Rapiers glint and eyes narrow at the Royal Fencing Academy, where the age-old sport is carried on by dedicated coaches and students. In lessons organized by level and age, athletes suit up and learn from professional-level fencers, who impart a sense of discipline and drive alongside technical skills.
Dressed in protective helmets and flowing uniforms, the students at Virginia Kumdo Academy charge at each other, bamboo swords held aloft. Their spars end quickly—after one hit from the weapon in a vulnerable spot, such as the head, waist, or wrist, they typically start over.
This Korean style of sword fighting, an offshoot of Japanese kendo, prioritizes mental focus and strong technique. The academy staff hones both during one-hour classes, which are geared toward levels from beginner to advanced. Regular visitors can take tests to graduate up a belt, as well as participate in scheduled league matches.
With 23,000 square feet of dedicated fencing space between them, The Baltimore Fencing Center's two locations offer students plenty of room to practice lunges and polish parries. Presiding over all the action is owner and head coach Bin Lu, who once served as a member of the Chinese National and Olympic teams and as coach of the former. Today he passes along the knowledge he accumulated while competing at the highest levels to students of all experience levels—even those who have never picked up a foil or battled a level 3 mage. The center welcomes beginners of all ages through its Learn to Fence program, and routinely sends its qualified fencers to USFA National events.
Wu shen tao means "way of the spiritual warrior," which reflects the mind-body focus at this martial-arts center. Read on to learn more about it:
The Mission: Since opening in 1985, Wu Shen Tao Health & Martial Arts Center's primary goal has been to offer a wide variety of wellness programs.
The Director: Paul Ramos draws on more than 40 years of martial-arts training, and he's helped Wu Shen Tao produce more than three dozen national championship gold medalists.
The Programs: A variety of group and private classes includes three styles of tai chi, self-defense, kung fu, and meditation.
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