On Guard, Touche!
Fencing instead of football, moms turned masters. The concept of a competitive discipline that involves foils and French terminology is novel to Edmond but Oklahoma Sport Fencing makes it simple, even if you don’t know a sabre from an epee.
Co-owner and assistant coach Carolyn Gresham-Fiegel is an unlikely national champion who never counted on fencing as a professional venture or a private challenge. A semester of the activity at Casady High School in her senior year was a brief introduction for the Oklahoma native before she moved on to college and more typical goals like career and family.
Twenty-four years later, as a middle-aged mother of two, Carolyn found herself looking for a fun way to stay in shape. She sought lessons with expert, Bob Fiegel, who proved a perfect match, both in and out of the fencing studio. The couple married and established their own salle in 2000, where they each instruct different progressive levels.
“Fencing is for all body types and ages, and both genders can do it. It doesn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh,” said Carolyn.
At fifty-one, the 5’6" competitor trains with weights and aerobics in preparation for the upcoming qualification trials required to participate in the Veteran World Championship. The competition for" challengers over fifty" takes place in Australia next year.
After winning the 2001, Women’s Veteran National Championship, Carolyn went on to place fifth in the 2005, Women’s Veteran World, and hopes to beat her own previous record.
“That to me is the essence of fencing. You can compete with yourself to perfect things you already know and there’s always something new to learn,” she said.
Carolyn teaches private and group lessons fifteen hours a week, in addition to working as a writer for a national children’s magazine. She describes the sport as “physical chess” which provides a mentally and physically challenging exercise alternative for those bored with jogging or the gym.
“Someone is coming at you with a piece of steel and you have to do something about it,” she said, underscoring the virtue of learning to be calm under stress, a discipline developed through fencing with its exacting use of strategy and restraint.
Students range in age from kids as young as five to teenagers and business professionals. All observe the same rules of etiquette and conduct approved by the U.S. Fencing Association. The organization also monitors safety standards, which serve as a basis for many of the sport’s regulations, and the Fiegels are trained in emergency procedures concerning any potential injuries.
With classes year-around, the couple keeps class sizes small in an effort to tailor teaching methods to the individual and to hone in on personal performance objectives. Feedback is an integral part of the training process and helps students determine whether they wish to develop skills simply for personal recreation or for local tournaments. The decision always remains with the student. Each person's program is designed to fit into his/her lifestyle rather than overtake other interests. Session times are available during the day or evening, as well as by arrangement.
Oklahoma Sport Fencing stocks a supply of jackets, masks, protective garments, gloves, and weapons–all the requisite attire for its members who strive to practice locally or compete at any level. The salle also offers a reference library that details history and protocol, as well as a repair service for damaged equipment.
“I like to bring the sport to people to just say, ‘Try it,’ said Carolyn.
For more information about Oklahoma Sport Fencing, call the Fiegels at 405-359-8487, or visit http://www. oksportfencing.com. They are located at 14 NW 144th Circle, Edmond, OK 73013.