INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.. - Linda Dunn earns medals for jabbing people with a metal stick. Her metal stick of choice? The saber, a light fencing sword with a tapering, flexible blade and a guard covering the hand. The Defense Contract Management Agency Indianapolis information technology specialist is a world-class fencer.
In Dunn’s hands, the saber becomes an extension of her psyche. “It’s a great stress reliever but it’s also a sport that requires a high degree of mental involvement, so I’m exercising my mind as well as my body,” she said.
Saber fencers wear masks and jackets made of conductive material. Any touch of the blade on the fencer’s jacket or mask registers a valid touch. The goal is to hit the opponent and not get hit. The fencer who outscores the opponent in touches wins that bout.
Behind her mask, Dunn exercises an iron will as she thrusts, parries and slashes her way through competition bouts in this very fast-moving sport, which is sometimes difficult for spectators to follow.
Even though she has fenced all three weapons (foil, épée and saber) used in fencing competitions, she considers the saber her primary weapon, and the only one in which she considers herself proficient.
Dunn, a first-time Veteran World Team member, recently claimed the silver medal in the women’s age 60-69 competition at her first international competition in Krems, Austria. And, during the last several years, Dunn has earned a medal at every national competition in which she has competed in the women’s age 50-59 Saber Veteran category.
Her opponents get the point as she skillfully executes footwork and blade work sharply honed through a rigorous training regimen. Dunn trains at a local saber fencing club three to four times a week after work and on Saturdays. In addition, she has one to two lessons per week with a saber coach and does Pilates, strength training and aerobic exercise at the local gym.
Dunn began fencing about seven years ago.
“I’d always wanted to learn to fence,” she said. “My son pointed out a webpage for a local club where I could learn.”
Dunn chose the saber because the coach teaching the class was a saber fencer. “I started with that and, when I tried the other weapons, I felt I was better suited to saber.”
Her original intent was to learn the sport and fence about once a month. Then she began competing about six months after she started fencing when the local club had a competition.
“I was terrible and finished badly,” Dunn admitted. After that first competition, however, she was hooked and continued competing in local and national competitions.
In 2012, Dunn moved to the international level after being selected as a Team USA member to compete in the women’s age 60-69 saber fencing competition at the Veteran World Championships.
“Most of the countries have only one qualifying event but the U.S. has three, with the best two out of three results determining the composition of the team,” she said. Dunn finished 3rd in the December 2011 North American Cup, 2nd in the March 2012 NAC and 2nd in the 2012 Summer National Championships.
Dunn says fencing helps her to be more focused and also feel less stressed whether she’s at her DCMA job providing desktop computer support or at a competition using her saber to draw her opponent into an attack.
“I am better able to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand,” she said. “It’s great for stress elimination.”
This skill comes in handy as Dunn stays busy solving desktop computer issues for DCMA employees.
“Linda is a great IT (information technology) person,” said Army Lt. Col. Todd Spencer, DCMA Indianapolis commander. “Even though she’s very busy, she is always very responsive in fixing our IT problems. Linda is a tireless and devoted employee who supports multiple DCMA CMOs (contract management offices) and office locations.”
Dunn keeps on fencing because it continues to be a challenging sport. “I started an exercise program in 2000. Once I met my weight goals, I found it incredibly boring. Fencing gives me goals and motivations toward keeping myself healthy and active."