Kathy Martin | Academies of Fencing Baltimore

Kathy Martin, Legal Assistant at RMG

Role within Organization: Director
Number of Years/Months Involved: 6 Years

Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?

I began volunteering with this organization in my uncle’s memory; he started the boys club as an outreach effort when his club was in Baltimore City (the current club is now in Baltimore County).  He wanted to share his love of the sport with people who couldn’t normally afford it, and we have carried that on since his passing.  The club provides all of the equipment necessary for beginners, and in the past we have partnered with Living Classrooms, Collington School in Baltimore City, and now we work with the Jemicy School in Owings Mills.  We have beginner, intermediate, college and adult groups.  Some enjoy being a recreational fencer while others thrive on the competition whether local, national or hopefully Olympic.

Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?

It provides an outlet for kids who aren’t “normal” sports people (they are normally interested in science, math, reading, etc.) because it’s more of an intellectual sport than some other popular sports.  We have a lot of people who say, “we tried every sport, and none of them were a good fit until fencing.”  It draws a lot of music and theater people.  We have several children with ADHD, and it helps with their focus and discipline.  We tend to take a lot of people who are normally turned away for not being a typical “jock”.  It is an entirely volunteer-driven organization; coaches, staff, everyone.  I volunteer there 25+ hours a week.  Our fencers range from 8 years to 76 years old.  The oldest national category to compete is 80-85.

Our coaches range from an independent financial advisor, a financial advisor for a major banking institution, a NASA engineer, a retired accountant and graduate students.  You can see on the participants and coaches faces how much they enjoy it.  We also have a summer camp in August where a former Olympic fencer and national team member from Peru come in to teach.  Some of our members are college students who enter tournaments during their semesters abroad and they are accepted there too.

What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?

We don’t have cliques, so we draw many different people from different backgrounds and financial situations.  Everybody gets along and fits in, and is very supportive and welcoming.  We are a community.  Seeing the connections of the fencers, here, nationally, and internationally, and the breadth of acceptance, encouragement, respect, mentorship and comradery is remarkable. Working with wheelchair fencers at a National Tournament and seeing the dedication, support and respect given to all is a favorite memory.

We also worked this past year with Safe Alternatives – a group started by a former Loyola High School football player who was paralyzed from a football injury, who has an inner-city afterschool and summer programs.

If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?

We would like to grow the sport in Maryland.  You can start at any age (above 8) without previous training and still become a competitive fencer.  It’s a goal of the US Fencing National Office to get it into all high schools in the state.  There are mostly colleges and club teams, but not a lot of high schools in this state have programs.  More students have an opportunity to get a fencing scholarship than any other sport, because of the smaller ratio of applicants.  The intellectual aspect of the sport helps with character, respect, dedication, focus, confidence and the type of person you ultimately become.