Vivo Fencer Profile: Mike Culler
How did you get interested in fencing?
I followed my son, Mitchell, into fencing. He started lessons when he was nine years old. I knew nothing about competitive fencing. (Wait, he got a red light. Is that bad? Why is the other guy’s light green?) After learning to actually follow the sport, and in the market for some exercise, I gave fencing a try. Most importantly, it was something Mitchell and I could do together. I started the adult beginner class when Mitchell was 13 (he’s now a junior and on the fencing team at Penn State).
What got you hooked?
Fencing is a sport in which there is always more to master. It requires patience and practice, but it is a real sense of accomplishment to look back at what you’ve learned and see results. Besides the physical aspects, you have a major mental component . . . strategy, logic, psychology . . . I once heard fencing aptly described as “chess at 300 miles per hour.”
What do you like about competing?
First, it’s fun. It adds goals and purpose to the training and practice. You can use the competitions to gauge your progress. Two years ago, I was lucky if I scored one touch on that person, last year we tied, this year I consistently win! And, it’s great to be greeted with hugs from friends from all over New England and the rest of the country (and world, really) . . . mortal enemies on the strip, tight friends when you step off.
What would you say to other adults/parents who are interested?
I talk to a lot of adults who say that they could “never learn to do that,” or that they’re “too old to start.” My advice is to try it. It’s always fun to learn a new activity, and I was already over 50 when I took my first lesson. It’s a fantastic sport that has something special to offer for all age and skill levels. Remember, if your child is good at it, there might be a gene they inherited that you weren’t aware of!