Edward G.
En garde. Prêt. Allez! A year ago, my seven-year-old son's organized extracurriculars included kung fu, gymnastics, baseball, and swimming. Fencing was the furthest activity from his mind. But my wife and I brought him for his first introductory lesson with SF Youth Fencing's Maître d'Armes, Rob Handelman, at Halberstadt Fencer's Club in San Francisco anyway. Having fenced on my college's varsity sabre team (and trained at Halberstadt's for a time back in... a while ago!), I was eager to expose my son to this martial art. During my son's first six months of fencing training, it's fair to say that it was my passion for the sport that drove my son's participation, not his own. (youtube.com/watch?v=h2EA… shows the tenor of my son's first few months at fencing, barely able to avoid tripping over his own feet! He's the little guy in the center foreground.) But something happened about six to nine months into his participation with SF Youth Fencing: sabre rattling started climbing my son's activities rankings. From the bottom a year ago, fencing began a steady climb to the top spot, knocking gymnastics off the list entirely and reducing his baseball availability. How did Rob's program win my son over? SF Youth Fencing's coaching staff, as the name implies, is incredibly child-friendly. The coaches are utterly competent in their craft, but also are marvels of patience, tolerance, understanding, awareness, and organization. Rob and his wife, Connie Louie (Prévôt de Sabre), are aided by Sándor and Marty, Moniteurs de Sabre, and a host of paid and volunteer assistants. The students' parents are also incredibly supportive to each other and to each others' kids. SF Youth Fencing is a community centered on sabre fencing. Each session's instructional program includes a regular progression of warm-up games and functional drills, one-on-one and group instruction, practice and challenge bouts, and warm-down games. Just about any kid can be slotted into the program at any time, regardless of skill level. Progress, especially in the early stages, is primarily self-driven; each kid decides how hard to push, how deep to engage with the program. As kids progress up the skills ladder, the coaches dial up the instructional intensity, but never more than each kid can handle. There's also an easy camaraderie among the students. You'll often find the more advanced students offering practical advice and assistance to junior members, even during bouts with them. For example, during my son's first introductory lesson, the one unequivocally positive aspect he demonstrated was his speed and agility during the pre- and post-session games. One of the better Y12 fencers sought him out after that first class and assured my son, "I can tell you're going to be a good fencer." Whether that prediction comes true or not, I appreciated the sentiment in which it was given and my son rode an early boost in his confidence. My son's still climbing the learning curve, but over the last year it's been a pleasure to watch him proceed through a continuum of humoring his parents (OK, his dad!), to mild interest, to burgeoning curiosity, to self-driven engagement with the program. His bouts now show some promising sparks of creativity and skill, and sometimes sheer joy (youtube.com/watch?v=Gn_W… , my son's on the far strip, right). One year later, go ahead and put the question to my son yourself. "Are you a fencer?" He'll look you right in the eyes and respond, "Yes, I am."
Steve F.
I can't say enough about Rob and Connie's youth fencing program. Our daughter fenced with them for over three years and I firmly believed she learned critical life-long lessons training and competing with SF Youth Fencing. These lessons have served her well dealing with new environments (we moved to Italy), her school performance, and her determination on the soccer field. Among other things, my daughter learned: 1. Discipline and Commitment. My daughter is very social and she missed events she dearly wanted to go to but couldn't because of tournaments and practice. Connie and Rob expect the same level of commitment of their kids that compete (and their parents) as they put into it (actually less...Connie and Rob have put their lives into this program!). When my daughter commits to a team or any other endeavor, she understands what it means. 2. Resilience. It's painful to see your kid lose and get upset, but seeing them grow and get tougher bit by bit is so gratifying. Particularly for girls, it's great having a role model and professional like Connie who can help the kids so much in this area. Putting kids in an environment where they will inevitably lose, but provides the support to help them pull themselves back and win is invaluable. 3. Self-control. Rob always sets the right expectations for the kids. As they get older and more experienced, he is always pushing the bar higher and higher, as I would expect a coach to do. As a more experienced fencer, my daughter was put on probation by Rob for not shaking hands with her competitor after losing (the match and her self-control). She vividly remembers this important lesson, which will stick with her for the rest of her life. 4. Physical Fitness. My daughter is drawn to athletics now and I believe fitness will be important to her for the rest of her life. She is happy to have sports part of her daily routine. 5. Persistence and effort. Fencing is not easy and requires an enormous amount of training and competition to achieve a high skill level. My daughter learned there is not shortcut to success, only hard work. Her soccer coach in Italy often noted how much more effort she put into drills and training than some of the other kids, and I attribute that to Rob and Connie's coaching. Coaching excellence is difficult. You are in the fishbowl being observed by parents and young athletes alike. Rob and Connie are masters at teaching kids not only mastery of fencing, but valuable lessons that will server them throughout their lives.
