NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The upstairs studio space at North Salem’s Union Hall is now the site of a training center for a new but ancient physical art form. At The Way of the Sword, a fencing school under the direction of Lewisboro’s Michael Martin, people of all ages can learn classical swordplay skills.
Martin started fencing as a youngster at his mother’s suggestion. “I don’t know if it was because I had an amazing coach or because I had the aptitude, but it really resonated with me,” he said. By 17, he had competed on a national level and placed ninth among thousands of entrants.
“Fencing really relates to life, and it teaches you so much,” he said. “You learn perseverance. You lose a lot to win a few, but you have to take pride in those few. I teach my students that you have to lose in order to win.” Fencers also learn concentration, creativity, analysis, problem solving, strategic thinking and execution, he added.
The United States does not have the tradition of swordsmanship that goes back to the Middle Ages in Europe, Martin said. “We weren’t raised on chivalry and knights. We were the cowboys and Indians, with guns," he said.
Any body type is suitable for fencing, said Martin, who is 5-foot-2. “What’s unique is that you use your body, but you use your mind to control your body. It’s like playing chess. You’re always thinking three moves ahead.”
For the first six months, a fencer works strictly on motor skills, he said. Then you start to learn tactics. “It’s a lot like chess,” he said. “In fact, we play chess here at the school.”
The Way of the Sword is affiliated with the national organization, USA Fencing, an association that sponsors competitions and tournaments.
The Way of the Sword is hosting an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 24, Union Hall is at 2 Keeler Lane, North Salem.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that the United States has never won an Olympic Gold Medal in Fencing. American Mariel Zagunis won a gold medal in 2004 and 2008.