The new 8,400-foot academy will be named the North Atlanta Fencing Center and feature eight grounded “strips” (fields of play), locker rooms, an equipped exercise room, parent’s lounge, wireless internet, equipment repair service and a pro shop selling beginner and competition equipment.
For Cherokee Fencing Club coach John Terris, the move is a welcome one.
“We wanted to make sure that we were providing the best service possible to our recreational fencers, children and competitive athletes,” Terris said. “My students needed more time in a permanent facility in order to develop and grow. Also, we really needed the space.”
As a part of the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency, the club initially started as an eight-week recreational program in 2005, with no more than ten total students under Terris.
Over the next three years, the program saw rapid growth under Terris, which prompted him to apply to the United States Fencing Association to found a county fencing club.
The USFA accepted the application, and the Cherokee Fencing Club was created in 2008.
Terris felt that there were two main factors in causing fencing’s rise in popularity over the last decade, with the first being the Olympic Games.
“With every passing Olympics, fencing has become more and more popular,” Terris said. “Every four years, there is a surge in fencing membership across the board. In the past, there was usually a drop off not long after the Olympics were over. But, in 2008, that wasn’t the case. Our numbers stayed high. I expect the same thing this year.”
Terris said the second factor in fencing’s rising popularity were films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
“Most of my students were attracted to fencing because of their fascination with sword play,” Terris said. “They see it in the movies and think ‘I can do that.”
The reality, Terris says, is much different.
“(The students) usually realize quickly that fencing is a less romantic martial art and more of a sport where you and your opponent play tag with a metal stick,” he said. “It all comes full circle, however, when they realize the thrill of participating in competitions and see that the weapon is just a tool to put points in the box.”
Cade Curtis, one of Terris’ former students, quickly realized that there was more to fencing than met the eye.
“It’s an incredibly ordered and disciplined sport. There is a lot of thought behind it,” said Curtis, who studied under Terris for five years. “You have to constantly think two or three steps ahead, as well as try and anticipate what the other person is thinking. It’s a mind game.”
When asked if he would recommend others to join the Cherokee Fencing Club, Curtis said definitely.
“The best part about the club is that you are allowed to work at your own pace. Whether you fence casually or competitively, they cater their programs to you. The club is for everyone.”