One of the great tragedies of modern, 21st Century life is how rarely these days one finds an opportunity to announce, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.” Much less to whip out a sword and follow through with the challenge. Admit it: There is a tragic Dearth of Dueling in the Digital Age. If you and your child, ages 2-5, feel the same way, have no fear – it’s New Amsterdam Fencing Academy riding in to the rescue! Just like the calvary! Who used to duel! On horseback!
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Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (Broadway between 103rd and 104th Streets), this decade old fencing school not only offers classes for adults, teens, and school-age kids, but they have also made it their mission to put swords in the hands of those who only just figured out that whole walking upright thing a few months ago. And they are teaching these mini-Musketeers to aim those swords at a most worthy target – their parents. In other words, welcome to NYC’s first-ever My Caregiver & Me Fencing Class. Just Mom or Dad (nannies are also welcome), a tiny tot, and a deadly weapon. What could possibly go wrong? Before you panic (or put in a call to Children’s Services), rest assured of a few things:
- The swords are foam, not metal
- Face-masks are provided
- Mom and Dad aren’t so much targets as partners
- Poking, slashing, and beating are only a small (though fun) part of the overall class
In fact, this weekly 45 minute session was intended to be a work-out for the whole family, starting with basic stretching (one of the instructors also teaches yoga), then moving into parent/child partner games such as Circus Obstacle Course, to work on skills like paying attention, manual dexterity, special awareness and strategic thinking (but, shhh, don’t tell the kids, they think it’s primarily jumping through hoops, crawling through tunnels, and bouncing on trampolines). Only after you’ve warmed up and practiced the building blocks of basic fencing maneuvers does the poking, slashing, and beating come in. (Though even it is subject to rules and self-control.)
Parents are expected to participate fully in all activities, and are promised a cardio session equal to what you might get at the gym. Moms and Dads are frequently directed to run around the studio (sometimes with an excited child on their back yelling, “Giddy up, Horsie!”), to lift their giggling offspring in the air repeatedly (as the child grows, so do your muscles!), and then to grab a sword and “en guarde” right along with them.
All activities were conceived specifically to be developmentally appropriate for two, three, and four year olds, with a special focus on agility, balance, and hand/eye coordination.Of course, New York being New York, no activity can be considered truly worthwhile unless it can help your child with the Kindergarten testing most NYC pre-schoolers are eventually subjected to, be it Gifted & Talented, or private school admissions.
Fencing has been repeatedly proven to help in the acquisition of mathematical, logical, and spatial thinking.
So, don’t worry, your child will never be “merely” having fun as long as he or she holds a sword in their hand. Most importantly, should you ever be struck down in your prime by a six-fingered man, your child will be able to properly avenge you.
And what other 21st Century parent can say that?
This school year, what classes are your kids signed up for? Share the school year class love by leaving us a comment below.
— Alina Adams
Photos provided by Alina Adams