Is the pen mightier than the sword?

Published 10:37 am Monday, December 18, 2017

I recently started writing for the Oxford Eagle, and every day I sit back and think to myself, ‘I’m getting paid to do my dream job.’

With that said, one of my favorite parts of being a reporter is the opportunity to try new things. In a place like Oxford, there’s no shortage of activities, so I did a little digging.

My research brought me to Oxford Fencers Club, where this non-athletic reporter decided to put the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” to the test.

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Twice a week you can find John “Doc” Matthews, Sean Holmes and about 50 students practicing their craft, weapons in hand. Matthews, a Michigan native and former Ole Miss professor, started OFC in 2005 after purchasing a building that once housed a drive-through package store.

Behind every good studio is a great instructor, and OFC is no exception. Matthews, 70, began fencing in 1966, and his wall of medals and photos of students is a testament to his success. Sean Holmes, who also teaches at OFC and specializes in sabre, is a Marine veteran who started fencing as a child, while his father was stationed in Europe.

OFC attends competitions around the country, traveling as far as Atlanta and New Orleans. The two instructors also started a fencing P.E. class at Oxford Middle and High Schools.

While this two-hour crash-course didn’t give me the confidence to challenge my enemies to a duel, OFC definitely gets my seal of approval. It’s a great workout and the camaraderie there is evident. Even as a beginner (who had 11-year-olds parrying circles around her), they were genuinely interested in teaching me about the sport, and by the end of the lesson I felt like I’d made a few new friends.

As a fencing novice, I started out wielding a foam pool noodle. From there, Matthews explained the differences between foil, sabre and epée. He says fencing is one of the safest sports, and after seeing the protective garments (up to nine) fencers wear, I can believe that.

From there, I was ready to channel my inner swashbuckler, so Holmes taught me some footwork and a few moves. I’d like to say I gave the practice mannequin a run for his money, but in reality he escaped with a few scratches at most. Still, there’s something incredibly satisfying about fake-stabbing a dummy with a sabre.

So readers, here’s my charge to you. Where should I go next? Send me an email at, and your suggestion could be my next stop.