En-garde! Fencing Returns to NMH

Oct. 18, 2019 — You might not expect a history lesson in a PE class, but that’s just what faculty member Steven Bathory-Peeler gave during a recent fencing demonstration on campus. 

As two students in padded white jackets lunged and parried, Bathory-Peeler explained that modern-day fencing evolved from swordsmanship in 12th-century Europe. “If you wanted to not die while you were in a swordfight, you had to do some training,” he said. Fencing was one of the first sports to be played in the Olympics, and there are three forms — foil, épée, and sabre — each of which uses a different weapon and has slightly different rules.

Bathory-Peeler, who fenced in high school, teaches Olympic-style foil fencing. The fencers use a thin, flexible metal blade that is topped with a rubber stopper and curved so when it comes into contact with something, like a torso, it bends. Safety is the top priority, Bathory-Peeler said, noting that NMH fencing students wear two layers of padded jackets for protection and a full head covering and face mask. 

Christopher Spring ’20 and Joseph Kwon ’20 demonstrated drills and techniques used during a “bout” between two fencers. When Bathory-Peeler called out “en-garde!” Spring and Kwon faced off on the “strip” — the rectangular area of play. As they moved forward and backward, they demonstrated the lunge (an attacking move), the parry (a defensive move), and the riposte (a counter attack). 

Fencing was part of NMH’s physical education curriculum decades ago, but Bathory-Peeler’s class is a new addition to the athletic department’s offerings, which also include flag football, Ultimate Frisbee, gym workouts, and yoga. Bathory-Peeler, the orchestra and concert band director at NMH, trained over the summer in order to teach the class, and he hopes it will provide an outlet for both students who already love the sport and others who are looking to try something new. 

Spring, who has fenced before, said he was overjoyed to learn about the class. He said, “I was going to start a fencing club, but Mr. Bathory-Peeler beat me to it!”