The art of fencing gains new life in Charleston center

By Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By premier digital

It’s one of the oldest sports in existence, born thousands of years ago with the very first armed combat duel. And despite its long history as a skill used in times of war and an aristocratic form of battle with shield, sword, spear, or axe, the art of fencing is often considered old fashioned or even obsolete. But in a smallish studio on Winant Place in Charleston,
the sport is gaining new life.

“The Staten Island Fencing Center (SIFC) has been in existence for 34 years, and was started by Steven Khinoy who has a long history in both competition and teaching the sport,” noted David Setlow, board member and club secretary for SIFC, which welcomes all ages and skill levels.

Khinoy, who has coached fencing for over 30 years at the club, high school, and college levels—founding successful fencing programs at three high schools and a college, in addition to the SIFC—has trained a US Fencing Association National Champion, an NCAA All-American, a PSAL individual champion, and an NCAA conference individual silver medalist. He is also the publisher of SwordPlay Books and has been chairman of the Metro-NY Division of the US Fencing Association, member of the USFA Board of Directors and is a co-founder and active member of the US Fencing Hall of Fame. Now, together with youth coach Susan Monardo (an experienced fencer and teacher herself ), he is bringing the activity back to the borough.

“The SIFC offers classes in foil, épée, and saber for the local schools and for our own members,” Setlow said. “We have open fencing for anyone who wants to come down and do a match with others, and we also hold fencing competitions and are a member of the USFA, the national organization for American fencing.”

The group, which currently has between 30 and 40 fulltime members and offers programs for both youth and adult groups, has grown out of various locations; it’s moved from a cafeteria space at Staten Island University Hospital to the CYO Center at Mount Loretto and a small studio off New Dorp Lane, and has just recently moved to its current home right next to DeMarco’s Boxing Gym.

“Our Mini Musketeers begin at five-years-old and our youth classes extend to teens and high-schoolers,” Setlow said. “We also offer summer camps and private, independent lessons.”

Average classes are about an hour long, and include basic training on footwork, technique, and weapon education. Some cardiovascular exercises and practice bouts and matches are included in each lesson.

“We feature open fencing most days of the week, when both our kids and members have matches,” Setlow said. “Many high school students come to train with us in preparation for the PSAL season, and since fencing is an NCAA and Olympic sport, there are a number of national competitions and championships for which to train.”

Setlow, who himself participates in classes several times a week, became interested in the sport at the urging of his wife.

“I have been a member since 2008, when both my daughter and I took an eight-week introduction course and then both became members,” he said. “My daughter went on to join her high school team and was a member for her four years in that school. In her last two years, she became team captain and led them to their first playoffs in years. I still fence every week and am a member of the board of the club.”

The entire experience Setlow described as “life-changing.”

“So many people do not know that this sport and this club even exists,” he explained. “And for me, it has been such a wonderful and transformative process. It’s a beautiful and challenging sport—one that’s really gaining interest here in Staten Island.” •

Staten Island Fencing Center
38 Winant Place / 718.605.6789 / sifencing.com