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Fencing for Loot

Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn - By Jay Glenn
Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn - By Jay Glenn

Fencing has found a home in Baltimore, and it's not the illegal activity involving stolen goods. Though weapons will be involved, sabres, foils, and epees to be exact, there's no crime in this kind of fencing.

Donning white uniforms and masks, the members of the Chesapeake Fencing Club (CFC) will attack and parry in a series of bouts to raise money for the Sisters Academy of Baltimore. It's one of two major fundraisers the CFC holds each year both to support a good cause and to promote the sport of fencing. The event, called MegaBout will feature club members fencing as many bouts as possible for pledges. Club member and longtime fencer Dan Collins likens it to receiving pledges for a charity walk where you get pledges for every mile you complete.

Collins says that to be physically ready for several hours of competitive fencing requires months of preparation. For last year's event, CFC members completed about 75 bouts over six hours and raised nearly $5,000. "We always try to gear up for our big events. It's like running a marathon. You don't suddenly run 26 miles, you work up to it." And for him, that level of commitment to the sport has meant the loss of more than 50 pounds since he started fencing in the mid-80s. That's because, according to Collins, fencers burn calories at a higher rate than even pro football players.

En garde!

In a bout, fencers crouch and lunge, advancing and thrusting all at breakneck speed. "Your footwork has to be a certain way and you have to hold the weapon a certain way and the sweat is pouring off you before you even move," he says. "I've talked to people who have played other sports who say that fencing is the hardest thing they've ever done. You burn calories like crazy."

Beyond the physical, Collins says the game is also extremely challenging mentally. "A lot of times fencing is referred to as physical chess because of the mental element. There are no dumb fencers. If you think you're dumb, fencing will make you smart."

The idea of the MegaBout was actually an offspring of an idea that Collins and CFC president Ray Gordon had to try to set a Guinness World Record in fencing. They contacted Guinness to find out what the requirements were to set a record since no Guinness records in fencing currently exist. They were told that the minimum for a sport to make the Guinness World Record is 24 hours of consecutive activity. "I had heard of a couple of Olympians that had tried to fence for as long as they could for a charity and managed to only last five hours, so I knew that Ray and I, both being in our 40s, him with asthma and me a veteran of spine and elbow surgery, would never make it," says Collins.

At that point the two had already spread the word that they were planning a special event so they hatched the idea of the MegaBout. "We're not setting a world record, but it's still a test of endurance and it's raising money for a good cause. I've never heard of another club with an event like this," says Collins. "The Guiness thing we would have done once but I thought maybe this is something we can do every year."


This year, the event will be held on Saturday, May 15 at 9:00 am at the CFC on Homeland Avenue in Baltimore. For Gordon, who started the CFC in 1992, the MegaBout is a great way to give back to the community that has allowed him to pursue his passion. "Fencing has been my sole career for nine years. It's a love for me," he explains. In addition to running the CFC, Gordon also teaches fencing through the Towson Recreation Council.

"You get as much out of the sport as you put into it," says Collins, which is something he says that Ray tries to instill in their roughly 50 active members, some of which are as young as seven. Perhaps that is why the club's fundraisers are such a good fit for them � it's an opportunity for their adult and youth members to help other youths in Baltimore.

The Sisters Academy of Baltimore, an independent Catholic middle school for girls in grades five through eight who are from low income neighborhoods in Baltimore, is the beneficiary of both the CFC's annual events, the MegaBout and their fall fundraiser called the Fenceathon. The academy is a tuition-free school that relies on donations to operate. "It's in an area of the city where there is a lot of crime," says Gordon. "Our goal at the club is to provide a safe and fun atmosphere for fencing. Our goal with our fundraisers is to give the children at Sisters Academy an opportunity they otherwise might not get."

A graduate of both Towson University and University of Baltimore, Nicole Jovel lived in the Baltimore area for nine years. She writes for both corporate clients and local and regional publications.


1.Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn. Illustration by Jay Glenn
2.Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn. Photo by Arianne Teeple
3.Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn. Photo by Arianne Teeple
4. Students fence at Chesapeake fencing club in Baltimore. Photo by Arianne Teeple
5.Chesapeake Fencing Club's Dan Collins and Jay Glenn. Photo by Arianne Teeple
6. Medals won by participants of the Chesapeake Fencing Club in Baltimore. Photo by Arianne Teeple
7. Chesapeake Fencing Club's Jay Glenn and Dan Collins. Photo by Arianne Teeple
8. Chesapeake Fencing Club's Jay Glenn and Dan Collins. Photo by Arianne Teeple
9. Swords at Chesapeake Fencing Club in Baltimore. Photo by Arianne Teeple

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