing. And now, as part of her passion for bringing the sport to the Marshall County community, they can also try their hand at a few moves...or possibly embark on a lifelong love of fencing as Schneider herself wound up (inadvertently doing), starting in the early 1990s.
Schneider, Assistant Fencing Coach with Culver Academies’ mega-successful team (see accompanying article this issue), launched the By the Sword Fencing Academy in Plymouth earlier this month, largely to give those interested a chance to learn about and engage in fencing without having to make the trek to Mishawaka (or be of high school age and prepared to enter Culver Academies).
“There’s a club in Mishawaka with an excellent coach,” she says, “but it’s in Mishawaka, and there’s nothing (for aspiring fencers) between Fort Wayne, Mishawaka, and Lafayette...they may not have an opportunity otherwise, unless they’re coming to the Academy.”
Schneider herself was -- as is the case with many -- initially attracted to fencing by “those pirate movies -- the romance of it, the dashing swords, the good and the bad. I had this great idea, ‘I wonder if I can swordplay?’”
As an activity, however, Schneider says the first appeal for prospective students at By the Sword may be the notion of fencing as “physical chess.”
“It’s mentally healthy, spiritually healthy, mind-body healthy -- it’s a full fitness program. Fencing will offer (physical fitness) for sure. We can also offer mental health, keeping your brain sharp; it’s strategic.
Then there’s the fun side of the sport. Schneider adds with a smile, “Who doesn’t want to play with swords?
“I think for young ones who want to try, it’s an opportunity to come over and check it out. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other groups are welcome. I offer clinics and little classes for outside events like that.”
Fantasy films like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” are more combat-style swordplay, Schneider says. Instead, prospective fencers should think, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” or, “The Three Musketeers.”
“But you will not be hanging from chandeliers and swashbuckling!” she points out. “I try to build the art in the sport of fencing, which is one of the oldest Olympic sports today.”
She adds fencing is especially appealing to -- though of course not limited to -- people of all ages who might be drawn to one-on-one, rather than strictly group or team sports.
Schneider recently relocated to a larger space at the Plymouth Family Tae Kwan Do School, at 101 S. Michigan Street in downtown Plymouth.
“(Fencing is) another martial art,” she says, “so the collaboration works quite well.”
She’ll be joined by Aaron Sattler, a former Purdue fencer, as Assistant Coach.
Schneider discovered fencing at the University of Illinois and discovered a passion for it. The combination of its competitive athleticism and the rhythmic, dance-like nature of the sport, combined with its rich history, drew her to continued interest.
Following her resignation after five years with The Point, a fencing club in Illinois at which she was Director, Head Coach, and competitor, it was brought to Schneider’s attention Culver was seeking a coach.
After a visit to the school and interview with Culver Athletic Director Al Clark, she took the position of Head Coach, filling in for Igor Stefanic, who was leaving on sabbatical in 2008.
Recently, she also took a position with the school as Athletic Liaison for the Development department. Add to those endeavors coaching with By the Sword in Plymouth.
“What I’ve heard over and over (from people) in my 18 years experience with the sport, is, ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to try that (fencing),” she says. With By the Sword, now they have a chance.
Those interested in learning more are encouraged to contact Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org , or by phone at 217-352-0722.