Fencing will make you work harder than any other sport just to score one point. Using an entirely different set of muscles, the point of your defense is for you to make yourself as difficult to hit as possible, even as you find the opening that drives your blade into the limited allowed space on your opponent's body while he makes himself as difficult to hit as possible. It's brutally elegant and constitutionally calculating; each well-executed thrust a poem in itself, the hand that wields the sword moving like the gentle serving of a teacup filled with napalm. At the Avant Garde Fencers Club, under the masterful tutelage of head coach Daniel Costin, they've guided children, Olympians and Paralympians to reach the apex of their skill as fencers. Concentrating on the saber — rather than the other two blades, the foil and the épée — they also teach underrated virtues such as grace, poise, patience and stoicism in the only athletic activity that also carries with it the possibility of having a blade snap off during a match, pierce the mask and bury itself in your brain. And what's life without a little grace and tension?

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