In an unassuming space on West Temple, international flags line the walls, classical music blasts from a stereo, and children spend the afternoon engaged in epic sword fights.

Utah Swords Academy teaches people of all ages and skill levels the art of this fascinating sport. They offer classes for child and adult beginners, competition opportunities and private coaching. They even have an adaptive fencing program for wheelchair-bound athletes.

Carli Call, an administrative assistant at Utah Swords Academy, says fencing is not necessarily about being the tallest, fastest or strongest. “They call it physical chess,” she said. “The sport is based a lot on thinking, preparing and adapting.” Though fencing doesn’t exactly resemble the swashbuckling fights in Hollywood classics, Call says the adrenaline rush is similar. “That basic spirit of getting to swing a sword around and go as fast as you can—that’s the truth.”

Steinn Portmann started at Utah Swords Academy when he was nine. Now, five years later, he competes internationally and practices five days a week. “It’s one of those sports where you fall in love with it as soon as you start,” he said. “You get out there and it feels so different. It’s so hands-on.”

Call admits the sport is unconventional—“People don’t even realize fencing is in the Valley.” But participants have found a unique community that fosters mutual respect, personal development and some friendly competition. Plus, the swords look cool as hell.

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