THREE TIME OLYMPIC FENCER TIM MOREHOUSE (TOP) & YOUR EDITOR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY @IMAGISTA
Based on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is the Tim Morehouse Fencing Club, where I had an opportunity to bout and chat last week with three time Olympian Tim Morehouse. Currently, Tim is probably most recognized as the fencer in those Chase Mastery commercials with Serena Williams and The Rockettes, but its Tim’s silver medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, that have brought him fame and recognition as one of the sport’s greats.
Founded in 2015, Tim Morehouse Fencing Club teaches the Olympic sport of saber fencing — one of the three disciplines of the sport that include epee and foil, and in which he won his Olympic medal. Sabre is based on the cavalry sword and you hit with sides of the blade, as opposed to foil and epee where you hit with the tip. The club offers classes and instruction for competitors of all ages and ability levels, but it is his work with kids that is most noteworthy. Founder of “Fencing In The Schools“, Tim is passionate about sharing the sport he fell in love with at age 13, and giving the same opportunities he had to inner city and rural school kids.
“My life was profoundly changed when I stumbled upon the sport of fencing and a coach who believed in me,” says Tim. “When I started, I thought I was just playing a sport, but something unexpected happened at practice. While I was working on turning on the scoring light, I was also turning on my internal light, awakening my own potential and illuminating the path to becoming my best self.” It is his mission to “Turn The Light On” for students across the country and help them become engaged, active, confident adults who can set goals and exceed them, lead a team, and have a positive impact on the world.
As a lifelong athlete, very appreciative of the self confidence and positive foundation sports provide from an early age, and the aunt of a competitive gymnast we featured in To be a Young Gymnast, I wanted to hear more about his sport — both the physical and mental aspects of fencing, its benefits for young and old, and who we should have our eyes on this summer in Rio at the Olympic games.
SOS: How did you get into fencing originally?
TM: I didn’t even know what fencing was as a kid. I stumbled upon it in 7th grade and joined the team to get out of PE. It changed my life which is why I started “Fencing In The Schools.” I was really fortunate that my school (Riverdale Country Day) had a fencing program. Very few schools do. I want more kids to have the opportunity I had to experience the benefits of fencing. It’s my way of giving back and being grateful for what I was given as a kid.
SOS: Did the sport come easily to you or was it a challenge to get good?
TM: I was definitely not a natural. There is always a big debate about how much you push kids, but first and foremost my parents just wanted me to find something and work hard at it. They didn’t care what it was. I fell in love with the sport and working hard was just a natural part of that process. I think it’s really important that people and kids find something they’re passionate about. If you want to get good at something, the whole process isn’t necessarily fun. When you want to be an Olympian, doing footwork for 2 hours a day can be very tedious and boring, but if you’re passionate about the goals you set and where you want to go, that’s really how you motivate yourself through the hard work required to get there. That’s a lot of what we try to teach to our students and our club.
SOS: Tell me about the three different disciplines of fencing. Why were you drawn to Sabre?
TM: Sabre is the faster of the 3 weapons. It’s based on the cavalry sword. You hit with sides of the blade, where in foil and epee you hit with the tip. Different personalities gravitate to one or the other. Epee is a lot more patient. Sabre is least patient.
SOS: Fencing is sport steeped in history and rich in tradition, dating back to kings and nobility. Why are those customs so important to you and how do they translate into modern day life?
TM: At the core of fencing there is an honor and chivalry there. The salute and handshake are part of that even you’re engaged in competition with someone or in a fencing bout. Once the bout is over you shake hands, you salute, and you have respect for them whether you’ve won or lost. It’s a very valuable lesson in any time period, especially now.
SOS: Tell me about the workout itself. I got a taste of it in the intro class you gave me. It’s fast sport and there is definitely an adrenaline rush! What are the physical benefits for someone who might want to take the sport up for fitness?
TM: Your heart rate is between 180-190 when you’re fencing. You’re in squat position the entire time, so you’re building leg strength and burning calories. It’s a lifelong sport and studies have shown an increase in bone density and improved mental acuity in older fencers. You have to be smart because there a lot of strategy with the sport. It’s physical chess so you have to be able to move and position yourself. You have to have a lot of body control and mind control.
SOS: With the Summer Olympics coming up, who should we be watching in Rio?
TM: Team USA fencing is fielding one of its strongest teams in history. We won medals in the last 3 Olympics, which prior to that was unheard of. We weren’t on the map in terms of being a powerhouse in fencing, but are heading towards that direction. On the men’s side, 4 guys are ranked in the top 10 in the world. On the women’s side, you have Mariel Zagunis, 2 time Olympic champion. She finished 4th in London, but is coming back for revenge. Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is Muslim, will be the first Team USA athlete to compete in a Hijab.
SOS: Thanks Tim! We’re looking forward to Rio and watching Team USA keep that winning streak going this summer!