'Fencing with Kris' at the Lotus Center on Sunday afternoons

Kris Nelson, left, teaches beginners Erinn Robertson and Tyler Selleck basic maneuvers of the Foil. Every week, fencers around Duluth come together at the Lotus Center to learn and practice with one another. Kris Nelson has been a part of this fencing club since it was officially through UMD. Since then, Nelson has taken it upon himself to provide a place for fencers to continue to come together.

“I’ve wanted to fence ever since I was a kid,” said Nelson. “I never had the opportunity to try it until I was in school at UMD in 2001 and I had heard of a fencing club. I immediately was excited to join.”

Fencing as a sport can be dated back to the mid 1400s when “Treatise on Arms,” a book by Diego de Valera was written. This book is said to be the oldest surviving fencing manual.

Fencing was a popular sport through the Renaissance but began to die out after World War I. Today fencing has taken some changes with modern technology and can still be viewed as a competitive sport. Today there is still a small following of fencers and Duluth only has one location for people to practice together.

“I am just a guy who knows how to fence,” said Nelson. “I want to continue to provide a place where other people in the community can come and practice and learn with one another.”

Derek Neas, left, and Mark Nelson, right, spar during the class Sunday afternoon

Fencing has three styles named after the weapon used: Foil, Saber, and Epee. Each style has different rules and regulations to abide by. Foil is the most common style of fencing because it is the most constricted. The targets to hit the opponent are confined to the front and back torso. The Foil is also the lightest and therefore, easiest to maneuver. Most people, as beginners, start with the Foil.

Fifteen-year-old Erinn Robertson, is a new member in the class of about a month. Robertson is home schooled and she has been looking for activities to become more involved within the community.

“I grew up going to the Renaissance Festival and reading fairy tale books, and I had always heard of sword fighting,” said Robertson. “Fencing is a more systematic and I like that part. It is athletic but you are also using your brain for problem solving”

Robertson described her first class as challenging, but she says the way that Nelson’s step-by-step teaching approach makes it more comfortable when it comes time for the sparring.

Fencing can also be a good fitness exercise because it works on endurance, balance, and agility.


“My first class was eye opening to how tiring it can be,” said Tyler Selleck, new member of the class. “There is a lot of foot work and it is hard on your legs. You are in a squatting position almost the whole time.”

Fencing can be for all ages, however, there is a lot of footwork and disciplined practice involved. Derek Neas explains how his children became bored with the footwork and just wanted to get into the sparring.

“It is a game of strategy, sometimes referred to as Physical Chess,” said Neas. “Learning how to observe the opponent as well as plan your reaction can take a lot of discipline.”

Mark Nelson has been coming to the class almost every Sunday for two years. He also does a lot of Martial Arts and he explains how the two are related.

“It helps with timing, range, balance and predicting the next move of your opponent,” said Nelson. “Mainly its just fun to hang out with people, waving swords around.”

Fencing with Kris is every Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Lotus Center above the Global Village downtown Duluth for $5. Beginners are welcome the first Sunday of every month.


This article is a part of a larger project; Fitness of Duluth. A new article about a local fitness class will be posted each week. Where should Brittney go next? Comment below or tweet her @Brittney_Bloch


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All photos taken by Brittney Bloch


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