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Anyone Can Learn To Foil The Competition At Newtown’s Candlewood Fencing Center



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After a high school wrestling injury sidelined Matt Laudicina some of his friends on his high school fencing team suggested he try that unique sport.

“They convinced me to try it out,” Laudicina said of what would be a defining, career-shaping moment some 20-plus years ago.

Laudicina, who hails from Selden, N.Y., went on to compete for and coach at Sacred Heart University.

He served as the saber captain for three years and led the squad as a team captain his senior year. Laudicina went on to be SHU’s assistant fencing coach for nine years and currently coaches at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Closer to home, he is an owner and instructor at Candlewood Fencing Center. That training center recently relocated from Danbury to Newtown, and is now open at 31 Pecks Lane.

Along with Jeremy Goun, also an owner and instructor at Candlewood, Laudicina is sharing his knowledge of fencing with girls, boys, men, and women learning the art and strategy of fencing and, in the case of experienced fencers, building their skills.

“Any chance I can, I come in, suit up and get hit,” Laudicina said of putting on the mask and chest protector, and exchanging jabs with students training for competitive bouts.

Candlewood Fencing first opened in Danbury in 1996, and added a center in Norwalk in 2019.

Loving Newtown

Goun is excited about the relocation.

“I am ecstatic to be opening in Newtown. Over the years, about half of our fencers have been from Newtown and I like the town very much so I’ve been looking forward to moving here for some time,” said Goun — who like Laudicina is in his mid-30s.

“I’ve been coaching professionally since I was 18. Our staff is amazing, including the head coach of Yale, coaches from Vassar and Sacred Heart, an Olympian, and several NCAA All-Stars,” Goun said. “Personally, I’ve had several students from Newtown become Junior Olympians and one win a medal at National Championships.”

As a coach, Goun has trained under a multitude of Olympians and several National Team Coaches. He has taught fencing at Vassar, at the high school level, and has been the head of the Connecticut Division of United States Fencing for over five years.

One of the instructors there, Phil Brillant, a foil coach, has had a number of Nationally ranked students train under him, from youth fencers to college-bound seniors and everything in between.

“I absolutely love it. It’s like living the dream,” said Brillant, who fell in love with fencing as a high school freshman and went on to compete at New Jersey Institute of Technology, then serve as a fencing referee before getting into coaching.

How It Works

There are three types of weapons in fencing: Foil, saber and epee, and classes for beginners and advanced. A jacket is worn for electrical scoring.

Goun believes fencing is truly for almost any age.

“We offer classes for all ages starting at 4 years old and our oldest member is almost 80,” Goun said. “We group fencers by age so that they can learn in a fun environment. If we can make people love fencing, then we can make them good at it.”

Laudicina said one of his former students started while in his 50s and under similar reasons he did. A karate black belt, the man injured his shoulder eight years ago. “He wanted to try out fencing and he’s been hooked ever since,” Laudicina said.

“Fencing is wonderful for exercise for all ages, and particularly good for coordination and early development of motor skills. It definitely appeals to cerebral folks — folks that are looking for something apart from the usual team sports, and anyone who just thinks swords are cool,” Goun said. “The social element is the best, my staff are all friends of mine that I’ve made over my own fencing career. I grew up fencing with my business partner a nd traveling to tournaments together.”

“Besides the fun of doing it, it’s great people here,” said Redding’s Owen Fellows, who has been involved with fencing for five years, four with Candlewood.

For more information on Candlewood Fencing, visit candlewoodfencing.com.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Alexis Bienstock, left, trains with Candlewood Fencing Center Coach Phil Brillant at Candlewood’s new location at 31 Pecks Lane in Newtown. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Matt Laudicina, one of the owners at Candlewood Fencing, instructs students during an advanced class on April 9.
Owen Fellows, left, and Coach Phil Brillant practice strategy.
Alexis Bienstock, left, and Coach Phil Brillant work on technique.
Matt Laudicina looks on as fencing students work on their skills.—Bee Photos, Hutchison
Meetansh Dhote, left, and Owen Fellows practice their skills in an advanced class.
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