It’s hard to imagine that 18-year-old Ben Jagger has been teaching the sword-weilding sport of fencing for four years, considering the lad's age. At the Community Recreation Center, Jagger holds two classes on Wednesday nights, Beginning Fencing I at 6:30 and Beginning Fencing II at 7:30. Each one hour class teaches students how to thrust, parry, riposte and lunge (basic beginner fencing movements).
Don’t let his young age fool you; Jagger has competed in local to national fencing tournaments. He is a member of the Three Rivers Fencing Center in Oakland. In 2007, Jagger won a scholarship from the Columbus Rotary Club for "best citizen fencer" at a competition.
Jagger explains, “When I was eight years old I was looking for a sport. Yeah, I had a light saber (from Star Wars), and I liked swords. So, my parents found this.”
He never looked back.
The boy shows his students how to thrust, parry, feint and jab. He is a natural and egalitarian instructor. Everyone got a chance to spar with one another. The soft-spoken instructor is congenial and pleasant. He's walking softly, but carrying a big stick.
He starts the class with a warm-up and stretches. Afterward the students don their protective equipment, a bib and a mask. Then, he doles out the foils to his students. The foil is a light-thrusting weapon that targets the torso, including the back, but not the arms. Other fencing weapons used in the Olympic sport are the Sabre and the Épée.
The students thrust and parry, their swords making swooshing sounds as they cut the air. The young instructor sidles up to Nolan Taylor and tells the boy to point his blade at Elizabeth Parrish’s masked nose. The students begin practicing their moves. They dance about each other, and practice striking their target (when working with a foil, striking your opponent's torso, side or back are the main objectives). They touch either other with the barest tip of their blades.
When Ben Jagger jabs his students, he really jabs his students (crash the cymbals because this would be a great place for a rim shot).
Both fencing classes are all ages. In the beginner 1 class at 6:30 p.m. 62-year-old Bobby Woyicki parries and ripostes with his granddaughter Serah Pino, and two other children, third-grader Taylor and fifth-grader Parrish.
Woyicki stated, “Back in ’67 I was taking fencing in college. Then, I got drafted. I came back and I couldn’t find anywhere to do it again. Now, it’s something me and my granddaughter can do together.”
“Serah is part Native American, and I promised her grandma that I would teach her how to become a warrior. I’ve taken her horseback riding and I take her to karate.”
In the beginner 2 class, fourth-grader Matt Roddy from McDonald, Pa. beamed, “Fencing is fun!”
Second-grader Elijah added, “It’s fun. Cause it’s like the sword-fighting in Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m like a Jedi Warrior!”
Jagger’s students are brimming with enthusiasm. Where else can you spend an evening pretending to be a Musketeer, a pirate or a Jedi Knight?
To register, visit the Community Recreation Center's website.