November 12, 1999

Fine points

KU professor Marvin Fine stays on cutting edge of sport

By Mary Jane Dunlap

In the classroom, KU educational psychology professor Marvin Fine is known for a rapier wit, clever ripostes and verbal parries.

Outside the classroom, Fine, 64, parries with a saber. In 2001, Fine, who has dual U.S. citizenship, will represent Canada in the Commonwealth Games Veterans Fencing Championship in Cardiff, Wales.

In August, Fine won third place in the Veterans Fencing World Championships in Siofok, Hungary. In August 1998, Fine won two silver medals at the Nike World Masters Games in Portland, Ore. He also has consulted as a sports psychologist with the National USA Wheelchair Fencing Team in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Five years ago at 59, Fine made two discoveries. The first was that running and racquetball were becoming less appealing as he moved into his 60s. Older athletes are constantly having to adapt to some physical limitation, Fine says. "Stuff goes physically, and it's a challenge to adapt to what you still can do." His second discovery was that fencing was his game.

"There is something very exciting in being in one-on-one combat." Sparks literally can fly from clashing sabers in some matches, he says. It is the strategy of the historic art, however, that sparks Fine's interest.

"Once you reach a certain level of proficiency physically, the game involves a lot of mental strategy. In one-on-one combat, psyching out your opponent - figuring out weaknesses and controlling the tempo - is important," Fine says. He describes fencing as a quick, high-energy aerobic activity in which balance, dexterity and speed are necessary to sustain fencers in tournaments.

"At age 64, I'm pretty physically fit and to be able to compete internationally at this level is a kick. A number of the European fencers are ex-Olympians or national champions. It does wonders for me psychologically," Fine says of the exhilaration of fencing a tough bout.

What about losing? Fine mocks a sad face and says that after the initial disappointment and maybe some anger about his mistakes, "in fencing you learn about your own weaknesses." He treats losses as a learning experience. "That's what I love about it, I'm still learning!"

Fine enrolled in a fencing class at KU at the suggestion of a friend who enjoyed it. Through the course, he met and trained with Vladimir Nazlymov, a Kansas City-area fencing coach and a former Russian Olympian, who was a national coach of the U.S. men's saber team. Nazlymov has since moved to Ohio State University to coach.

Fine works out with the KU Fencing Club, which meets at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday in Robinson Center, and with the Kansas City Fencing Club, which meets weekly in Johnson County. For now, he's training for the North American Cup tournament Dec. 11 and 12 in Palm Springs, Calif.

There's more to Fine than fencing, by the way.

This fall his classes include courses in School Consultation and Therapeutic Intervention: Home and School. He has two new books in press this year - Collaboration with Parents of Children and Adolescents with Special Needs, co-edited with Richard Simpson, professor of special education; and 3rd Handbook on Parent Education, co-edited with Steve Lee, associate professor of psychology and research.

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