BC professor shares passion for fencing through local club

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BC professor shares passion for fencing through local club

BC professor shares passion for fencing through local club

Mon Aug 30, 2021

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Brazosport College professor and fencing instructor Kevin O’Neill, center, talks to a group of fencing students recently at the Brazosport College Gym.

When it comes to listing competitive combat sports, fencing isn’t usually one of the first names that comes to mind. Brazosport College professor Kevin O’Neill believes it should, though. 

O’Neill is not only a longtime member of BC’s Math & Life Sciences faculty, he’s also an avid fencer who teaches the sport through BC’s Community Education program. His upcoming fencing class begins Sept. 8 and runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays through Nov. 22. He also offers private lessons through the College’s CE program. 

“Fencing is truly unique because it’s an individual sport, which some people prefer, and it’s a combat sport — without the concussions,” O’Neill said. “In fencing, you won’t get kicked in the head, you won’t get punched and you won’t get your brain rattled. You can hit as hard as you want. You might get a bruise or a scrape, but you won’t get a concussion.

“It’s rare to find a combat sport like this,” he added. “I believe fencing is the 21st-century combat sport. It’s fast, it’s technical and it’s combative. There is a level of hitting, but you aren’t going to get hurt.”

It’s also rare to find a fencing club this close to home. While fencing clubs aren’t readily available in most communities, O’Neill has offered one through Brazosport College since 2004.

His students have ranged from beginners trying out a new sport for fun to competitors who have gone on to compete in college and occasionally even the National level.

“When I started here (at Brazosport College), I could have driven to a very good fencing club in Houston, but I didn’t really want to drive that far,” O’Neill said. “So, I decided to create a club here.

“My goal is to generate kids who can beat me,” he added.

That’s actually a very lofty goal for his students.

O’Neill has fenced since 1986 and learned the sport from some of the best, including 1984 Egyptian Olympic Team member Abdel Salem and former World Cup fencer Waldek Czaja, among others. O’Neill himself competed collegiately at University of North Texas and has fenced at the National level.

Now he enjoys passing on his love of the sport to others.

“I first created the club for college kids, but they graduate too fast,” O’Neill said. “Then I started working with high school and junior high kids. We had about 15 fencers at the end of Spring Break last year when we went home (because of the pandemic). I’ll probably get four or five back, but I’m creating a new club.”

O’Neill generally accepts junior high- to high school-aged kids into the club.

“I usually don’t go below age 10 or 11 because it’s a combat sport and not every 10-year-old is suited for that,” O’Neill said. “You don’t want to just throw someone that young into a pit and tell them to fight. You don’t want to discourage them.”

Through the club and O’Neill’s tutelage, young fencers will become familiar with the sport through lessons and competitions.

“They’ll learn to fence against each other and against more experienced fencers,” he said. “We do take them to competitions.”

For O’Neill, however, the most important thing is that his students have a good time learning a new sport.

“I think the kids have fun and enjoy the classes, and I think it’s a nice group we’ve developed,” he said. “Fencing is supposed to be fun, and we have a good time.”

To learn more about or to sign up for the Brazosport College Fencing Club, visit brazosport.edu/ce and click on the “Youth and Teen programs” link. O’Neill can also be reached at kevin.oneill@brazosport.edu or at (979) 230-3620.

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Fencing student Nathan Vrubel, left, lunges toward Landon Castor during a recent practice session at the Brazosport College Gym.

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Brazosport College professor and fencing instructor Kevin O’Neill, left, works with fencing student Eli Vrubel during a recent training session at the Brazosport College Gym.

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Brazosport College professor and fencing instructor Kevin O’Neill, right, works with with fencing student Benjamin Friehauf at the Brazosport College Gym.

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Fencing student Travis Friehauf, right, lunges at Brazosport College professor and fencing instructor Kevin O’Neill, during a recent training session at the Brazosport College Gym.