Meet Yury Gelman, Founder, Manhattan Fencing Center

Classes for Kids on Lower Manhattan

March 22, 2022

Yury, it’s an honor to interview you. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I'm the owner of Manhattan Fencing Center, President of the Yury Gelman Foundation, Head Coach of St. John’s University, Six Time Olympic Coach for the United States. I started coaching in Ukraine, honor coach of Ukraine and Head Coach of Ukraine National Team.

What made you decide to open Manhattan Fencing Center in 2007? What was the concept behind creating the company?

I needed a safe space to bring my knowledge and experience and to also create a training system I believed was missing in other places.

What is the ideal age group for a child to learn to fence? How are the classes structured?

Although fencing can be taught at any age, for those who are interested in competitions, the ideal age to start is between 7 and 13 years old. Classes consist of a warm-up, coordination and balance games, footwork, partner drills and open bouting.

How do you motivate young fencers to keep practicing?

As a youth fencer, the main goal is to enjoy yourself, and have fun. Once students get older and start to see that they are getting better and doing well in class and competitions, they start to understand what it takes to be successful and ask to train more themselves. After that point, their coaches become their second parents and their teammates become closest friends.

What is the difference between foil and saber? Do you prefer teaching one of them. Why?

Foil is a poking or thrusting weapon with the smallest target area of the chest area only. In saber, you can slash in addition to thrust and the target area includes everything waist and above including arms and head. I was taught all three weapons, but my weapon of choice is the saber. Saber is the most dynamic weapon, requires fast thinking and is very tactical.

Do you have a lot of girls enrolling in fencing or is the sport still dominated by boys?

When we first opened in 2007, we had almost 80% boys enrolled. In 2022, 60% are girls! Not only are there more girls, but many of them are also consistently making finals at Nationals and are some of the strongest fencers in the country.

How long does a fencing career last? A lot of notable fencers have been coached at Manhattan Fencing Center. What would you say is the secret behind that?

The great news about the sport of fencing is that you can do it your entire life. Students who start in their youth often fence until they are done with college and then restart again as adults or veteran fencers. Separate competitive age categories start once you turn 40 years old and there are World Championships from 50 to 80 years old.

It’s not easy to make champions. It takes a lot of passion, sacrifice and extra time spent training and working from all sides - coach, student and parents. Competitive fencing career on a high level could be up to 20-25 years.

Thank you so much for your time! Learn more about Manhattan Fencing Center's Day Camps HERE.

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