For Tim Morehouse, the founder and owner of his own fencing club, the sport first appealed to him when he was a teenager. Raised in Washington Heights and Riverdale, he took up fencing after he saw a sign posted at his school, Riverdale Country School. The message: Join the fencing team. Get out of gym.
He did, and he wound up winning the silver medal in the men's sabre as a member of the fencing team at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
He's actually been to the Olympics three times. But now he can be found at his Tim Morehouse Fencing Club.
“I didn't even know what fencing was when I was a kid,” said Morehouse, 38. “It was sword fighting. I was just having fun with it, but then I started figuring out just how complex it was, not like in the movies, but way more strategies and techniques.”
Even after 25 years Morehouse says he's still learning. He explained how the details matter so much. It might be an ever so slight positioning of the blade, and moving a little bit down can be more effective. In fencing one is always sending signals, he said, and when you're going to execute a move, you want your opponent to think you're doing the opposite.
There are infinite number of subtleties in the sport, which he said is often compared to chess because there are a lot of different moves that work together. And there are many types of games, there's “more aggressive forward, there's more patient reading, there's going with more blocking, there's going with more counter attack,” to name a few.
It's in the classroom where Morehouse's love of the Olympics and fencing education come together, he said. Last year, Morehouse, who is the founder of Fencing in the Schools, established his own school for fencing on West 91st Street. His goal, he said, is to create one of the best fencing clubs in the world. “I want the next Olympic fencing champion coming from here,” he said.
Currently, there are about 150 students training at his club, including fencers gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. About 40 of his students are 12 and younger. The 4-6 year olds are called Musketeers. Several older students last month were traveling around the country for competitions in Puerto Rico, Detroit and New Jersey.
Can he identify future Olympic contenders at his club yet? “It really starts with the mind,” he answered. “One can already see the kid, if they have focus, if they have drive, if they're able to handle learning and dealing with mistakes – and not getting down about it. You have to go after it for years and years and years.”
Winning at the Olympics was a validation for Morehouse. The victory came, he said, after “years and years and years and thousands and thousands of hours of work.”
“There was a moment I had a referee who was not giving me any of the points and instead of getting down about it I just celebrated the fact that I was executing correctly,” he said. “And that's when you realize you're not going to score every point but if you're executing correctly, you have to sort of celebrate that. Doing the right thing over and over again will ultimately win out in the long term.”
Morehouse and his coaches spend a portion of every day talking about the mindset of the students, he said.
“You'll hear us talking about how champions don't cut corners, champions love challenges, champions have a plan, champions are intentional, and to become a champion you have to be able to train like one and think like one,” he said. “That's what we try to instill in the lives of the kids.”
Morehouse continues, “Everyone loves winning, everyone can handle winning, but champions are able to handle losing and turning it into something productive. I think that's one of the most important lessons we teach our kids here.”
At the end of an interview, Morehouse extended his left hand for a handshake – because in the fencing tradition, it's considered discourteous to use the weapon hand.