At the Virginia Academy of Fencing, students learn the centuries-old art of fencing in a decidedly modern-day setting. The facility’s 13,000-square-foot space features amenities such as a padded warm-up area, a bouting video-replay system, and 18 full-time electric strips with overhead reel systems, as well as a decorated area for spectators or maidens in distress.
Seven days a week, expert instructors teach both Olympic Sport Fencing and Historical Swordsmanship to classes of students. Olympic Sport Fencing includes foil, épée, and sabre instruction, while Historical Swordsmanship teaches the use of either a rapier or a long sword. Along with providing students with an opportunity to learn a new and unique sport, the academy’s classes help students improve their strength, balance, coordination, and cardio fitness.
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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.