The Sebastiani Fencing Academy is getting ready to start its 15th season in Princeton.

Students are drawn to the Sebastiani Fencing Academy because it is truly a school of fencing. Sessions at many clubs, new students say, often consist of long periods of calisthenics, leaving little time for actual fencing. Not so at the Academy. “The entirety of each class is devoted to fencing instruction,” says founder, owner, and instructor Gabrielle Roux.

Named after Head Fencing Master Michel Sebastiani, who was inducted into the U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame in 2015, the Academy teaches the traditional French school of fencing, which is practiced at the highest level of competition in the world. The school uses three types of weapons: Foil and Epee, which are thrust weapons; and Saber, both a cut and thrust weapon. Students learn proper technique with an emphasis on precision, finesse, coordination, speed, adaptability, and intelligence.

“Fencing is an art, a sport, and a form of applied psychology,” says Roux. “You have to observe and become familiar with your opponent’s style and anticipate his moves. In many respects, fencing is like chess,” she says.

Students range in age from 5 to adult. Levels range from novice to Olympic competition. Young Kids come to the school with visions of Zorro and the Three Musketeers. While they’re having fun, they’re gaining strength, confidence and self discipline, focus, and physical coordination.

Older students and adults enjoy these benefits as well, and the more serious students enjoy the competitive aspects of the sport. Competitions include the Olympics, Team World Champions, National Championships, and others worldwide.

Another advantage of fencing is the post-surgery therapeutic aspects. In 2014 anesthesiologist Dominique Homus-Dragne received the Femina Women award for showing that patients recovering from breast cancer surgery benefited from fencing by regaining the ability to use their shoulders and arms.

Many women take classes simply because they enjoy the workout. “It’s much more fun than the gym,” Roux says.

U.S. Olympic Coach Michel Sebastiani is a graduate of the Ecole Superieure d’Escrime of the National Institute of Sports in France where he earned his Maitrise d’Escrime M.A. fencing master degree and where he also holds a master of science degree in physical education. Sebastiani has been teaching fencing in the U.S. since 1963.

In 1982 he became the head fencing coach at Princeton University, where he coached for 24 years. Prior to his tenure at Princeton he held positions at Cornell University, Brooklyn College, and NYU. In addition to being inducted into the Fencing Hall of Fame, Sebastiani was named the U.S. Olympic Coach in 1984 for the Los Angeles games. He and his students have received numerous fencing medals dating back to the 1960s and continuing to the present.

Gabrielle Roux was born in Corsica, France, and was introduced to and trained in the classic French style of fencing by Sebastiani. She began studying in 1996 prior to moving to the U.S. As the founder of Sebastiani Fencing Academy, opened in 2000, Roux and the school’s instructors are committed to teaching the French style of fencing.

Open Monday through Saturday, the school offers up to eight classes per day. Separate classes are offered for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. The schedule includes Open Bouting, Foil/Saber, Foil/Epee, Little Musketeers, Epee Advanced Competitive, Adult Beginner, Women Beginner, and Weapon of Choice.

Learn more about the Academy, see a video of a class in session, and enroll for classes online at SebastianiFencing.com or call 609-578-0765.

Sebastiani Fencing Academy, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton.

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