Barbara A.
If you are new to fencing, let me assure you that it's a great sport for kids (and adults, too!) It helps coordination, agility, strategic calculation, and requires respectfulness towards ones opponent. Also, tournaments make great family outings! I will always fondly recall the many local and national tournaments I attended with my son. More specifically, Rob and Connie are fantastic teachers. My son had actually been fencing for several years at another club, but as we watched Rob and Connie (and their fencers) at tournaments, we decided we wanted to be part of their team, even though it meant a 20 mile commute! Rob and Connie - literally - wrote the book on training young fencers. They are great, and they run a great program!
Les T.
Our daughter has been learning fencing from Rob and Connie Handelman for almost 4 years. She's developed both skills and confidence in her abilities that she has been competing in numerous tournaments, including some at the National level for her age group. Rob and Connie are able blend instruction, drills, and games into a proven learning experience for the kids. As another reviewer previously posted, they really wrote the book on teaching the art of fencing to kids and it definitely shows. Rob's extensive training and experience as a fencer and chiropractor make him the perfect instructor. The drills and games that he has developed are designed to warmup and strengthen the muscle groups specific to fencing, and they also help to develop agility and teamwork among the kids. The kids are instructed in proper footwork, attacks, parries, etc., as well as various strategies. Connie is also an accomplished fencer, instructor, and a licensed clinical psychologist and sports psychologist. She's really great at working with the kids on how to mentally prepare themselves to fence, how to focus their thoughts, and how to get back into the moment when things are not working out. Our daughter has learned how to use these techniques outside of the fencing venue also. All of the instructors are passionate about the sport and they pass this passion onto the kids. They are at the forefront of fencing instruction for kids. They are always up to date on the rules and changes to the sport, even to the point of teaching a new type of attack that was recently approved by the USFA. With just the right amount of games, drills, instruction, and actual fencing, the kids have a great time and are always engaged. The instruction is geared towards teaching the kids to be active competitors in the sport. Not only do they learn to fence, but also what to look for when fencing, and how to score/referee the bouts. When the kids are entered into any tournaments, Rob and Connie are there to provide coaching and support. Even the other fencers from the club will be there to cheer on their teammates in matches. The facilities are good with 11 electric strips. There are separate male and female locker rooms, a sitting area for parents to relax while the kids are busy, free Wi-Fi for those that need it, and there is a self-pay parking lot nearby.
C K.
Below are a few reasons why Rob and Connie's program is such a great fit for my daughter: 1. Rob knows what he's doing and he won't beat around the bush (with you or your kid). 2. Although we haven't been part of the program too long, I presume that Rob's background in chiropractics and Connie's background in psychology contribute significantly to a student's long-term physical well-being/technique and mental strength under duress (competitive or otherwise). 3. In my daughter's program, there seem to be about as many great female fencers as there are male. 4. My kid absolutely loves it and looks forward to practice. In fact, she has quit other activities so that she can attend fencing more frequently. To her, she feels like she gets to run around and let off some steam playing structured games with boys and older kids, who take on a "mentor"-type role. Meanwhile, she is learning much more and getting great exercise... 5. In addition to impressive competition results, the students who have been at it awhile embody many positive characteristics that I value - sportsmanship, commitment/follow-through, strategic thinking, accountability, willingness to internalize constructive criticism, etc. 6. The assistant coaches are beyond qualified and have a great rapport with the kids. As a parent, I couldn't ask for more. I look forward to the day my younger kids can also start fencing.
Deborah P.
One of the biggest rewards of parenting is seeing your adolescent child committed to achieving long and short-term goals something our son, Devon, has been able to do with the support of Rob and Connie Handelman as his coaches and mentors. Fencing is fun and, at the same time, it teaches kids resilience, persistence, integrity, strategic thinking, healthy competition along with many other qualities that are vital for success in the adult world. I encourage parents to let their kids experience the sport at an early age, we started at seven, and watch them flourish.
Jaynee H.
Love this Club! The kids have a blast - the games and experienced coaches keep them fully engaged... -- and they learn true fencing from the coaches who literally "wrote the book" on kids fencing. Great fencing classes. I'd definitely recommend sending your kid here. Rob Handelman is excellent!