Fencing academy dueling in Park City
March 23, 2012
Lunge. Attack. Counter-attack. Thrust. Swordplay, in particular fencing, takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience. The sport dates back centuries, but is still part of the modern world and Park City, with the Utah Swords Academy opening in the area.
The academy was started by Sergei Gritsaev, his son Konstantin, and his wife Irina, all of whom have decades of experience with the sport.
The family’s long standing history with the sport starts with Sergei Gritsaev, who has been involved with fencing since he was a child. He served as the national coach for Ukraine, where he and his family are originally from, and as an international referee for World Cup events and U.S. National Events. His son works as the head coach and manager for the academy and works alongside Laurel MacFarland, an assistant coach.
"They came to bring their talent and their love of fencing," MacFarland said. "It is their entire life. They love it, and it is something they do together as a family."
The Gritsaev family moved to Park City almost 10 years ago from Ukraine and have decided this to expand a growing business in Salt Lake city to the local area. Over the past week, Gritsaev refereeing at Ohio State for the NCAA Tournaments in fencing.
"Gritsaev started this and brought his family in," MacFarland said, "but they are all so accomplished at this sport."
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From basics to advances, the classes work on form, footwork and strategy, while always teaching sportsmanship. The program is hoping to recruit a core group of students in Park City, 50 to 60, that would come more than twice a week. The academy already serves another 50 or so that they work with once a week through recreation programs in the area.
"The interesting thing about fencing is that it is a lifetime sport," she said. "Our youngest fencers start at five years of age and compete by age group for every two years. They have groups for veterans too. There is 50 and older category, a 60 and older category, and even a 70 and older category."
The sport itself became official in the 1800s, although some historians speculate techniques date back to the 1400s. Fencing can consist of three main techniques on the region the technique comes from and Gritsaev specializes in the Eastern European style. It also uses three sword types: the saber, the epee and the foil.
MacFarland took her first class from Gritsaev two years ago and has since moved her way up to coaching the sport. She still attends classes with her son, another fan of the nationally growing sport.
"At first, fencing was just a way to work out and spend some time with my kids," MacFarland said, "but I fell in love."
"It was so challenging, mentally as well as physically," she added. "I’ve played a lot of sports before and consider myself to be naturally athletic, but fencing is a mental challenge as well."
Classes will be offered for children and adults for a two month program with one hour classes once a week, which costs $150. Classes will be held at the Silver Mountain Health Club and Spa located in Kimball Junction, and no membership with the club is required to sign up.
"We are already getting calls from locals," MacFarland said. "People want to try something new. We fit that description."
Utah Swords Academy