Woodlands Fencing Academy

Niche sport finds success in athletics scene

In Texas, football is, of course, king. The Houston area has garnered a reputation as a hotbed for young baseball and basketball talent. In The Woodlands, soccer is the most popular sport for youth. So how does a fencing academy, nestled on a quiet, shady road on the southern edge of the The Woodlands, become one of the most successful and respected of its kind?

Leslie Friedman, owner of Woodlands Fencing Academy, said it is because of an uncompromising commitment to quality and details and focusing on student improvement over results.

Leslie Friedman, owner of Woodlands Fencing Academy, said it is because of an uncompromising commitment to quality and details and focusing on student improvement over results.

"We are trying to teach our kids to have perfect technique," Friedman said. "Sometimes you have to wait a little longer for results. We will not sacrifice their training for results."

The Woodlands Fencing Academy opened in June 2011. Friedman saw a need in the community for a quality teaching academy with dedicated, professional instructors after her sons became involved in the sport about seven years ago. But seeing a need for such a facility, and expecting to be successful operating in what essentially is a niche sport, are different matters.

"I was never apprehensive, and the reason is because over the years, every time I saw a child get engaged in fencing, they usually stuck to it," she said.

The majority of students who take part in fencing, Friedman said, feature a different type of personal profile.

"It is an individual sport," Friedman said. "There is also a very high level of intellect and a high level of individualism."

The club began meeting in 2009 in a room at a Jewish temple on Shadowbend Drive in The Woodlands.

Today, nearly 100 students attend classes in four age groups: the "musketeers class" for ages 9–12, the juniors group for ages 13 and up, and the 21 and up adult class. Less than five years into its existence The Woodlands Fencing Academy is enjoying profound success.

One of the primary reasons for the academy's success lies in its instruction. The head instructor at The Woodlands Fencing Academy is Khariton Zazhitskiy, a former member of the Soviet Union Fencing Team and former World Champion.

"[Local fencing academies] are really making a statement overseas now," Friendman said. "I'm hopeful that as people see more Olympians and see more world champions, they will start to think [fencing] is a great alternative."

Fencing 101: A brief definition of fencing terms

  • Absence of blade: When the blades are not touching; opposite of engagement.
  • Balestra: A forward hop or jump, typically followed by an attack such as a lunge or fleche.
  • Conversation: The back-and-forth play of the blades in a fencing match, composed of phrases, punctuated by gaps of no blade action.
  • Epee: A fencing weapon with triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard; also a light dueling sword of similar design, popular in the mid-19th century.
  • Lunge: An attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on the bent front leg.
  • Parry: A block of the attack, made with the forte of one's own blade.

The Woodlands Fencing Academy, 2227 Golden Road The Woodlands 832-482-3138, www.woodlandsfencingacademy.com