In 1874 Antonio DeCavero was a fencing master practicing in Galveston. In October of that year, he and his students staged an exhibition. The Galveston Daily News reported, “A very fair audience assembled last evening to witness the grand fencing exhibition given by Mr. Antonio DeCavero and the amateur swordsmen of the city. The gentlemen displayed considerable skill in the management of the foil, while Signor DeCavero handled the weapon in such a manner as to give convincing evidence of what he professes to be, a master of the art.”
Eleven months later, one of his students put his master’s teachings to the test. He and a gentleman from Austin, with whom there was some disagreement, took a Morgan steamship to Brashear City (now Morgan City), Louisiana and fought a duel with small swords. His opponent received a minor wound and honor was satisfied.
Galveston fencers of the 21st century have a less bloody way of testing their skill, in tournaments held according to the same rules and requirements as employed for fencing at the Olympic Games. Indeed, fencing has been a part of every modern summer Olympic Games since they began in 1896. Three weapons are fenced: foil, epee and sabre. Each has its own rules and conventions.
The Galveston Fencing Club will host the 8th annual Jean Laffite Classic fencing tournament on Saturday, September 28. It is one of three tournaments held each year by the club, which was organized in 1999 by Kenneth Shelton. Fencers as young as eight as well as those in their sixties will compete in various events.
In addition to holding tournaments, the Galveston Fencing Club’s mission is to provide instruction in fencing to beginners and to provide a venue for fencers to meet twice a week and enjoy crossing blades.
Class fees run $35.00 for five classes for non-members. Classes are free to members of the Galveston Fencing Club. Membership in the club is $40.00 per fencing year (August to July) for students and $80.00 per year for adults. Classes are free to students of the O’Connell and Holy Family schools.
The club meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings in the gym at the O’Connell School. Classes for students age 8-12 are held from 6:15- 7:15 PM. Classes for ages 13 through adult are held from 7:30-8:30 PM. Those with fencing experience are also welcome to join and enjoy two nights a week of fencing.