Eric Momberg, 26, took up fencing after an acquaintance made a casual reference to it, and he was soon hooked. While taking classes, Momberg met a World Cup coach and former Olympic fencer, who inspired him to pursue the sport more seriously. He moved from Reno to Roseville, Calif., for a couple years to study. Since then, his career has taken him to the Fencing World Cup in Copenhagen, Denmark, then back to Reno, where he teaches fencing classes. For information about classes, call High Desert Fencing at 815-7999. For information about Reno’s Silver Blades Fencing Club, visit www.renosilverblades.org or call 337-8449.
How did you get into fencing?
I was an extra in a B movie that had nothing to do with fencing, and the guy that I was in this random scene with, where we were supposed to be running away from an alien space ship, he and I were sitting there waiting to get filmed, and I said, “So, what do you do when you’re not running from alien space ships?” And he said, “I fence.” So that was kind of it. I asked him, “Where would I take a class,” and he told me, and I never saw him again, and I started taking classes and never stopped.
Where did fencing begin?
It came from sword fighting, from dueling. There’s three different weapons, and they have different origins, but it mostly came from dueling and from general sword fighting. They needed a way to teach soldiers a way to handle a sword in a relatively quick fashion, so they developed various systems. Different countries had different systems. The two major styles, as far as who was taking it forward, back in the day, the Italians and the French had the two rival schools. But there are pictures of people practicing sword fighting with sticks as far back as Egypt.
How many fencers are there in Reno?
There’s probably about 40 of us, as far as people who fence regularly, and then as far as people taking classes, there’s probably another 150 or so.
Where do you teach?
I teach in some of the schools. I’m in some of the after-school programs, the 21st Century Program, [which] is the Washoe County outreach. I do a little bit of that, I’m at Sage Ridge and Brookfield, and some of the home-school co-ops.
Are your students mostly kids?
During the day, they’re kids—I teach school classes during the day—and then at night, I give competitive lessons until 9 or 10 or whenever it’s over. My youngest competitor just turned 10, and my oldest is somewhere in his 50s. My very youngest student is 7.
What’s the first thing you learn when you take a fencing class?
You spend a good amount of time learning how to use your feet. That’s the first step. When you’re taking a group class, the first couple of days, we just work on feet. When I’m giving lessons, I spend a lot of time on learning how to use their feet. Fencing, especially the modern game, is 70 percent feet.
Is that all about stability?
It’s about stability, it’s about being able to change direction, and, I always tell my students, “You can’t hit what you can’t catch.”
Is fencing dangerous?
Does anyone ever get hurt?