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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 6 months ago

On guard with the Orlando Fencing Club

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At the College Park Community Center, the Orlando Fencing Club is teaching locals the art of swordplay.
by: Troy Herring Associate Editor

Donning their white jackets and fencing masks, Nick Walsh and Lourdes Crosby stand at the ready.

With swords drawn, they wait for the go ahead to make their moves.

The gym at the College Park Community Center is quiet, but then the action begins.

Each shuffle their feet along the hardwood before Crosby lunges forward to strike. 

With a quick flick of the wrist, Walsh parries her attempt — their swords clashing is met with a loud “tink” that reverberates off the walls. Before Crosby realizes it, she had been stuck in her left side — the touch goes to Walsh.

“It’s been a lot of fun — I work with computers all day, so it’s a good reason to not stare at a screen,” said Walsh, who has been participating in fencing classes since last year. “Anything that forces you to not pay attention to what is going on at work is a big gain. I try to find things that are mentally stimulating to avoid thinking about work.”

Walsh is just one of the several members that are involved with the fencing classes put on by the Orlando Fencing Club in College Park — which is run by husband-and-wife team Jason and Jenny Seachrist.

The Seachrists offer up one-hour lessons every Monday and Thursday night for both children (at 6 p.m.) and adults (at 7 p.m.) as a means of both introducing and teaching those interested in the art of fencing. Most of them are locals from the surrounding area — including Winter Park and College Park.

Although the class has formed a tight-knit community, each of those attending have their own unique reasons for doing so.

As Walsh attends as a means of escape from the daily grind, Crosby uses the classes as a form of physical therapy after being in an accident.

“I found out that they had a club here in Orlando — I was like, ‘I’m going to try it (the class),’” Crosby said. “For me, I was telling her (Seachrist) that with my legs, they’ve actually started strengthening. I still have a bit more to go, but everybody needs to know the positives and the benefits of this sport, because I don’t think too many people give it that importance.”

The club has its own space in Winter Garden, which is run by both Jason and Jenny, but Jenny solely oversees the practices held in College Park.

The sport of fencing itself is something Jenny Seachrist holds close to her heart, and you can tell it by the way she teaches her students.

She first started fencing at age 10, although it was totally by happenstance. Back then, her brother wanted to try fencing, and because she wasn’t old enough to stay home alone, she was forced to go to his practices. After being approached by the fencing coach, Jenny Seachrist finally decided to give it a shot — especially after being told she could hit her brother without getting into trouble.

From there, her brother quit to learn the bagpipes, while Jenny Searchrist herself continued fencing — which not only became her job but also the means of meeting her husband.

“When I walked in, he saw fresh meat — he didn’t see 12 years of experience at that time, and I killed him,” Seachrist said with a smile. “He still complains about his thumb, because I whipped that weapon right out of his hand. He didn’t expect it. … And the rest is history, and he still married me.”

The work she and her husband now do, both in Winter Garden and in College Park, keeps them plenty busy, which means that fencing has become her official full-time job. Until two year ago, Jenny Seachrist also had been a school teacher.

“Not a lot of people get to do their hobby — the thing they love — for their career,” Searchrist said. “And I’ve been privileged enough to be in the right places at the right times, and have good students and the opportunities to be a full-time fencing coach.”

Troy Herring is the associate editor at the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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