When you hear fencing you probably think about that scene from the movies "Pirates of the Carribean" or "The Princess Bride". Far off fantasy saved for centuries ago. But thanks to the efforts of one man, it's closer than you think.
With the sport of fencing often described as "physical chess", Bakersfield's Lucas Dobrzanski made his big move when he opened the doors on the second floor of the Bakersfield Women's Club two years ago.
What started as a foundation offering free fencing for underprivileged youth grew into a fully fledged club that's already producing top fencers.
Carolina Geyer may be just a freshman, but two weeks ago she took home fifth place in the high school state championships only losing to someone ranked fifth in the nation.
Dobrzanski hopes her success is just the start. "(Her win) shows that we are a level that is quite competitive," he said. He knows all about competition. Moving from Poland to Argentina, he had to wait six years to get his visa after his father was killed during World War II. "I saw the United States through a sears catalog," he said. "All this abundance."
He fenced through college but a family and career in chemical engineering put the sword in its sheath for 35 years. That is before he attended a fencing event 13 years ago that caused him to reconsider retirement. "Stirred up something in me that I was like 'hey I should get back into that," Dobrzanski said.
Dobrzanski isn't just a teacher. He still competes. "He competes against the seniors," said Rudolph Streitz, a coach at the club. "He's competing against college kids and he's still doing quite well."
So well that he's qualified for this year's Pan American games and at last year's veteran championships he placed 15th in the world. All this at the age of 73! "What I don't have with speed and reaction I have in my head with experience," he said.
It's that experience that's he's hoping to pass along to the next generation with goals of turning fencing into a high school sport. "Ideally we're hoping in two years we would have at least five high schools in the league," Streitz said.
For the man who's experience spans decades, he now fences not for himself but for others. "The community has given me a lot and I'd like to give back to the community."
Classes run throughout the summer and they encourage first timers to come out. Click here for more information --> http://www.kernathleticfencingfoundation.org/
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