En garde

En garde

A talented young fencer isn’t someone you run into everyday. Meeting two at once is even less common. But visit the Hauptman household in Ridgewood and you’ll find two of them living under the same roof.

By all account, 1′-year-old twins Wesley and Emily have quickly become — under the tutelage of longtime fencing instructor Frank Carnevale at the YJCC in Washington Township — two of the best young fencers in northern New Jersey.

Emily and Wesley Hauptman

Wesley started fencing when he was in fourth grade; Emily started a year later. A family friend introduced them to the sport, which Emily says is "better than fun," comparing the strategy of fencing to "human chess." Both fencers love the tactical aspect of the sport, especially as they try to counter the lunges of their opponents. Accordingly, they display great respect for the artistic and dignified aspects of fencing, placing a premium on sportsmanship over cheap tricks.

And they are not all talk. When given the chance, the two duelers can showcase their sword-fighting skills in a competitive arena. On Dec. ‘3, the Hauptman twins entered a Bergen Fencing Club tournament in Upper Saddle River, where they competed against other fifth- to seventh-graders. The odds were somewhat stacked against them, since they trained about once a week, while most of their opponents participated in daily training sessions. Nevertheless, Emily placed third among the girls, while Wesley finished seventh in a significantly larger field of boys. And not only did they perform splendidly, but they also did it while honoring the roots of the sport, using traditional equipment and techniques.

Now in seventh grade, they continue to train each week with Carnevale, in a class with about 10 other middle school students. And, they say, they are developing additional skills.

For example, they report, when they watch movies with sword-fighting, they can’t help but analyze the techniques of the actors. Who is the best? Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" is the unanimous choice.

And even though the equipment can be stiflingly hot, and sword hits can hurt, these two do not plan to slow down. "We want to keep fencing as long as we possibly can," says Wesley.

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