For Uruguay's blind citizens, the sword is mightier than the cane. South America's very first fencing center for the blind has opened its doors in this tiny country. The visually challenged participants say swordplay is a way to gain self-assurance and tap into their martial side.
"A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and his ripostes executed with precision." - Louis Rondelle
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY — "Point," cried the instructor, signalling a contact between blind fencing opponents as the clanging sounds of clashing swords rang out around a unique rehabilitation center.
Marisol Mariani, 39, has suffered blindness since birth but that doesn't stop her lunging decisively, wielding her sabre and maintaining proper posture as she prepared another attack.
In a first for South America, the Tiburcio Cachon facility here is teaching fencing to people stricken with blindness or who have severely impaired vision.
Mastery of the sword games have proven invaluable as a way to improve the patient's spacial awareness, confidence and use of a walking stick.
"At first I was afraid because I didn't know if I was going to get hit, or if I was going to hurt the other person," Mariani said, before pointing out how fencing is "a very safe sport -- you have clothing, masks... which gave me confidence that nothing (bad) would happen."
During classes even those with impaired vision are further handicapped with masks so they cannot see at all, to be on the same playing field as the blind.
The initiative has been a hit at the public Tiburcio Cachon, which provides rehabilitative services to some 40 people. It was brought here by mobility instructor Maria Goldstein who discovered the approach while working for eight years at the renowned Carroll Center for the Blind in the United States.
"I thought they were crazy!" she told AFP. "But then I began to understand why."
Being practiced in the art of fencing can mean so much to people with sight problems, she said, as it helps them become more aware of their surroundings.
"When a person is fencing they are moving in a linear motion, so they fall forwards or backwards, not sideways," Goldstein said. "So then, when you're walking in the street, you encounter objects, obstacles, and you have to react."
Arriving in Uruguay in February, Goldstein managed to persuade health authorities to endorse a pilot scheme at the center. The hardest part was finding a fencing teacher in a country not known for its love of the sport.
An Internet search however turned up Franco De Caria, an accomplished fencer with a number of championships under his belt, who agreed to join the project without pay.
"I think they are enjoying it," De Caria enthused to AFP. "They were a bit afraid when they started, but we've seen progress... more independence."
Confidence is the most important lesson an instructor can teach, he said.
The sport can bring "self-esteem, confidence, security and the sense that they are accomplishing something that many people have not, like practicing fencing," he said.
"A blind person tends to stay at home, in the dark; they don't go out for a coffee, but when a fencer goes out on the street, they have a social life they never had before, they have confidence in all social situations."
Another fencer, 40-year-old Jeannette Suarez, started to lose her vision two years ago, and picked up the sport at Tiburcio Cachon over the last few months.
"The instructor teaches you to visualize the other person and everything becomes easier," she raved of the program, which she admitted was at first quite odd but has since become more natural, with practice.
For now there are six participants in the once-a-week classes, which are a small part of the center's focus on daily living with the disability, but teachers and pupils alike are hoping it will be included as part of a unique rehabilitation curriculum.
Some fencers in this area were hit or actually beaten by a legally blind epeeist named Matt. If letters were 1 1/2" tall he had to put his face to within 1 foot of the letters to read them.
He could not read the pool sheets, and had to rely on teammates to read them. I remember him getting quite a few scoldings and cards from our forgiving refs because he was not ready and could not hear the next bout announcements. He did not want anyone to know and did not want us to tell anyone. He beat one of our (national point "A") area fencers in his age group, and I felt that this was more than successful for the differences he faced. I learned to give him lessons by feel, and actually gave other students blindfolded lessons based upon that experience.
Last Edit: Nov 26, 2010 7:55:07 GMT -6 by katyblades
minaesfanjani: please contact me by MINA_IEEE_E@YAHOO.COM
Jul 22, 2019 0:09:48 GMT -6
minaesfanjani: Hello, I am mina and I am 31 years old ,I am going to go Edinburg Texas until next Month, I was a member of national team of IRAN,please help me for finding a club because I have time there, i wana doing fencing
Jul 22, 2019 0:08:46 GMT -6
schlager7: Bryn Ralph teaches at the junior college/
Mar 10, 2018 10:19:42 GMT -6
Thomas: Does anyone know of any fencing in Tyler, Texas?
Jan 10, 2018 12:45:06 GMT -6
pditty: Hello! Looking for any information on instruction for a child in the Tyler, TX area? Thank you!
Oct 1, 2016 18:42:43 GMT -6
mmezest1997: Hello - moving soon to Texas. My kids participate in fechten here in Germany. They are interested in continuing when we move.
Apr 10, 2016 9:33:24 GMT -6
navyfencer: To finish post started about Art Olsen, He was the originator of the "Silverton Highlands International Fencing Tournament. He will be greatly missed.
May 13, 2015 7:20:54 GMT -6
navyfencer: A sad note to older fencers, Art Olsen of Durango CO passed away in Dec. 2014. He was a friend to all, a classical fencer extrorda
May 13, 2015 7:16:19 GMT -6
navyfencer: Does anyone know the whereabout's of Patrice Caux
May 13, 2015 7:09:57 GMT -6
navyfencer: Does anyone know the whereabout's of Patrice Caux? I fenced with him during our early years in Denver
May 13, 2015 7:07:42 GMT -6
greekfire: Gyroscope balls? Who carries them?
Mar 19, 2014 6:26:24 GMT -6
bobb121: Has anyone used one of those Gyroscope balls before
Mar 18, 2014 10:41:58 GMT -6
joevisconti: What are you asking, torque?
Feb 19, 2014 7:35:44 GMT -6
torque: hey i heard about this but i never got any mor einformation! is this still living!?
Feb 11, 2014 16:48:17 GMT -6
schlager7: A lot of clubs won't go younger than 10 or 12, but a few take students as young as 7. (I know because there are competitions for youth 8 & under at some tournaments).
Aug 22, 2013 8:52:30 GMT -6
clapous71: HOW OLD DO YOU HAVE TO BE
Aug 21, 2013 16:03:30 GMT -6