Beginning of fencing lessons on the Plateau


Attack, riposte, parry and – as fast as you can blink – a touch, a point, and the match starts again, swords whirling.

Sword dueling has been around since ancient times, but the art of swordsmanship, sometimes called Western martial art, emerged in the 1400s.

Since then, the sport has evolved into the summer Olympic event that entertains us today, and now you can learn to enjoy the sport yourself with classes starting on the Plateau.

Kurt Dunning, a former student of fencing master Mel North, USA fencing champion with Nevada State University in 2000 and certified USA fencing coach, began teaching at Enumclaw Danish Hall on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re just in our start-up phase,” he said in a recent interview; the student who shows up for most classes is her son. “Good time to board. »

For those unfamiliar with the sport, there are three main weapon styles.

One is the saber, the most recently developed style of weapon. It uses a light sword, and athletes target anything above the waist, including the face (thankfully protected by a helmet) with the tip or blade.

Sword, Dunning’s favorite style, uses a heavier sword to aim anywhere and everywhere on the body, but only with the tip.

Finally, there’s foil, which also uses a light sword to target the “vest” area (shoulders, waist, and groin, but not arms or legs). Only the point can be used to score.

All styles are fast and, according to Dunning, require quick thinking to be able to respond to attacks, parries, and ripostes.

“It’s an intellectual sport,” he says. “My teacher called it physical chess.”

While Dunning says he can teach all three, he thinks the foil weapon style is the easiest for beginners to master.

Early lessons, he continued, involve getting familiar with all the equipment being used, warm-ups and basic footwork.

“The last thing you want to do is rush in and go willy-nilly and end up hurting yourself,” Dunning added.

Once a base has been laid for the footwork, the students separate into pairs for the drills.

“You’re not going to ‘go there’ – it’s a very predictable structure,” Dunning said. “We’re going to parry that way, you’re going to make that threat, he’s going to parry that way, you’re going to respond.”

It’s only later in the lessons — Dunning said three or four, depending on progress — that students start having live matches to practice what they’ve learned in real time.

Dunning has a good collection of gear, from body armor to swords, for students to use during class.

However, masks are not shared and students will need to provide their own; basic masks can cost upwards of $70.

The asking price for the classes is $100, but Dunning said it will work on a sliding scale, depending on how many classes per month people want to attend.

For more information on Dunning and Plateau Fencing, visit, call him at 509-901-4514.


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