When we think of sports, most of us conjure up images of footballs and helmets, tall players and hoops and maybe even pompoms or a balance beam. But how often, when perhaps helping our kids decide what sport to play this upcoming season, do we include fencing on the list of possibilities? Most of us probably equate fencing with that ancient form of swordsmanship or with the image of it being too aristocratic and genteel. We definitely don’t think of it as the Olympic sport it is today. In fact, fencing is extraordinarily athletic.
It is set at a fast pace which forces the players to think quickly and act with precision and therefore doesn’t just workout your body but stretches those mind muscles as well. And though most of us think of sports as a collective team effort, with fencing, it is all up to the individual. It is a lesson in staying calm and focused under pressure. It will teach you to problem solve because, in fencing the advice to go “Harder! Faster!” that coaches often scream from the side of a football field doesn’t work. You have to keep focus and find a way to slip past your opponents defenses while still maintaining your own.
Gerhard Guevarra, the head coach and owner of All-American Fencing Academy in downtown Fayetteville, compared fencing to “trying to do a model airplane and trying to dance at the same time.” Guevarra started All-American Fencing Academy to bring some of that precise athleticism to our community.
At All-American Fencing Academy, your fencing experience and skill level do not matter. The academy will provide the training that matches the needs of each individual no matter if they are a beginner, advanced or competitive fencer. At the academy, emphasis is placed on training with two of the three major fencing weapons, the foil, which targets the torso and the épée which opens the entire body of your opponent up as a target.
Gerhard Guevarra started teaching fencing in recreation centers with just two students. He then moved his classes and training to Fort Bragg and became the All-American Fencing Club under the Army Fencing Association. Since then, he has moved off post and into downtown Fayetteville, merging with the Dancer’s Creative Workshop and becoming the All-American Fencing Academy. The fencers now have full reign over the space and the focus is on training civilians and Army families. Dependents of deployed Military Reservists or the National Guard may take advantage of the Our Military Kids grant program. Several students, ages seven through 18 have already taken advantage of this grant, which offers them free classes and training for up to six months at the Academy. This includes all equipment.
Speaking to its success in training competitive fencers are the academy’s numerous success stories. Students have qualified for the Junior Olympics and Regional Youth Circuits and have also qualified for Nationals. In addition students are routinely recruited to Division 1 university teams. Ines Paige, the wife of another academy coach, John Page, has placed in the top three in state championships.
The coaches themselves bring a lifetime of accolades and talent into the fencing academy. Guevarra himself, a veteran of the Army Reserve, has coached since 1999 and has won several championships and competed internationally in the 2006 Vancouver World Cup. The previously mentioned coach, John Page, began fencing at NYU in the 1970’s. When asked why the students of All-American Fencing Academy are so successful, Paige says that it is all about the “internal atmosphere.” There at the academy, the coaches are not brutal or elitist in their drive for achievement. They promote an atmosphere that families want to immerse themselves in. “Often times,” Paige paused, “When students leave Fayetteville, they don’t continue the sport because of the level of competitiveness that is evident at other schools.” The All-American Fencing Academy certainly has the opportunity to be one of those overly competitive schools seeing as they are the only location that trains fencers in a two-hour radius. Instead they choose to produce excellent fencers with such dedication and sense of well being that they become superior to any other facility.
Parents of students have nothing but great things to say about the academy. Amy Comeens has brought her son Ian to the coaches of All-American Fencing Academy for two years. Amy said that Ian displayed no interest in other sports but when introduced to fencing he instantly fell in love. “It keeps his mind focused,” she said, “and it carries over into other aspects of his life.” As a result of his training, his school work has improved and he has showed an increased skill level in other similar activities such as chess, where he analyzes each move and counter move. Ian under went eye surgery and has difficulty with depth perception, but the coaches are patient and he continues to show an improvement and now looks forward to every Wednesday night as a time to train and a time to socialize with other students.
If you aren’t convinced yet, The All-American Fencing Academy hosts walk-in classes during Downtown Fayetteville’s 4th Fridays with classes at just $10. All equipment will be provided. Once you enroll in classes you can choose to learn in a group setting or with private lessons. Training is offered to students beginning at age seven. The All-American Fencing Academy is registered with the United States Fencing Association and with the North Carolina Division of the United States Fencing Association. Gerhard Guevarra opens the doors of the academy to anyone interested in learning the sport. He stated that it is curiosity that brings people to the school. You’ll quickly discover that the athleticism and mental prowess that these coaches and this sport provoke in its students is what keeps them coming back for more.
The All-American Fencing Academy is located at 207 Donaldson Street Fayetteville, NC 28301 in the heart of Downtown Fayetteville.