It may seems counterintuitive, but according to insurance companies, fencing is one of the safest sports in the world. That's right, give two people swords--well, technically speaking, foils--let them wack at each other and rarely will anyone get hurt.

"It's really a mental sport," explains Rocky Beach, the assistant coach and manager at the Fencing Center. Beach explains that fencing (they teach both the Olympic foil, saber fencing, and the theatrical style) is a sport that demands as much mental agility as physical bravado. "You're constantly trying to outsmart your opponent," he says. "It's fast as a video game," he adds, "but instead of watching that little guy [on the screen], you are the little guy."

The head coach at the center has an impressive resume. Trained in the French Foreign Legion, he's gone on to coach 17 junior national champions and several Olympians. But don't be daunted--the center welcomes everyone who wants to give fencing a try.

"Everyone here are really nice people," assures Beach, "except that they like to poke people." PB

Fencing Center Salle Trois Armes, 8517 N Lombard, 285-2962, M-F, open after 5 pm or by appointment, four introductory lessons for $60