BY ELYSE AMEND
The words parry, balestra, and trompement may hold no particular meaning for most, but for Lidia Castro and other fencers, they make up only part of the long list of fencing vocabulary.
Castro, a native of Peru, became enamoured with the sport in her home country when she was a 12-year-old girl. She decided to move to Quebec after she met her husband here while on vacation in 1983. However, she found it hard to pursue her passion, as she couldn’t find any local clubs. Instead of giving up, she decided to start teaching it herself. “I said, I have to keep fencing,” said Castro, a 45-year-old mother of two. For the past 14 years, Castro has been instructing amateur and more seasoned fencers through the Beaconsfield and Suroît Fencing Club, which meets three times a week at the Beaconsfield Recreation Centre and the Vaudreuil sur le Lac Community Centre.
The mixed club is currently made up of about 15 members of all skill levels and ages, and Castro hopes more will join once they hear about it. “When they find it, some people say, do you know how long I’ve been looking for a club like this,” she said. Castro instructs the club members using the foil and sabre fencing weapons, and leads the group by jumping right into the combat aspect of the sport, allowing the experienced fencers help newcomers improve their technique. “First, you have to get them to join the others and then learn from the others. They encourage each other to do better and better. They really become friends,” she said.
Like most other sports, fencing requires certain types of equipment — like protective clothing, masks, gloves, and, of course, the weapon – which can cost a pretty penny. For those people who are worried about spending money on a sport they or their children may end up not liking after trying it out for a while, Castro provides all the basic gear. “Every time I get some money from the registration, I buy equipment. They just have to bring their running shoes,” she said. Castro currently has about 25 pieces of equipment anyone wanting to give fencing a try can borrow. If they do end up sticking with it, she recommends they invest in a glove as their first fencing item, because it is a very personal object. “I say to parents, don’t buy now. Wait. Sometimes kids like something one day, but then don’t like it the next…For me, it’s not about cost. It’s about getting people to come and enjoy fencing.”
John Abbott College student and Pierrefonds resident Graham MacVannel, 17, initially became interested in the club when he was looking for something to do in the soccer off-season. He ended up participating in the club’s weekly meetings for two years, and still fences when he has some time between studies and work. “I stuck with it because I found it very interesting. There aren’t a lot of students or individuals who actually do fencing. You only hear about fencing,” he said. “They’re kind of caught off guard (when you say you fence). They’re kind of like, oh, fencing? It sparks interest.”
Alex Vierra, 17, of Pointe Claire also attends John Abbott and got into fencing after a friend introduced him to it. “I’ve always liked sword play,” he said. “I find fencing very graceful. It’s a lot quicker than with a broad sword.”
For Castro, it’s largely about the mind-game. “Fencing is like chess. You don’t just have to know the (opponent’s) first move, but the second and third one. It’s a mental exercise,” she said, adding as the students improve, so does their self-confidence. “It’s incredible. There’s a big change in them. They’re surer of themselves than those who haven’t done sports before.”
The Beaconsfield and Suroît Fencing Club resumes meetings on March 11. They meet Tuesdays (6:30 to 8 p.m.) and Fridays (7 to 8:30 p.m.) in Beaconsfield, and in Vaudreuil sur le Lac (2 to 3:30 p.m.) on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.escrime-suroit.com or call Lidia Castro at 514-453-2807.
Chronicle, Peter McCacbe
Lidia Castro (left) teaches her class while students and parents look on during a Beaconsfield and Suroît Fencing Club practice recently.
PULLQUOTE: “Fencing is like chess. You don’t just have to know the (opponent’s) first move, but the second and third one. It’s a mental exercise.” – Lidia Castro