Oakland University (CBS Detroit) – Fencing is an art that offers safe physical fitness, development of skill and coordination, and a lot of fun. It’s an exerting sport that builds strength and endurance. Originally, fencing was developed as a way to practice for duels and combat, but as time went on, it became more recreational, especially after the introduction of gunpowder made skilled blade work obsolete on the battlefield.
Parafencing, or fencing while using a wheelchair, is the first accessible club sport at Oakland University. The Wheelchair Fencing team is new within the Fencing Society at Oalkand University (FSOU).
“I think parafencing, and mobility impaired sports as a whole is a great opportunity for any club,” says Oakland University Head Coach Patrick Webster. “There are many, many disenfranchised athletes out there, because they find themselves post-accident or whatever diagnosis, in a wheelchair.”
During a parafencing bout, opponents have their wheelchairs locked into place at a fixed angle about an arms-length away from each other. Instead of advancing forward or stepping back, the fencers will lean side to side to attack or defend.
“The three blades that are used in modern fencing are foil, épée, and sabre,” explains Webster. “The weapon has a switch in it, so the box and scoring apparatus actually know if you’ve hit somebody on-target, or off-target.”
Alissa Bandalene, a senior studying biology at the Oakland University, has been living with neurological genetic autoimmune connective tissue disorders all her life. “I used to be an able-bodied fencer,” says Bandalene, “and when I lost the ability to walk I never thought I would be able to fence again.”
“Then I learned that there was actually this whole other world to fencing, which was wheelchair fencing,” Bandalene continues. “And now, I have been given this incredible opportunity to go train with the Paralympic Parafencing team at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.”
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