Sword fighting welcome at fencing class

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Thursday nights inside the Rocklin Sunset Center may look as if you’ve stepped back in time.
People dressed in white jackets, black masks with weapons in hand, practice the art of foil fencing.
The sport dates back to the 12th century when noblemen were the first fencers and the only people who could afford the equipment, said James Colgate, a long time fencer and instructor of the Rocklin fencing courses through the Parks and Recreation department.
Colgate, 58, began fencing when he was a senior in high school and has been hooked ever since, he said.
Colgate said he always had an interest in swords. He remembers his older brother acquiring a WWII Samurai sword, which ignited his love of swords. Later, as a senior in high school, he gave fencing a try.
“I was able to work with a sword, I was very excited,” he said.
Now, about 40 years later, he teaches weekly fencing classes to locals who want to learn the sport.
Loomis resident Eric Windeshausen is about two months into the course, he said.
“I saw a lot of movies with sword fighting in it and I wanted to try it,” Windeshausen said.
The 10-year-old is one of about a dozen students enrolled in either an introduction to foil fencing course or beginning or intermediate fencing classes.
Ian Macchietto of Rocklin has been attending classes with his mother, Laura. Ian said his mother wanted to find a hobby and together they joined the class.
“I came to like it,” Ian said. “You get to poke people.”
“Try to, anyways,” Laura added.
Before enrolling, Ian admitted to only knowing one thing about the sport: “the pointy end goes into the other person,” he said.
But as he has come to learn, there is much more to fencing than that.
The introduction course teaches students basic footwork, how to move, how to defend themselves, how to attack and the equipment.
Fencer attire consists of a white fencing jacket that zips in the back and straps in between the legs – this keeps the jacket in place, as the jacket is the target area.
A glove is worn only on the sword hand and the bare hand is raised behind the head to help with balance, Colgate said.
“We keep it light, keep it fun and still hone their skills,” he said. “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about learning.”
Most importantly, Colgate teaches fencing safety.
“Safety is a huge issue, obviously. We are working with weapons,” he said.
During fencing tournaments, which are held the last Thursday of the month, two fencers are positioned with the boundary lines, while four judges surround the two, leaving a sword’s length between the fencers and judges.
The judges intently watch the match to evaluate if a point is awarded.
“When a fencing match is going really hot and fast, you need to be able to see things very quickly,” Colgate said.
Colgate said foil fencing has been his love for a long time (Foil is a type of fencing used with a flexible weapon).
He said he’s seen students go on to compete in tournaments and in college.
For Colgate and most of his students, there’s a reason behind taking up fencing. He said he enjoys the individualness of of the sport.
“Not everyone is cut out to have any type of skills in a group-type sport, most fencers are that way,” Colgate said. “This gives them an opportunity, that other option.”

Interested in fencing?
Intro to foil fencing
When: 5:30 –6 p.m. every Thursday, Aug. 8-27
Where: Rocklin Sunset Center, Sunset Room, 2650 Sunset Blvd.
Cost: $25 for non-residents, $30 for residents
Info: 625-5200 or
Open enrollment is at the beginning of each month

For more photos: Right to the point

Lauren Weber can be reached at