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Blue Ridge Fencing Center working to grow the sport in central Virginia

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Fencers of all ages are training with the Blue Ridge Fencing Center in Albemarle County.

“It’s a great sport for teaching both physical fitness, as well as mental agility and problem solving,” BRFC Head Coach Nathaniel Sides said.

Sides has been working with the nonprofit since 2013.

“I love teaching kids how to poke each other with metal sticks, but at the end of the day what’s more important to me is the life skills that they take from this,” he said.

BRCD aims to train people of all ages in the Olympic sport of fencing.

“We often say this is a sport that you can compete in from literally from 8 to 80,” Sides said. The coach says he has trained people as old as 71 years old.

“The more work you put in, the more you get out. No one can really make you better,” Nathaniel MacKinnon said. “My coach can obviously instruct me, he can tell me what I need to know, but only I can put in the work.”

In his three years of fencing with Sides, MacKinnon says he has seen his skill set grow leaps and bounds.

“I remember beginner class everyone’s waving it like a lightsaber, and now, you know, you’re actually thinking everything through,” MacKinnon said.

As an individual sport, fencers have to rely solely on themselves with the help of their mind to get the job done on the strip.

“It’s a great way both to stay in shape physically, but also mentally and stay sharp, and it has that tactical side of it that really appeals to the thinking person,” Sides said.

“I love just the amount of thought that has to go into it, because if you’re just swinging it around I guarantee you will lose,” MacKinnon said. “You have to think every motion through. Every motion has another motion that can beat it.”

Not only does the center focus on improving fencing skills, Sides wants his students thinking of others.

“I want to see us serving our community, bringing fencing to as many people as I can, making fencing as affordable as I can to as many people, but I also want to see us as an organization giving back to our community and being really involved there,” Sides said.

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