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Sabre fencing is fast, athletic and a whole lot of fun. This is the last installment in the Healthy Eating Active Living series of exercise class previews. View more classes online at loparks.org.

Barb Randall (center) says she enjoyed the fencing class she took through Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation with Linda Becker (left) and Robin Harrower.

January has been a month of new physical activity. I've enjoyed trying new sports and meeting new people.

Hopefully, your experience in Parks & Rec's HEAL program has been just as stimulating and you are now enjoying new activities and eating healthier.

Don't stop exploring new activities just because we are entering a new month, though. Keep the positive action going!

For the final week of HEAL, I took a sample class on fencing. Here's what I experienced:

HEAL WEEK NO. 4

WHAT: Intro to Fencing for Adults and Teens

CLASS TIME: 6 p.m. Fridays starting Jan. 26 at the Adult Community Center, 505 G Ave., Lake Oswego

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Equipment is provided; wear comfortable clothing and tennis shoes.

SOME BACKGROUND: Fencing traces its roots to the development of swordsmanship for duels and self-defense. The sport is believed to have originated in Spain; there are references to the sport in literature dating back to the late 15th century, including Shakespeare's play "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

According to the Oregon Fencing Alliance, fencing was one of the sports in the first modern Olympics.

The sport of fencing is fast, athletic and a far cry from the fencing moves you might see on episodes of "Zorro" or other movies.

Physical strength does not ensure victory, nor does speed, height or intelligence. It is a sport that relies on psychology and mental games, cunning and craftiness, distance and timing. It is an intense mental game as well as physically challenging.

Like the game of chess, fencers have a set of moves that they can apply in different situations. It requires tremendous concentration, since a wrong move may yield the advantage. The difference in the time between fencing moves is measured in milliseconds.

There are three weapons used in fencing; foils, epees and sabres. Oregon Fencing Alliance, the organization that leads the class for Parks & Rec, teaches only sabre fencing.

A modern version of the slashing cavalry sword, sabres are a point-thrusting and cutting weapon. Points are scored with the point and edge touching the opponent anywhere above the waist, including the head and arms.

Sabre techniques emphasize speed, feints and a strong offense. A parry is a fencing bladework maneuver intended to deflect or block an incoming attack.

SUBMITTED PHOTOS  - Oregon Fencing Alliance instructor Kathleen Vasconcellos will teach weekly sabre fencing classes through Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation.

MY IMPRESSION: This is a fun sport with lots to learn and cool gear to wear. Stressing how safe the sport is, instructor Kathleen Vasconcellos from Oregon Fencing Alliance had us put on the traditional jacket and metal-mesh masks.

When we were properly protected, she taught us the basics: safety, how to hold the sabre, stance and steps.

Vasconcellos explained that opponents don't just start whacking away at each other; there is a protocol for play and scoring, and strategy is a major part of the game.

She taught us a few parrying techniques (maneuvers intended to deflect or block an attack) and then we fenced against each other.

This sport is so much fun! Try it, but be prepared to be immediately hooked.

In addition to the Parks & Rec classes (visit loparks.org, search fencing), OFA offers recreational fencing classes every Tuesday from 7-8 p.m. at Oregon Episcopal School's Sports and Recreation Center, located at 6699 S.W. Oleson Road in Portland. Fee is $10 per class for the first month and then $15 per class thereafter.

All basic equipment is provided, and discounts are offered for families. Visit oregonfencing.org or call 503-467-9891 for more.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The fencers unmasked!

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