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La Grange father and son find common ground in fencing

By Jason Stamm

‘Dad’ and ‘Prince’ were looking for a common bond.


Jim Martin came across an internet posting in January 2009 for fencing. Martin had an interest in fencing since he was in college.

His 15-year-old son Dirk loved video games. But fencing had one element that both took interest in.

“It’s decent exercise and I just like hitting people with swords,” Jim said. “You can’t go anywhere else and beat people with a stick and get away with it.”

Father and son are now participating in their third fencing class, which began Monday at the La Grange Community Center. The eight-week class meets each Monday at 6 p.m. and is taught by Orion Bazzell, a coach from the Louisville Fencing Center.

Bazzell comes up with a nickname for each participant. Dirk is known as ‘Prince,’ while Jim is called just ‘Dad.’ Others, like Harmony Elementary School’s Jonathan Mosley, 9, are ‘Bone Saw.’
Bazzell even goes as far as ‘Taco Bell’ or ‘Spaghetti and Cheese.’

“I try to use names that inspire them,” Bazzell said. “It’s something to identify, that’s what they’re about. They write it on their gloves and everything.”

Bazzell has been coaching and instructing fencing since 2002, under U.S. Paralympic fencing team coach Maesteo Les Stawicki. Bazzell instructs beginners in the class, including teaching technique and form.

His biggest goal is to help children become involved through another outlet.

Bazzell said children learn to excel on their own through fencing.

“What they learn with the fencing program is self-discipline, strategy, physical agility, social skills,” he said. “I bring the old protocols of fencing, which are respect, the salute, how they treat one another. And this ties over into their regular daily life.”

Fencing has three weapons, which also consist of the events of the sport: saber, epee and foil. The weapon is a long metal rod with a handle at one end. The foil targets the torso, the saber the entire body above the waist and the epee the entire body.

The fencing class provides basic uniform parts, which are white polyester pants, a white padded glove and a white shirt.

What attracts many first-timers is still the act of sparring.

“I thought it would be really cool to have something like a sword and be using it,” Mosley said.
It’s also what drew Dirk Martin and his dad to try it. The two occasionally spar in their back yard, as well as participate in tournaments together.

“I like hitting people with swords,” Dirk said. “I don’t know, it’s just fun in general. It’s good exercise, you get to hit people with swords and it’s just a cool sport.”

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