Baltimore’s fencing community was hit hard by COVID-19. The pandemic interrupted all teaching and bouting activities as of March 13, 2020. From one day to the next, venues provided by schools or universities were shut down, and students sent home. As the months went by, private clubs, looking at an undetermined period with no revenues, unable to pay the rent, were forced to close.
As of the summer of 2021, our friends from both locations of Baltimore Fencing Center (founded in 2000), Maryland Fencing, and — most recently — our own Baltimore MidAtlantic Fencing Academy (founded by Coach Larbi Soufiane in 2018) have shut down for good. Homewood Fencing went into survival mode, teaching lessons and small classes outside at Towson High School’s Main entrance.. Only Catonsville-based Academies of Fencing in Baltimore (carrying on the traditions of Coach Oles’ Salle Pallasz and Tri-Weapons Boys Club) and Chesapeake Fencing on the outskirts of Towson in Parkville kept operating.
This left a large, underserved area in downtown Baltimore and Towson.
But around the middle of June 2020, some die-hard adult epee fencers decided they had had enough inactivity. Under the name COVID-19 Epee Nomads, we regrouped on the athletic fields of Towson High School and fenced twice a week, in 90 degree heat and under threat of impending thunderstorms. Since Coach Chris had wisely secured the wireless and a scoring machine, we could fence just like we did indoors.
Flash Mob Fencing
Fencer by fencer, the Nomads attracted other epee enthusiasts that were left homeless by the pandemic, or simply used the situation to start something they always wanted to learn. When the ball players returned, we moved to underneath the overhang of the THS auditorium…
When winter came, one of our members managed to leverage the good will he’d built up with his commercial landlord to get us into a long-empty sliver of commercial space at the Rotunda. We invited our friends form Homewood and JHU fencing to share the space, put down a thick rubber floor and a Leon Paul Gryptonite mobile fencing strip — and went on fencing
We fought hundreds of tough, grinding bouts in our temporary indoor refuge at 733 W. 40th Street, at the Rotunda in Baltimore City.
By now, we have about 20 regulars who meet, in various constellations, every Tuesday and Friday. The venue is also used for Coach Austin Young,s foil program, both lessons and classes for fencers of all ages.
Come October, we will announce the creation of something new… or at least the full revival of one institution at or at least next door to the venue they had occupied for almost 50 years. Until the, stop on by, come on in, and fence us at the Rotunda.