Honor Johnson ‘13, a Fifth Grader at National Cathedral School, had trouble finding a sport she could be passionate about. After trying many sports, including soccer, lacrosse and swimming, which weren’t very interesting to her, Sharon Johnson, Honor’s mother suggested trying something a little different.
She’s now been fencing for almost three years. It’s not a sport many people think about doing, so it’s hard to understand what it is and how it could be fun, she explained.
Her weapon of choice is the sabre, a sword that usually has a curved, single-edged blade and a rather large hand guard, covering the knuckles of the hand as well as the thumb and forefinger. Foil is usually the beginner weapon for most fencers, but Honor has been fencing sabre since she was seven. She loved sabre from the very start. “It’s much more exciting,” she said. “Sabre fencing is much faster and more dramatic than foil,” she explained.
Because a bout can be finished in less than a minute, trying to figure out your opponent within the first couple of touches is difficult and thinking quickly on your feet is important. “It’s not easy!” she said. She enjoys competing most of all and has met many other girls from around the country who enjoy it as much as she does.
She plans to fence on Division 1 teams in college, possibly even taking it as far as the Junior Olympics or World Championships.
She trains with Dariusz Gilman, a Polish fencing master, of Capital Fencing Academy in North Bethesda five days per week. Honor reports to the fencing club after school and trains in a combination of group classes, private lessons, open bouting with other fencers in the club, and competitions. She keeps up with homework in the Study Zone at her club and sometimes late at night when she returns home from training each day. She occasionally misses school when traveling over the weekend for competitions but, “I don’t mind at all,” she said. “There is nothing I would rather do.” Honor said her coach expects a lot from her, and she works really hard. In such a short time, her blade work and footwork have improved dramatically.
For the 2013-14 fencing season, she was ranked by USA Fencing as the #1 Y-10 women’s sabre fencer in the United States, and has maintained that rank throughout the season. The ranking is based on how she places in the Super Youth Circuit (SYCs) tournaments and the North American Cups (NACs). These are national tournaments where fencers from across the country compete. Typically, there are ten SYCs and two youth NACs each year.
She competes about once a month, either at a local/regional tournament, an SYC, or a NAC. During this fencing season, she has earned three gold medals and one bronze medal. Most recently, she won gold in women's Y10 sabre at USFA's Memphis North American Cup.
“It’s such a unique sport,” she said. “I really think I will be fencing for the rest of my life.”