Alex Kossmann took a stab at starting a fencing club — with just a little poke.
“I just thought it was time to try something new — to, as a club, I needed to branch out and do my own thing,” the Land O’ Lakes resident said. “I just felt it was time to start (a fencing club) here (in Land O’ Lakes).”
Kossmann started the Land O’ Lakes Fencing Academy, in early summer with his goal to expand off the club, Tampa Bay Fencing (TBF), which has been operating out of Northdale for about 30 years. While both clubs have dual members — with Kossmann’s expanding steadily — the new club is providing space and opportunities for local fencing enthusiasts, both new and experienced, to hone their skills, compete against others and prepare for competitions.
“The TBF has been there 30 years,” Kossmann said. “As much as I have helped them and coached there with them, I just wanted to start a new club out here.
“We’re here (at Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex) and we’re practicing and teaching,” he added. “It depends on the day, in which when we start warming up, if they’re doing well, there won’t really be a lesson, but if they’re not, then maybe a quick lesson. They may ask me for some lessons, but usually I’ll bout them myself and we’ll work on techniques.
“It’s all about having a place and club and meetup for fencers, and one in this area.”
Kossmann, who fenced at the University of South Florida, has been fencing most of his adult life. He grew up watching his father, Raymond, fence and who also instructs at the academy.
“I kind of — kind of — taught him everything. Well, not everything, but most of it (laughs),” Raymond said. “I don’t think I can teach him anymore, but it’s great to watch him here and with Tampa Bay Fencers in Northdale.
“It’s incredible to see him start a club here (in Land O’ Lakes).”
Raymond appreciates the academy focuses on actual techniques and forms, especially since some new, younger members have just taken up the sport and are there to prepare for competitions locally and out of state.
“A lot of people think it’s just swatting around, but there’s plenty of technique, plenty of strategy,” Raymond said. “If you ever watch Olympic fencing, it’s kind of hard to keep up with it because they are so good. But like I was saying, I think that most people don’t realize how much goes into it.
“Not just practicing, but again, not just swatting at people or opponents. There’s a dance to it and it’s fun to watch, even if you don’t know the moves.”
The new academy has about a dozen members so far and meets twice a week, with Alex hoping to get in more meetups and sessions weekly. Raymond, who has been fencing for about 20 years, understands that it’s a hard sport to get into, not just because of its difficulty, but also the cost.
Like many other high-end sports — equestrian, rowing and even golf — expenses add up, including swords — foils, épées and sabres, all of which are electronic to connect with the scoring machine — and the gear, from coats to masks.
“It is expensive, but a lot of sports are,” Raymond added. “If you’re passionate, though, you find a way, and you’d be surprised how many people end up loving fencing.”
With the Land O’ Lakes Fencing Academy, there’s even a youth movement. Local youngsters are taking up “the blade,” donning a mask and finding themselves readying to compete in swashbuckling fashion.
Just ask this pair of siblings.
“I have a cousin who fences,” 10-year-old Land O’ Lakes resident Arianna Bobe said. “That’s why we started doing it, but we really like it now. It’s fun to be able to fence against our cousin and others, too.”
Her sister, Isabelle, 13, agrees.
“It’s fun — we really do like fencing,” she added. “What other sport is there where you get to poke someone?!”
Land O’ Lakes Fencing Academy
When: Tuesdays and Saturdays
Where: Land O’ Lakes Recreation Complex, 3032 Collier Parkway
Cost: $20 per session; $5 for college students
Details: The sessions are run by Alex Kossmann, a two-time Central Florida Division Champion, and Raymond Kossmann, runner-up for veterans (40+) Central Florida Divisional Championship. Experienced and budding fencers are able to attend the sessions to learn the sport and hone their skills.
Info: Visit LandOLakesFencingAcademy.com, or contact Alex Kossmann at 813-841-0984 or .
Published November 29, 2023