Charlottesville Fencing Alliance Tournament to Benefit SPCA
Charlottesville Fencing Alliance practice
This weekend a tight-knit fencing group in Charlottesville is inviting the whole community to get in on the action. The Charlottesville Fencing Alliance is hosting its Back to School Brawl - and this year the event will benefit the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA.
Fencers say the alliance has given them a home away from home. This weekend's fencing tournament is a chance for this accepting environment to open its doors to the whole community.
The first time Sarah Simmons put on a mask and grabbed a foil, she knew she'd found her niche. Now she's been a nationally competitive fencer for more than four years. She says it teaches her analytical thinking, decision making and even math skills.
"People refer to fencing as physical chess because you have to think: well if they do this, how am I going to respond?" Simmons said.
Simmons says fencing has given her confidence and a second family.
"I was immediately accepted into this community and I suddenly had all of these friends who were so supportive of me and my fencing, and every other aspect of my life and it's where all of my friends - my closest friends - came from," Simmons said.
Now she shares her passion with beginners, teaching the basics to her students - then helping them suit up, grab a foil and get up the courage and skills to take on their first opponent. Sometimes she even lets them score a touch.
Fencer Grayson Katzenbach said, "It's not a sport where just the strongest person wins. So we have really tall people to really short people, really young people to seniors."
Simmons says this weekend's tournament is a window into the sport and the community, and she hopes other potential students will give this friendly form of fighting a try.
"It's not about how popular you are, it's not about how good you are at stuff. It's just about you being there and fencing and you can feel like you're good at something, you can feel like you're making progress at this thing that you start to realize is really quite difficult," Simmons said.
Anyone can come out and watch the fencing tournament starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Charlottesville Fencing Alliance in downtown Charlottesville. Sponsors will make a donation to the SPCA for each touch a fencer scores.
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