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Sword Fighting with an Olympic Gold Medalist: Edmonton Fencing Club

Fencing, or sword fighting, will be one of the lesser-known sports showcased at the Rio 2016 Olympics. But at Edmonton Fencing Club, it’s all the rage. A Square seller, the club has been offering lessons in the sport for over 85 years and is proud to feature Olympic gold medalist Jujie Luan as head coach.

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Jujie, a four-time Olympian, won a gold medal for her native China in 1984. It was the country’s first fencing medal, and they celebrated by placing her picture on a postage stamp. Jujie competed in her last Olympics at age 50 in Beijing in 2008. At Edmonton Fencing Club, Jujie — now an eight-time national Canadian fencing champion — has trained athletes who have gone on to compete at the provincial, the national and even the Olympic level.

“Jujie came to Edmonton for the 1983 University Games,” explains Edmonton Fencing Club’s program coordinator Isaac Hansen. “She loved the city and the people, which motivated her to return.” Jujie came back in 1989 to study English and French at the University of Alberta, and to coach fencing. Eventually she went to work for Edmonton Fencing Club and has been there for the last 27 years. “She’s an amazing coach,” says Isaac. “We are lucky to have her.”

Edmonton Fencing Club was started by volunteers and enthusiasts in 1930. At the time, the sport of fencing was virtually nonexistent, but the founding members’ enthusiasm was contagious, and the numbers of students grew steadily until the club needed a new, larger facility in 1982.

“People usually get into fencing through a general curiosity about sword fighting. However, we do run open houses and promotional events to increase our exposure,” says Isaac. “You need to learn a lot of technical skills, overcome some complicated rules and acquire a willingness to sweat.” His other tip is to consider whether you want to fence competitively or not. There are fencing competitions for all age groups, and how much time you are willing to commit affects how well you will do at these competitions.

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Isaac and his team are expecting the Rio 2016 Olympics to expand interest their sport. “We usually experience an increase in interest after the Olympics,” he says. “People often don’t realize that it’s a viable option for recreation or competition, but the Olympics demonstrates that it can be both.”

Edmonton Fencing Club has turned to Square to give the club administrative staff more time to focus on fencing and less time fighting piles of paperwork. “We use Square to help with everything from our online store to class registration,” says Isaac. “It’s helped us reduce the usage of paper and cash, making things in the office more efficient and environmentally friendly. The convenience and functionality make it well worth the price.”