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Kids were on point at Staten Island Fencing Center's 'open house'

Updated: Jan. 03, 2019, 11:46 a.m. | Published: Jun. 19, 2016, 12:05 p.m.

Kids were on point at Staten Island Fencing Center's 'open house'


By Stephen Hart |

For more about four decades now, if there's a question about the sport of fencing, Staten Islanders have immediately turned to one person for the answer: S.I. Fencing Center founder Steve Khinoy.

During his many years as both an active fencer and as an internationally accredited instructor, Khinoy -- who built the fencing programs at several schools, including Tottenville and McKee/S.I. Tech and the College of Staten Island -- has basically seen it all.


That's why the SIFC's annual Summer Camp for youngsters is something near and dear to his heart.


"It keeps me completely fresh," said Khinoy, who conducted an "open house" for interested parties of all ages Saturday at the SIFC's new headquarters, located at 101 Ellis Street in Pleasant Plains.


While Saturday's event welcomed adults, it was primarily geared toward those younger who may be interested in enrolling in one of the camp's age-division programs -- from Mini-Musketeers (ages 5-8) to Beginner/Intermediate (pre-high school age) to High School Competition Prep.


The Beginner/Intermediate Camp will run from July 11-15; the HS Competition Prep from July 18-22; and the Mini-Musketeers Camp will run from July 25-29. Camp sessions will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.


The SIFC has also just started a six-week High School Evening Training Camp, which will run from July 6 to Aug. 12, with sessions that last from 7 to 9 p.m.


While instructing teens presents its own set of challenges, teaching the sport to those barely in grammar school is unique.


"Every kid that comes in has a different attention span, coordination, physical ability and emotional maturity," said Khinoy, who has produced a national team champion, an NCAA All-America, 3 PSAL champions, a CUNYAC team championship, and two state champion high school teams.


"You take them exactly as they are, and every kid is completely different."


Christina Ante of Dongan Hills brought along 5 1/2-year-old son Michael, who has been a SIFC member since January.


"He loves it," said his mom, who cited films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Zorro as Michael's inspirations. "It's really helped him with his footwork."


The benefits of fencing have also been seen by Natalie Burkley of Annadale, whose 6-year-old daughter Maddie is already a SIFC member.


"She wanted to be a knight, so she picked fencing," Natalie said with a smile. "She loves it. She used to do fencing with one of those video games, but then she said she wanted to do it for real. Her attention skills have improved, along with her physical coordination and footwork."


Newcomers enticed by the "open house" included Allen Gindler of Woodrow and his 7-year-old daughter Naomi, who surprised Khinoy and fellow instructors Liam Daretany and Jenna Gyimesi, the latter a former Advance All-Star fencer with Tottenville.


"Maybe it's in the genes," Allen said of Naomi's performance, as her grandfather was a champion fencer in Ukraine.


For more information about the SIFC, call 718-605-6789 or email•

Staten Island Fencing Club finally has a home to call its own

Updated: Jan. 03, 2019, 9:15 p.m. | Published: Dec. 09, 2010, 8:16 p.m.


By Stephen Hart |


CHARLESTON -- If you don't believe nomadic tribes still exist, then you don't know the history of the Staten Island Fencing Club.


During the club's 30 years, its members have zigzagged all across the borough in search of a place to don the lame' and take to the strip – from a church basement and a now-defunct health club to a grammar school gym and a college cafeteria, and several other stops in between.


But the quest for stability may finally be at hand.


"We finally have a home," beamed club founder and instructor Steve Khinoy, referring to the Staten Island Fencing Center, located in the Taranto Plaza at 4295 Arthur Kill Road. "Hopefully, we make it work, and we're here for the foreseeable future.


"From the time I came to Staten Island in 1978, this has been my dream," added Khinoy, the retired College of Staten Island professor and current McKee/Staten Island Tech fencing coach. "I just needed someone like Susan, someone with the same vision, to help accomplish this – along with all the club's senior members, who have been so supportive."


The Susan in question is Susan Monardo, who took over the mantle of club president about a decade ago so that Khinoy – a fencer since his college days at Harvard and Johns Hopkins – could concentrate on his role as instructor.


Like Khinoy, Ms. Monardo is "very excited to have a place to call our own for the first time."


"We started renovation in April and opened in the beginning of June," said Ms. Monardo of the center, which takes up much of the building's first floor. "It's customized for fencing. The floor is newly built; there's a changing room; and a pro shop/armory where we can fix and build blades."


Ms. Monardo, who also doubles as instructor for the club's youth fencers, approximates that volunteers – made up primarily of club members – put in about $20,000 worth of labor into the facelift.


"It was a tremendous volunteer effort, and it's a tremendous facility dedicated to the fencer," added Khinoy, whose wife, Barbara, lends her fix-it talents to the armory. Khinoy also cited the handiwork of Byron Igoe – father of nationally ranked sabre fencer Ben Igoe of New Brighton – who designed the floor among many contributions.


"I think it's terrific," said Dave Setlow of Willowbrook, a member for seven years. "It's big, spacious and has lots of light. There are three strips and one practice strip. It's exactly what we want."


The patrons (about 30 members and 20 non-member regulars) are certainly happy with the new digs. But for most of them, as they've proved in the past, they'll fence anywhere.


