Tabacco, who has engaged in swordplay for more than 20 years, sees a lot of good in children learning how to duel. “It is a very, very good game,” he said. “It has a lot of history and it has a lot of drama in it too, because it’s not the biggest, strongest and fastest who wins. I’ve overpowered smaller people than me plenty of times, but I’ve also been just outsmarted by smaller people plenty more times. So it’s very much a different dynamic.
“Something that I think is very important with kids and sport is that that’s really their first exposure to learning that they are capable or competent. They are presented with a challenge, given the tools they need to overcome that challenge, and they go out, sort it out and try and do it.”
Fencing also provides kids with the opportunity to learn from failure. “A lot of it is getting hit and losing,” said Tabacco. “Another important thing with kids in sport is learning to deal with failure. So, ‘I tried to parry but they went around and hit me. And everything I do, they seem to hit me.’ Well you’ve got to accept that they’re hitting you and learn from it.”
Tabacco is quick to point out that despite the involvement of swords, fencing is a completely safe activity: “A stereotype that people who don’t know the game have is that it’s dangerous. The swords are not sharp; they are not dangerous. They are designed to bend to relieve pressure when you hit. If there is too much pressure, they are designed to break, and then they are designed to break with no jagged edges.
“The sport has hundreds of years of safety involved in it. And if you follow the rules, it’s one of the safest games out there. It’s very combat-oriented. Not enough so that it’s a martial art. It’s a martial art if you are training martially, if you are training to break someone. If you are trying to hit and get a point, it’s a game, not a martial art.”
As a result, there is no need for participants to worry about injuring an opponent. “You don’t need to hold anything back when you do it,” said Tabacco. “In fencing, we’re really going out there and going through all the motions of trying to kill someone, but with a toy sword. So it is very emotionally involved, and a lot of fun, understanding that this is safe.”
The intermediate class wraps up Sept. 7, but a beginner’s class is scheduled to start on Tuesday, Sept. 14. “With the beginner class, I just want to expose them to the sport to see what it is,” said Tabacco. “I am not so concerned that they’re doing everything perfect. Because in the kids class, there’s a lot of just flailing going around with 10-year-olds. In the teen/adult class, there’s still some flailing, just because they’re not used to it. But just so long as they know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, it’s good.”
Tabacco has been pleased with the response from the children who have taken the class: “It’s been really good. The kids like it and the parents like it. I have not had any problems or complaints.”
The six-week, 45-minute classes cost $40. The tentative schedule: the beginner class starts at 4 p.m., intermediate at 5 p.m., and teen/adult class at 6 p.m. Classes are held at The White House, 204 Second St. in Oakley. To sign up, go online to the City of Oakley Web site.