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Fencing instructor continues tradition at Mills

Harold Hayes began fencing as an undergraduate student at Stanford University in 1966, when he joined the school’s Tuesday Evening Fencing Club. He studied the sport for over a year before perfecting his knowledge of not only how to use the weapons involved in fencing, but also how to train the neuromuscular systems required for becoming an expert.

(Eden Sugay)
(Eden Sugay)

Hayes obtained his bachelor’s degree at Stanford University, where he studied philosophy. He then went on to the UC Santa Cruz School Of Consciousness, where he attained a Master of Arts in Medical Philosophy and Cognition and Personality. When Hayes completed his cognitive studies, he went on to learn more about the art of sword fighting. He attended both the Selberg Academy of Arms and the International Academy of Arms, where he transformed himself into an expert in the art of sword fighting. The International Academy of Arms, the official governing body over fencing, determined that Hayes is an expert in fencing. As an expert, Hayes’ title is Maitre D’Arms, making his official title Maestro Hayes.

The movements involved with fencing look and feel similar to dancing. When Hayes was asked if he had also studied dance, he said, “I think have the ability, but I haven’t ever performed. I’ve taken dance classes. I’m taking a flamenco class now and I’ve taken ballet classes before. I enjoy dance a great deal, but I haven’t crossed the threshold into performing.”

It is not mere coincidence that Harold Hayes has been teaching at Mills College since 1992.

“Mills has a history of fencing from Helene Mayer, one of the greatest fencers to have ever lived, studied at Mills,” Hayes said.

Helene Mayer, who is considered by Sports Illustrated to be one of the top 100 female athletes of the twentieth century, attended Mills College.  The first time Hayes visited Mills College in 1967, he saw an exhibition of famed Hungarian fencing master and Mills professor Ferenc Marki. Marki trained at the  Toldi Miklos Royal Hungarian Sports Institute to become a fencing master.

When I asked Hayes what it would take to build a good fencing team, he said it would take interested students who want to learn and perform well, just like in any other sport, along with an equally dedicated coach.

The students in Hayes’ introductory fencing class here at Mills come away from Hayes’ class with a great deal of knowledge.

“Maestro Hayes is highly knowledgeable in the sport and in the history of fencing,” senior and first-time fencer Lauren Kong said. “There are more details in fencing, for example footwork, hand positions, sword angularity, than I first anticipated.”

Hayes believes that people should bring the patience to learn detail to class. Although fencing is not a particularly athletic sport, it is a very detailed sport that takes a large amount of patience to learn to do well. According to Hayes, some people who weren’t particularly athletic advance from beginning fencing levels to become great fencers because they learned to pay attention to detail.

“I didn’t know anything about fencing when I first joined,” Kong said. “Who knew learning how to walk properly in fencing took so long! But it’s worth it. There’s a lot of leg work involved. My legs are getting a good workout. I would not be opposed to practice fencing after the semester is over.”

Hayes inspires dedication and focus in his students. When Hayes is not teaching fencing classes at Mills College, he can be found at the Pacific Fencing Club in Alameda, where he is both owner and instructor. For more information about fencing at Mills, contact the Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (APER) Department.