Marek Stepien is ready to share his immense knowledge on the sport of fencing with south suburban residents.
But his biggest challenge may be the weapons themselves.
“I try to break the stereotype, to say no, fencing is a great sport, fencing is a very safe sport,” he said.
That is just one reason why Stepien – a former Olympic fencer for Poland and assistant fencing coach for the University of Notre Dame – asked to be an instructor for fencing classes at the , 14760 Park Lane.
“I didn’t find him. He found me,” said Stephanie Simpson, program supervisor for the Orland Park Recreation Department. “When he approached me on it I said 'Oh my gosh, yes, we’ve got to get this going again.'”
Simpson said the department last held fencing classes about a year and a half ago, with an instructor from Naperville.
“It seemed to go over really well, and then slowly it started to fizzle out a little bit,” she said. “I thought it might be a good time to try it again.”
Classes will be held every Monday and Wednesday in monthly increments. The first session begins September 5 and runs through October 1. Class times are 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. for ages 6 to 10; 5:40 to 6:40 p.m. for ages 11 to 14; and 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. for high school age and older. All equipment is provided.
Additional classes will take place from October 3 to October 29, from November 5 to November 28 and from December 3 to December 19.
Simpson was excited to learn that Stepien lives in Orland Park because he won't have to travel far to teach and he has been locally promoting the classes on his own.
“I think he’s going to be a great addition and just be a great source of knowledge about fencing,” she said. “If the kids are interested and want to move on and do more than just recreational, he will know the steps for them to take.”
There are three different types of weapons that can be used in fencing – a foil, a sabre or an épée – and each one is used to target a different area of the body. Unlike swords used when the sport was first created, the modern weapons typically have blunt tips.
Stepien said he especially hopes to get elementary students interested in the sport.
“It’s very important to start fencing young,” he said, adding that ages 7 or 8 is a perfect time for a child to start because they are still developing coordination.
Stepien said one reason parents should consider enrolling their children in the classes is the fact that students can grow without investing an immense amount of time into the sport.
“You don’t have to spend much time practicing,” he said, adding that Olympic fencers might practice 2 to 3 hours a day whereas Olympians in other sports spend the whole day practicing.
Plus, he said, if kids stick with fencing and continue to excel at it they have a good chance of receiving scholarships at prestigious colleges where the sport is played.
Stepien hopes those facts, among others, will encourage people in the south suburbs to give his favorite sport a try.
“I would like to run this program for a long time,” he said. “I am so confident if I have a kid 6, 7-years-old (now) and I stick with them for 10, 20 years, I see these kids competing in world championships, Olympic Games and doing amazing stuff for our country.”
For information on how to register for classes visit the village website or call (708) 403-7275.