"Fencing is like playing chess while doing wind sprints," says David Kreindler of the Beaches Sabre Club. There are three types of fencing based on three different categories of swords: foil, épee and sabre. The foil and épee are point weapons (skewers with which to shish-kebab your opponents), and a sabre has both a point and a blade (for slashing and jabbing), similar to what swashbuckling sword fighters use in movies. (Remember The Princess Bride? That was sabre, sugared and staged.) Lunging and footwork target the lower body, but full-day tournaments of intense matches (which, in sabre, are as short as a couple of minutes) build a good level of aerobic fitness: "This is a serious martial art," says club co-founder Perry Stevens.
Where to start: The Beaches club holds beginner lessons Monday nights at the Columbus Centre (901 Lawrence Ave. W., 789-7011). Group and individual instruction takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays at Warden Avenue Junior Public School (644 Warden Ave.), headed by Marian Zakrzewski, an internationally accredited three-weapon fencing master and former coach of the national men's sabre team, and Nicolae Dinu, former Romanian national junior champ. The Ryerson Recreation and Athletics Centre (40 Gould St., 979-5096) teaches lessons using the foil. Their eight-week sessions (one class per week) are $88, after which you can join the fencing club ($157 per year for RRAC members, $190 for non-members) and train with Renata Grodecka of the national fencing team.
What you need: A weapon, a protective jacket and a mask. If you join the Beaches Sabre Club ((416)440-5162), you can borrow what you need to start off as part of your membership ($30 per month). At Ryerson, beginners are supplied with mask and foil; more advanced students supply their own. Warriors Martial Arts Supply (647 Yonge St., 926-1222) carries a limited selection of equipment, but the Beaches club suggests that if you're committed enough to need your own gear, you should buy it through a club member who's traveling to competitions in Europe, where there's a better selection. It costs about $600 to outfit a recreational fencer, and about $1,100 for competition-quality equipment, plus three or four new blades per year at about $30 to $40 each.