In a Missoula warehouse building up against the train tracks, sits an unassuming spot, where the Missoula Fencing Club is working to share their sport with the community
"People have a misconception about fencing, thinking it's not a real sport, or that it's a staged thing. Fencing is a lot like boxing, there are a lot of tactics, and it's a very physical athletic sport, but one thing it's unique about it is the strategy involved," says Arthur Befumo, a high school fencer. While there are plenty of misconceptions about the sport, the notion of it being highly respectful and gentleman-like, is plenty accurate.
"Whenever you picture Fencing, you picture two guys saluting, and putting on their mask, and it's a dual more or less, so that is something we encourage, we encourage fair play. You always shake hands at the end whether you've won or lost," says Missoula Fencing coach Chris Leclercq
The Missoula Fencing Club has athletes from grade school through adults that compete and train. While their numbers are solid, with it being a smaller sport state-wide, the athletes have to travel a fair amount.
"Fencing in our division, which includes Montana, Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington is pretty sparse. There are only three or four major clubs, so for larger tournaments, I've traveled to Seattle several times, we went to nationals in California, I've gone to Minneapolis and Oregon, so in this area, the sport is just starting to gain some traction" says Befumo.
Gaining that traction starts from a young age, with the fencing club welcoming six year olds, but their training is a little different
"Six and seven year olds, they really have this pirate fantasy that they want to express, and we play on that, we let them do creative stuff, we do some stage combat and let them exercise those dreams until they get to an age where they can start taking on more of the material, more of the technique and more of the skill," Laura Lee, Director of Missoula Fencing Association
"For me, fencing has to be fun, before it becomes competitive. Because like most things you tend to plateau after awhile. If you're having fun in the sport before you plateau, you having fun will get you through the plateau," adds Leclercq.
This past weekend, the fencing club took part in Olympic day 2014, nearly 160 countries take part in the event, preaching the importance of the Olympic values.
"Respect, Sportsmanship, discipline, self discipline, and that's a big part of fencing. Fencing is a gentleman or gentlewoman's game, and there is etiquette you have to follow on the strip, when you salute your partner you're very respectful, and everything is in good fun. You can be really competitive, but at the same time you recognize someone's achievement and you give them that recognition," explains Lee.