Kitsap Fencing promotes safe martial arts

A Port Orchard resident is using his lifelong love of martial arts and search for a safer alternative to teach those in and around Kitsap County fencing.

Kitsap Fencing LLC, in the Towne Square Mall, recently hosted an open beginners practice, where participants learned some basic techniques and a little bit of history. Leading the practice was Brian McLaughlin, a former military man who has participated in martial arts for years, but sustained a number of traumatic brain injuries.

“When you spar, sometimes you start to rack up those TBI’s, so I had to get out of it,” he said.

Despite the injuries, McLaughlin wanted to find a martial art that maintained the safety of its athletes while still offering a challenge. Fencing used to be one of the most dangerous martial arts in the world, and while every sport does come with the risk of injury, the sport today became a perfect fit. It came with a low risk of concussions and a rapid rate of recovery.

“I love doing it,” he said. “It’s a very safe sport, and another thing that’s really cool about it is that you get right into weapons — unlike a lot of martial arts.”

Participants learned basic attacks and parries with the swords and also learned basic footwork. Along with the swords, participants were provided the protective gear to give them as much of an immersive experience as possible.

Plastic swords were provided for younger fencers. McLaughlin was happy to see interest from youth and encouraged them to join, but not to forget about the other sports available to them.

“I’m really big into not specializing early on” on any one sport, he said. “A lot of people like to specialize their kids in sports early on. I say have them do three sports — one of them being fencing.”

McLaughlin said that he’s proud to be a part of a martial art that can be for so many people, regardless of age or skill set. “I literally can compete in fencing until I’m 70 years old and beyond that, and there are people that do so,” he said.