Fencing Class Turns into Family

Fencing Class is led by Romanian 5-time National Champion Peter Habala inside the Alfred Rubin Community Center, run by the Naperville Park District.

The coach: Peter Habala

Peter Habala is perhaps a little overqualified. An instructor for the Naperville Park District’s Fencing program, the Romanian native is a 5-time national champion.

Peter: I was 6 or 7 years old – it took a lot of practice, it took a lot of sacrifices and discipline to get to where I got.

Now the owner of his own club, RedStar Fencing Club Chicago, it’s his turn impart his experience on local fencers here in Naperville.

John: We have a good coach, he’s a five-time master from Romania. He runs an excellent program. It’s attracting lots of people and it’s growing. I think there’s usually 20 people here.

The fencers

John Jeambey is just one of around 20 people who come weekly to Habala’s class. At 64 years old, he now has nearly four decades of fencing experience under his own belt.

John: It’s both very physical, you get good exercise, good workout, which we need… and it’s very mental. It’s like a chess game. You got to figure out your opponent; he’s got certain habits and skills, and you have certain habits and skills and you’ve got to find a weakness.

Peter: It can be a lifetime activity for anybody who joins the fencing program. Kids can learn a lot about discipline and etiquette, which will form them into the people that they’re going to be in the future.

And that is perhaps what makes this class unique. The blend of backgrounds of its participants.

The friends

Evelyn: Pretty easy and simple to pick up on. As you pick up on it you can develop the skill, doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, anyone can do it.

At 15 years old, Evelyn Krupicka already plans on continuing on in college. But she wouldn’t be here unless she and her sister stumbled upon the class in the park district’s catalog. About as random as how 13 year old Jacob Xu found the sport.

Jacob: I was in fourth grade, I was watching TV and it just came up somewhere and I was interested by it so I looked into and now I’m here.

Both Jacob and Evelyn have already been fencing for four years, experiencing it’s unique blend of physical and mental components, as well as different ages and backgrounds.

Peter: [The class] brings generations together and the adults can help and guide young fencers. And at the same time, young fencers if they’re really good, they can actually be better fencers than the adults because of their technical or tactical or physical abilities.

And the break from a generational divide shows up, not just in class, but outside the walls of the Alfred Rubin Community Center.

John: [The class] brings generations together and the adults can help and guide young fencers. And at the same time, young fencers if they’re really good, they can actually be better fencers than the adults because of their technical or tactical or physical abilities.

Evelyn: We all pretty much know each other and are friends with each other so it’s always good to see them every week.

And if you want to know why Peter Habala continues to lead the class despite his glowing credentials… that is why. Because it’s no longer teacher and student, it’s friend to friend.

For more community sports features, check out our Sports Story Sunday page.

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