Terrier Times

Fencing Program Expands to West Side

A teen/adult fencing class at Riverside Fencing Club

A teen/adult fencing class at Riverside Fencing Club

Emilia Caney, A&E Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Fencing is the sword fighting sport that many see on TV as a kid and want to do. While many who only see it portrayed in entertainment believe the swords have “pointy ends,” they actually have a flat tip that’s electrically connected to a cord that runs from the end of your weapon to the mobile device, and then connects to the scoring machine. Along with that, the swords used aren’t called “swords,” there are actually three different types of weapons: foils, epees, or sabers. The rules of the sport vary by the weapon you chose. When you fence, you are required to wear protective gear, such as a chest plate, glove, jacket, and mask. The sport of fencing is one that incorporates agility, strength, coordination, balance, and timing. An important factor is that physical ability is just as useful as having a strong mental edge. It’s a sport where your opponent could be taller, bigger, and stronger than you, but you could have the qualities that contribute to beating them. This is something Taro Yamashita, owner of the Riverside Fencing Club, knows a lot about. Riverside Fencing Club, formerly known as Northampton Fencing Center, has moved around between Northampton, Easthampton, and South Hadley before finding a home in Hadley in 2007. Yamashita have been with the club at its various locations before becoming the head coach in 2008 and assuming ownership in 2009. Now, Yamashita has decided to bring this sport to West Side.

Taro Yamashita is the head fencing coach at Riverside Fencing Club in Hadley alongside Lisa Wolf and William Lawrie. Taro began fencing when he attended Brown University in Rhode Island. “I walked on to my college team. I was looking for a new sport, as I was not quite good enough to make the varsity ice hockey team, and they had just eliminated the JV program. Fencing seemed interesting, and after the first practice, I was hooked,” Yamashita recalled. He competed in foil and epee from 1990 to 1994, becoming a team captain from 1992 to 1994. Yamashita was the first ever Northeast Fencing Conference Individual Epee Champion in 1994. He also was apart of his college team winning the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Team Championship in 1993 and 1994. After college, in 2001, Taro was ranked #34 in the USA. He then began coaching at Riverside in 2008 and took ownership a year later. Lisa Wolf, another prominent coach at the club, is currently ranked #22 in the USA in her age category and has earned four top-eight medals at North American Circuit events, which are qualifiers for the US National Team. In 2016, she was ranked #8 in the USA in the Veteran Combined Women’s Epee category. She’s been coaching at Riverside since 2009. Wolf also has a PhD and is the director of research for the Emergency Nurses Association and a nursing supervisor at local hospitals. The third coach at the club, William “Will” Lawrie was captain of the 2003 Boston College fencing team. He helped lead his team to a 1st place win in Foil and 1st place finish in the overall team category at the New England College Fencing Championships. Lawrie is also an elementary school teacher and has been coaching at the club since 2014.

The coaches of Riverside love all of their students. They have about 40 regular students ranging from 10-65 years old. Taro’s favorite part of coaching is seeing the growth in his students. “I get a kick out of seeing my students take what I show them, make it their own, and use it to create stuff on their own.” Most of the students they teach have never fenced before, so being able to see them go from beginner, not knowing the difference between a foil and epee, to winning competitions brings him joy. Speaking from experience, entering the sport completely blind, only ever seeing it in movies and on TV, is scary. Not knowing the difference between the weapons, or how to move correctly, is very intimidating, especially when being surrounded with people who have fenced before. However, with the right coaching and community around you, you can truly grow as a fencer in a short period of time.

There is much to love about this sport. The combination of physicality and intellect required for the game is a unique quality of fencing because not one person can really have an advantage when at the same level. “As with any sport, having physical size, speed, or strength is beneficial, but the creativity and intelligent application of good technique can compensate in fencing in a way that it just cannot in sports like football, basketball, gymnastics, or ice hockey.” The people who partake in fencing are also a major part of the sport. The community is one everyone wishes to be a part of. Peer advice is given on how to improve one’s match and it really can improve your fencing. The lessons you learn through the sport may even carry over into one’s daily life. As Taro said, “If you have a bit of patience, opportunities will present themselves, and you can capitalize on them… but you have to have put in the time to learn the technique to be able to capitalize!”

Fencing is now offered in West Side. Taro decided to open up his coaching to West Springfield Park and Recreation program because he wanted to reach out to more people and get them engaged in fencing. “I remembered that quite some time ago, there was someone who taught fencing in the middle schools in West Springfield. So, as I looked to reach farther abroad, this came to mind, and I thought that perhaps ‘reviving’ a fencing interest in town would be easier than building it from scratch!” As it turned out, some very key people in the town administration used to fence with the person who taught at the middle school, so there was, and still is, strong support from the community. “It made me feel welcome in town,” Yamashita recalled. Now, by simply going onto the West Side Park and Rec website, calling them at (413) 263-3284, or visiting them at the town hall, you can sign up to begin your journey into the world of fencing. The classes offer vary from the Introduction to fencing course (mixed ages), a youth course in foil (ages 10 to 13), and a senior foil/epee course (ages 13 to adult).

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Featured Athletes

    Signed Athletes

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    Rowing on the Rise in Western Mass

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    A Year In Review: West Side Wraps Up A Year of Athletic Accomplishments

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    Why Swim Stands Apart

  • Sports

    Stay Active With Sports this Summer

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Featured Athletes

    Senior Spring Athletes to Watch

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    Winter Sports Update- Terrier Teams Heat Up Competition

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    2018 Winter Olympic Events to Watch

  • Sports

    Winter Olympics Clouded in Controversy

  • Fencing Program Expands to West Side

    Sports

    Olympic Winter Athletes to Watch

The official student news site of West Springfield High School
Fencing Program Expands to West Side