Photo by Katie Turpen.
Birmingham Fencing Club
The Birmingham Fencing Club began in 1998. Coaching is provided by Olympic medalist Hongyun Sun and international medalist and Olympic referee Yuanjing Wang.
Walk into a fencing class, and you’ll immediately hear the clinking of swords and buzzing of timers. Teens in white protective gear attached to wires dart back and forth in a delicate dance.
Although this sport dates back to the 1300s in Spain, it is clear it hasn’t lost its flare. At least not in Hoover.
The Birmingham Fencing Club has been located at Park South Plaza right beside Alabama Piano for 10 years. However, after extensive flooding in April, the club will be moving to 1581 Montgomery Highway in Hoover, just past Golden Rule BBQ.
The club is a nonprofit dedicated to instruction in the sport of fencing in the greater Birmingham area. Olympic medalist Hongyun Sun and international medalist and Olympic referee Yuanjing Wang serve as the club’s coaches. Before joining the club in 1998, both were Chinese National Team coaches. They, along with Club President David Arias, reside in Vestavia Hills.
Arias said he enjoys competing in the sport, defined as the martial art of fighting with blades. When asked how he found his way into fencing, his answer is simple.
“I wanted to exercise. I knew didn’t want to run,” he said. “So I thought I’d try it out.”
The club offers regular classes for different levels of fencers. Students must wear protective gear and are attached to electrical wires that send messages to the score boxes.
Fall classes begin the first week of September. Membership fees are $140 annually or $90 a month. Arias said age does not matter when it comes to this sport.
“We work with everyone from 11 to 87-year-olds,” he said.
Beyond the classes, the club also travels to different tournaments. The club has several youth fencers competing at the national level and even the international level and has hosted several youth tournaments.
Arias said that people drive even as far as from Montgomery to come to the club. He also noted the club members have received fencing scholarships to schools such as Harvard University, MIT, Penn State University and Brown University.
“It’s really great to watch children come here and see their transformation,” Arias said.
For more information or to register for fall classes, visit fencingclub.org.
Fencing Fast Facts
Club President David Arias explains that three weapons used in modern fencing: foil, épée, and sabre.
- Foil: a light thrusting weapon that targets the torso, neck, but not the arms or legs.
- Épée: a thrusting weapon like the foil, but much heavier. In épée, the entire body is valid target.
- Sabre: a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, except the weapon hand.