Northeast Tarrant

NRH fencing center shows popularity of ‘gender-equitable sport’

Star Telegram

No damsel in distress would need a knight in shining armor if she could swing a sword like Reghan Ward.

Or like Kate Sierra.

The two women are among the champion fencers at the Cutting Edge Fencing Center in North Richland Hills. Each month about 85 people from 8-year-olds to 60-somethings venture to the facility, which opened in January 2014 at 5328 Rufe Snow Drive. About half are women.

Cutting Edge co-owner David Sierra called fencing “a very gender-equitable sport” because so much of the sport requires thinking in addition to physical training. He blanches at the stereotype that fencing is for the elite.

“We’re a sport,” Sierra said. “We work hard. Fencers train like any other athlete. Yes, the weapons are cool, but it’s also about sweat and conditioning.”

The sport of fencing dates back to 14th century Europe. Fencers score points by making a touch in an opponent’s target area using a saber, a foil or an epee, all of which look like a type of a sword. The goal is to score 15 points before your opponent does or score the most points before the time expires in the more consequential direct elimination play or 5 points in the preliminary pool play. The sport requires athletic skills but also strategy. Key components are taking advantage of an opponent’s mistakes or getting her to do something she would not normally do, Sierra said.

Kate Sierra, David Sierra’s wife, said she likes the sport because of the people it attracts. They tend to be smart and read lots of books. “They call it physical chess,” she said of fencing.

She took up the sport about 11 years ago. “I needed to lose some weight and didn’t want to go through the treadmill route,” Kate Sierra said. “I wanted something fun.”

Sierra, 41, is now ranked third in the country in saber competition for women in the 40-49 age group, according to USA Fencing, the governing body for the sport.

Ward, 16, of Richland Hills, came in third in October among 111 competitors in the saber competition at the North American Cup tournament in Richmond, Va. She said she hopes to attend a college with a National Collegiate Athletic Association-ranked fencing team. She also likes the emphasis on strategy.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I stuck with it so long,” Ward said.

The sport offers opportunities. Cutting Edge coach Andrew Foster, 25, of North Richland Hills, recently spent five days in Bangkok, Thailand, working as referee. He has been fencing for about 10 years.

Classes and training at Cutting Edge cost about $100 a month. Participants wear protective clothing and metal grated masks to prevent injuries.

More than 4,000 fencers are expected to compete June 29-July 8 at the USA Fencing National Championships at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. Regional competitions with most competitors expected to come from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kansas will take place in January at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills and in April at the Arlington Convention Center.

Kate Sierra and Ward said they plan to be at all three competitions.