While a college student in 1960, Rudy Volkmann took his first fencing class, and he was hooked.
“It’s highly addictive, and it’s a neat, neat game,” said Volkmann, head coach of the Augusta Fencers Club. The club will offer 10-week introductory classes for several age groups beginning April 17. Children as young as 6 can participate. The $180 fee includes competitive equipment needed for the sport.
Sword-fighting has been around for centuries, but the sport of fencing didn’t arise until the 14th or 15th century. It was part of the first modern Olympic games in 1896 and has been an Olympic sport ever since, according to a history at the Olympics website, www.olympics.org.
Volkmann is an expert on the sport. In addition to authoring several fencing-related books including the Magnum Libre d’Escrime, Volkmann has taught fencing for over 50 years, won numerous competitions, served on the executive board of the Georgia Division of the United States Fencing Association almost every year since 1972 and as an official at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Fencing has numerous benefits.
Mike Strickland, who lives in the Columbia area, travels to Augusta weekly to train with Volkmann.
“Fencing is a great sport. It helps with mental sharpness and it’s good for thinking on your feet,” said Strickland, who started fencing in college 20 years ago. “It’s good for physical fitness and helps with hand-eye coordination.”
It’s the mental aspect of the game that appeals most to Strickland.
“It’s like chess at 90 miles an hour. I think that’s my favorite comparison. It’s a thinking-person’s sport,” he said.
But there’s more to it than the mental game.
“It’s highly aerobic,” said Volkmann. “Not only are you trying to hit someone, you are a target. Footwork is paramount. It helps with spatial acuity. You have to know exactly where you are. And it’s really good for agility.”
Not only does the club offer classes, but there’s a competition side to the group as well.
The club will host its next Georgia Division tournament April 29 and 30 with contests in epee and youth foil on Saturday, and foil, sabre and more youth foil on Sunday.
Unlike some sports, people can participate their entire lives, Volkmann said.
“One of the things I try to tell people who are trying to steer their kids into football is unless you are good, once you get out of high school, you’ll never play a real game of football again. If you’re pretty good and go to college, you’ll never play a real game of football after that,” he said.
With fencing, all you need is another fencer, he said.
Classes for children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old will meet at 5 p.m. on Mondays and for children and adults 14 years old and older at 7 p.m. on Mondays. A class for children between the ages of 6 and 9 years old will be at 5 p.m. Thursdays.
The Augusta Fencers Club meets at 464-B Greene St. For more information, call (706) 722-8878.