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Female boardman makes her moves teaching others the art of fencing | News, Sports, Jobs


Kathy Durrell

BOARDMAN – For those who want to find a new hobby that will help them stay physically and mentally fit, Kathy Durrell recommends one thing: fencing.

She said it’s called “physical chess” because it helps you be smart and stay a few moves ahead of your opponent, while strengthening muscles that aren’t used often and helping with balance.

Durrell, 51, didn’t start fencing until the summer after his freshman year as an undergraduate. Originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, she completed her college education at the University of New Brunswick. She got a job in a physics lab over the summer, and a colleague of hers was giving fencing lessons over lunch.

“She asked me if I wanted to come, I said ‘yes’ and I was hooked,” Durrell said.

She continued fencing for the last three years of undergrad, then was on the varsity team at the University of Toronto while studying for her master’s degree.

She was also part of the academic team at McMaster University while earning a Ph.D. This gave her the opportunity to also be a coach in a way, as she was the captain of the team. Durrell said the team was so big that sometimes the coach worked with her, so she was expected to work with and coach her teammates. Now, she is putting this first coaching experience to good use.

Durrell moved to Pennsylvania with her husband in 2000, then eventually to Youngstown. In 2005, she began teaching at Youngstown State University. She wanted to start a fencing club, which led her to teach fencing at school, as well as physics and astronomy. She still teaches part-time, but hasn’t been able to teach fencing since the pandemic.

Nonetheless, she remained involved in the sport by teaching fencing once a week at the Austintown Senior Center. None of the seniors she taught had tried fencing before, which Durrell says is not uncommon in this area.

“The people at the senior center are so adventurous,” Durrell said. “I hope I’m as adventurous when I’m their age.”

She welcomes everyone to her class. Durrell said she worked with limitations ranging from bad knees to wheelchairs. Fencing is a great hobby for older people because it works the muscles that are good for balance and keeps the spirit young.

It is also a good hobby for all ages as it is a high intensity workout and gets the heart beating faster for a short time. According to Healthline, this type of training can burn a lot of calories in a short time, is good for metabolism, and improves anaerobic and aerobic capacity.

“Plus, it’s just a lot of fun,” Durrell said. “You meet a lot of people who maybe don’t lean towards traditional American sports.”

Durrell competed and umpired nationally and was a member of Two Ravens Fencing in Cleveland. She said that, as with many things, COVID-19 put an end to her ability to compete. But she is working to build up her strength so she can compete at this level again. She said that by the age of 20, when she was getting serious about competition, she attended about 20 tournaments a year between local and national levels.

At this point, she was done with her role as an official, as she said it was too much of a pain trying to go to a meet and compete, but also officiating her days off. Now it’s better for her to rest between matches in a tournament.

There are three types of fencing: foil, epee and sabre. Foil is where most people learn and that’s what Durrell teaches. In this version of the sport, the opponent who starts attacking has the right of way and would therefore get the point if they hit the opponent. Who has priority is ultimately up to the referee. Durrell said she prefers epee because there is less interpretation from the official and the whole body is a target, unlike foil, where only the torso can be hit. This makes the game slower and more tactical.

“Different personalities tend to use different weapons,” Durrell said. “I was drawn to the sword.”

Besides fencing and teaching at YSU, she also writes questions and is part of the content development team for the Physics II Advanced Placement Exam through the Educational Testing Service, and is an online tutor. for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics at Kent State University at Trumbull.

Durrell and her husband, Patrick Durrell, also have two miniature schnauzers and seven chinchillas in their Boardman home. They originally had two chinchilla boys and one died, so they had another. In the end, the new one was a girl, not a boy as they had been told. So now they have five 3-year-old chinchillas. She said there would be no more babies.

Those interested in fencing and aged 50 or older can join the Austintown Senior Center and its class. Membership in the center is free for residents of Austintown, but those outside the township can also join for a fee.

YSU students can join the fencing club she oversees on campus. For everyone else, Durrell recommends checking out USAfencing.org for a list of nearby clubs. She said she doesn’t think it’s as popular in the US as it is in Europe because not many people know about it, but she encourages everyone to try it.

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