Camp helps fencers stay sharp during the summer

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., Aug. 1, 2011
Matt Marien (right) scores a touch on Matt Benjamin during their match to 15 touches. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Matt Marien (right) scores a touch on Matt Benjamin during their match to 15 touches. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

“It’s a good workout. It’s a lot like boxing, but you don’t get your face rearranged,” said David Comas-Diaz, as he recently led a small group of fencers through some rigorous bouts at the Bacon Academy Fencing Camp, which completed its 11th year this summer.
Held once a week at the school, the camp is free and is open to anyone who has an interest in fencing, said Comas-Diaz, who has about 40 years of experience upon which to draw and to share with the campers. He originally started the camp for his team, which competes from fall until March. But with fencing lacking the widespread popularity of many other high school sports, it can be difficult for a fencer to find a place and an opponent to practice with during the summer.

Although not required, the camp helps “to keep the guys engaged - to get them involved so when fall comes around, they are not completely rusty,” Comas-Diaz said.

Donning full face shields and body padding, and tethered electronically to sensors which beep and light up when struck by an opponent’s sword, Comas-Diaz urges the opponents through multiple, rapidly-paced bouts, often going until one is touched 15 times.
“This is to develop stamina. Not just physically, but mentally,” he said.

Receiving no payment for running the camp, Comas-Diaz says simply, “I do this because I love fencing.”

“David’s a great guy,” said Matt Marien, who only started fencing when he was about 20 years old, and now says that he thinks about it all the time, even when he’s not fencing.

With a teacher like Comas-Diaz, he said, a person can learn the basics in just a few weeks.

“But to get to a competitive level is a lot more difficult,” he said, adding, “it is rigorous, and a lot of times, people don’t expect that.”
Now, he said, his middle school-age daughter is keen on taking up the sport, and is hoping to participate in high school.

Senior Maxwell Levesque, a member of the Bacon fencing team, said that Comas-Diaz “is a great coach. He doesn’t brow-beat you. He teaches.”

Having tried the usual high school sports, Levesque found that they didn’t appeal to him. But, citing the excitement of the one-on-one competition that you don’t get with many other sports, “I tried fencing, and I liked it,” he said.

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