Since its beginnings in 1980, Staten Island Fencing Club has developed the skills of collegiate athletes and Olympic hopefuls under the guidance of head coach and founder Steve Khinoy, a Johns Hopkins PhD with more than 30 years of coaching experience. In 2010, the club—once relegated to college cafeterias and church basements—took up permanent residence at Staten Island Fencing Center, a full-time facility as bright and spacious as the Man in the Moon's front yard, complete with fencing strips, an armory, and a pro shop. There, Dr. Khinoy cultivates an atmosphere of camaraderie, teaching both novice and advanced swordsmen to master the Olympic and NCAA sport's triumvirate of blades: foils, sabers, and épées.
Beyond the center's one-hour introductory lessons, regular courses stretch for several weeks, during which competitors learn the strategies and fancy footwork necessary to best opponents on the piste and during freestyle dance contests. Summertime day camps and clinics sharpen slashing technique with five hours of daily instruction that include warm-ups, basic drills, and individual lessons. The staff also hosts parties for birthdays or other celebrations, in which guests practice the art of dueling amid cake, refreshments, and bouquets of colorful balloons shrieking in terror.
The skilled and experienced instructors at New York Budokai instruct their pupils in iaido—the art of drawing the sword—which evolved from the warrior class known as the samurai. The dojo was founded in 1963 by sensei Yoshiteru Otani, a highly skilled iaido practitioner from samurai lineage. One of his early students was Phil Ortiz, who is now the head instructor at New York Budokai and holds a seventh degree black belt in muso shinden ryu and a sixth degree black belt in ryushin shouchi-ryu. The curriculum focuses on Ryushin Shouchi-ryu, one of the seven distinct schools of iaido. The basic principles of the classes, which are the ryushin shouchi-ryu discipline, rest on a combination of controlled, precise movements that involve drawing, striking, and replacing the sword.