- The Enterprise
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Wearing a sweatshirt dotted with peace signs, Jordan Creighton is ready for battle.
The 11-year-old was the lone student in a fencing class at Somers Community Center and she took advantage of the one-on-one time with instructor Dario Valcarcel.
“You are a little stronger than you were last time,” said Valcarcel while he and Jordan, a lefty, practiced in the cafeteria of the La Plata middle school.
It was Jordan’s third time at fencing class.
After growing bored of dance lessons, she saw fencing on the summer Olympic games and became intrigued.
“We showed her some matches on the computer,” said Jordan’s mother, Michele Creighton. “She really enjoys this. It’s the only thing she’s asked to come back to.”
Valcarcel — his father Dario Sr. was a fencing coach at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey where Valcarcel attended after his father passed along coaching duties to another — has been fencing since he was a teen, but the interest in the sport came before that.
“Zorro was kind of an inspiration,” said Valcarcel of Dentsville. “My dad got me the plastic sword and cape.”
After high school Valcarcel continued fencing competitively in college at Montclair State University in New Jersey before moving to Maryland where he is a science and technology teacher in Prince George’s County.
His children gave fencing a try but moved on to other activities such as cross-country and wrestling.
Valcarcel, who fences for fun with a group in Prince George’s, started teaching at the community center where the classes are held every eight weeks and are open to those 8 and older.
Students come for all reasons, he said.
Some became interested in the sport after seeing parries and thrusts on the Olympics, and others are inspired by “Star Wars” or “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Valcarcel said.
James Ruby, the multicenter coordinator who splits his time between the community centers at Somers and Piccowaxen, said the centers aim to offer a variety of programs from cupcake decorating classes to adult indoor soccer, basket weaving to dad and daughter dances.
“Things you’re not going to find anywhere else,” he said.
And the centers, run by Charles County Department of Community Services, get return customers.
“Once people know about us they tend to come back,” he said, watching Valcarcel and Jordan duel.
“Keep the point toward the opponent so you’re not exposed,” Valcarcel counseled Jordan. “Now don’t go crazy. Try to keep it under control, like a cat ready to pounce.”
There are three weapons in fencing — the foil, épée, and saber, Valcarcel said.
Saber is the flashy weapon, the swashbuckling one in movies, but Valcarcel teaches foil fencing at Somers and only the basics.
No matter the weapon of choice, fencers have to learn different strategies for the sport, an activity that doesn’t adhere to the adage “bigger is better,” Valcarcel said.
“You don’t have to have physical strength to do fencing,” he said. “They use their brain to outwit their opponent. When you face someone for the first time, you look for weaknesses.”
While Jordan has an interest in fencing, she’s also thinking about how the skills she learns in class could be put to use in real life.
“You never know when you’ll be attacked by pirates or something,” she said.