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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 29, 2012

Yes, you can fence in Dayton area

Sport can be adapted for physical limitations

By Debbie Juniewicz

Contributing Writer

It felt like a lifetime to a young Lorenzo Padrichelli.

“I was about 5 years old when I first saw fencing and I was always begging to try it, but the coach thought I was too young,” Padrichelli said.

Padrichelli finally got his chance when he was 8 years old and now, more than three decades later, the former Italian national team fencer is teaching a new generation about the sport he loves. The 42-year-old Dayton resident is the head epee coach at the American Fencing Academy of Dayton.

“I cannot tell you the one thing I love most about fencing; it’s basically everything,” Padrichelli said. “I like the concentration, the coordination and the focus.”

From classic Errol Flynn films to lightsaber duals in “Star Wars” and swashbuckling sword fights in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” fencing has entertained and enticed enthusiasts for decades. Whether it’s a desire for recreation or competition, fencing is accessible throughout the Miami Valley through the American Fencing Academy of Dayton, local recreation centers and college campuses, like Wright State University and Sinclair Community College.


Fencing competitors utilize one of three weapons, the foil, epee or sabre. The foil is a thrusting sword with a flexible rectangular blade and a smaller guard than the epee. The epee is a thrusting sword descended from the dueling sword, similar in length to a foil but heavier, with a larger guard and a much stiffer blade. The sabre is the modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, similar in length and weight to the foil but able to cut with the blade as well as hit with the point.

“The foil is the first weapon people learn and then, based on their skill and interest, they can try the other two,” Padrichelli said.


There are few physical limitations when it comes to fencing. The sport can even be competed by athletes who are blind or in wheelchairs. Padrichelli has coached athletes in their mid-70s as well as his 3-year-old son.

“It’s really open to everyone, including all ages,” Padrichelli said. “You rely on your own physical capacity.”

Jeff Hudson, of Glendale, finished third at the North American Cup in Cincinnati in both the veteran-40 foil and veteran 40 epee events.

“I’m 49 now, and I feel like I’ve never been better,” Hudson said.

While Hudson, who works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, enjoys the competition, he knows there are many who enjoy fencing recreationally.

“We have a lot of people who fence for fun and just show up at the club every week,” he said. “And if you’re not in the greatest shape, that’s OK, you move as much as you can. Obviously, the better you move, the better you’ll do, but, no matter what, when you get paired up with someone at your level, it’s a blast.”


While Hudson enjoys the workout fencing provides, the sport is about much more than exercise.

“You can click into your muscle memory when you’re on offense and defense, but you still need an overall strategy,” he said. “And you need to be able to adapt and change that strategy in real time.”

Anticipation, concentration and adaptation are all critical fencing skills.

“It’s like chess with a sword,” Padrichelli said.

Hudson competed in many other sports, but none compared to fencing.

“It’s hard to explain, but in fencing, there is this complete sense of the present – in the immediate – and it’s just incredible.”

Olympic events


Men: epee individual, epee team, foil individual, sabre individual, sabre team

Women: epee individual, foil individual, foil team, sabre individual, sabre team

Origin: Sword play has been practiced for thousands of years, as evidenced by carvings depicting fencers found in a temple dating from around 1190 BC. From the 16th to the 18th century, duels were common, with combatants using a variety of weapons including quarterstaffs and backswords. Such bouts were bloody and occasionally fatal. Fencing began the move from a form of military training to a sport in either the 14th or 15th century. Both Italy and Germany lay claim to its origins.

Olympic history: Fencing was included for the first time at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, and has remained on the Olympic program since then. The women’s fencing competition entered the games in 1924 in Paris. Today, men and women compete in individual and team events, in which three types of weapon are used: foil, epee and sabre. The foil was, at first, the only weapon used by women, until the 1996 games in Atlanta, when women’s epee was introduced. Women’s sabre appeared for the first time in Athens in 2004.


As the Olympic Games continue in London, Get Active continues its look at how you can try your hand at Olympic sports. You won’t even need a ticket to London.

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