For many, the uniqueness of the sport is a major drawing card.


Thirteen-year-old Frederica Bruno of Dongan Hills has already been fencing for six years. "It's such a neat sport and it's so different," said the St. John Villa Academy eighth grader. "Once you do it, you can't back down. It's an individual sport, not a team sport, so it's all on you."


When he was 7 years old, Thomas Murray saw an ad for the club. Four years later, the Oakwood resident has won numerous trophies and medals in foil competitions.


"When you're in second grade, you usually don't get the opportunity to use a sword," smiled Murray. "For someone that age, it was something really new, the idea of swordfighting.


"Fencing sharpens your mental ability – you have to think of what your opponent is going to do next – and you have to be fast on your feet. It's a really fun thing." And for his mother, Karen Murray, fencing has an economic appeal.


"It's a misconception that this is an expensive sport. You might need a new weapon every so often, and that's only about $40," she said. "It's reasonable. I've heard from hockey parents that they pay about five times as much."


According to Ms. Monardo, "for between $265-$285, you'll have everything you need to fence. And the first visit comes with a free lesson, and we loan the equipment for beginner classes."


Once you're ready to commit, membership cost is $400 for the year, which includes numerous extras including discounts on equipment, equipment repairs and private lessons.


That investment could pay off not only in enjoyment but in a possible college scholarship for some of the club's teen members.


"I'm looking at Rutgers, Penn State, Sacred Heart and UMass," said 17-year-old Evan Arbeitman of Rossville, who – after only three years with the sport – recently finished second in the PSAL city individuals in the epee competition representing Tottenville HS.


Tottenville resident Seika Robinson became interested in the sport after talking with LaGuardia High School fencers. The 16-year-old junior is now a LaGuardia starting fencer who is looking into colleges with fencing programs.


"I hadn't really heard of it before. But it's fast-paced and interesting," said the foil fencer, who now finds herself trying to recruit classmates for the team. For the 54-year-old Setlow, however, fencing represents the past – not the future.


"It's sort of like living out a fantasy," said Setlow, who, like many, are fans of swordfighting movies. "It's as close to it as I'll get."


But for the 69-year-old Khinoy – who'll return to competitive fencing next July at the USA National Fencing Championships in Reno, Nev., in the 70-plus age division – the fantasy of a permanent home for the club is now a reality.•


the art of fencing gains new life in Charleston center

By Jessica Jones-Gorman


It’s one of the oldest sports in existence, born thousands of years ago with the very first armed combat duel. And despite its long history as a skill used in times of war and an aristocratic form of battle with shield, sword, spear, or axe, the art of fencing is often considered old fashioned or even obsolete. But in a smallish studio on Winant Place in Charleston,

the sport is gaining new life.


“The Staten Island Fencing Center (SIFC) has been in existence for 34 years, and was started by Steven Khinoy who has a long history in both competition and teaching the sport,” noted David Setlow, board member and club secretary for SIFC, which welcomes all ages and skill levels.


Khinoy, who has coached fencing for over 30 years at the club, high school, and college levels—founding successful fencing programs at three high schools and a college, in addition to the SIFC—has trained a US Fencing Association National Champion, an NCAA All-American, a PSAL individual champion, and an NCAA conference individual silver medalist. He is also the publisher of SwordPlay Books and has been chairman of the Metro-NY Division of the US Fencing Association, member of the USFA Board of Directors and is a co-founder and active member of the US Fencing Hall of Fame. Now, together with youth coach Susan Monardo (an experienced fencer and teacher herself ), he is bringing the activity back to the borough.


“The SIFC offers classes in foil, épée, and saber for the local schools and for our own members,” Setlow said. “We have open fencing for anyone who wants to come down and do a match with others, and we also hold fencing competitions and are a member of the USFA, the national organization for American fencing.”


The group, which currently has between 30 and 40 fulltime members and offers programs for both youth and adult groups, has grown out of various locations; it’s moved from a cafeteria space at Staten Island University Hospital to the CYO Center at Mount Loretto and a small studio off New Dorp Lane, and has just recently moved to its current home right next to DeMarco’s Boxing Gym.


“Our Mini Musketeers begin at five-years-old and our youth classes extend to teens and high-schoolers,” Setlow said. “We also offer summer camps and private, independent lessons.”


Average classes are about an hour long, and include basic training on footwork, technique, and weapon education. Some cardiovascular exercises and practice bouts and matches are included in each lesson.


“We feature open fencing most days of the week, when both our kids and members have matches,” Setlow said. “Many high school students come to train with us in preparation for the PSAL season, and since fencing is an NCAA and Olympic sport, there are a number of national competitions and championships for which to train.”


Setlow, who himself participates in classes several times a week, became interested in the sport at the urging of his wife.


“I have been a member since 2004, when both my daughter and I took an eight-week introduction course and then both became members,” he said. “My daughter went on to join her high school team and was a member for her four years in that school. In her last two years, she became team captain and led them to their first playoffs in years. I still fence every week and am a member of the board of the club.”


The entire experience Setlow described as “life-changing.”


“So many people do not know that this sport and this club even exists,” he explained. “And for me, it has been such a wonderful and transformative process. It’s a beautiful and challenging sport—one that’s really gaining interest here in Staten Island.” •

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