CHICAGO — Focus, fortitude, and family. The Bronzeville Fencing Academy is on a mission to introduce more Chicago children to the sport of fencing.
25-year-old Auset Muhammad is a competitive fencer.
“I am very competitive,” she said. “I love competing. … Being within the arena and you’re competing with other people of similar skills that love the sport just as much as you do, it’s something that’s really hard to explain.”
Her father Malcolm Muhammad introduced her to fencing as a small child after she excelled in martial arts.
“It’s a beautiful sport,” he said. “Of course when I asked her if she wanted to be involved in fencing, asked if she wanted to look at some clips, she thought we were going to go around the community and build fences.”
“I just saw it (and) I’m like, ‘Oh my God that’s so cool,’” Auset Muhammad said. “I decided I wanted to try it out. From there I guess the rest is history.”
She’s competed on the national stage and received a scholarship to Temple University.
And fencing has become a family affair.
Her brother is a certified fencing referee and her parents run the Bronzeville Fencing Academy. They are on a mission to bring fencing to more young people on Chicago’s South Side.
“I just want them to think out of the box. This is an out of the box endeavor,” Malcolm Muhammad said.
Auset Muhammad said fencing is more popular on the East Coast but when she was competing in the Midwest, she didn’t see many faces that looked like hers. She wants that to change.
“It’s really hard to try and see yourself within the fencing world if you’re one of one essentially,” she said.
“And it was tough but she had a good solid family,” Malcolm Muhammad said. “I was always there, every practice, every tournament. … Fencing became our thing as a family. And that was kind of the motivation and drive. Yes she’s the only black child out there many times. And of course she got some great receptions and sometimes she didn’t, but the bad receptions we use as motivation.”
The academy trains competitive athletes building endurance and discipline. They also work with CPS and the Chicago Park District to give kids access to the costly sport.
“Regardless of your background, economic, social, whatever, regardless of where you’re coming from when you walk through that door you’re considered family,” Auset Muhammad said.
They want them to channel their fears into fierce competition.
“It’s kind of like what I have on the wall when they come in and out every day,” Malcolm Muhammad said. “To overcome your fears. That’s my biggest objective. Fear can do a lot of things. Basically it stifles you.”
And Auset Muhammad is taking small steps towards her big dream. While she still serves as a coach at the academy she took some time away from competing and lived and worked in Philadelphia with one goal in mind: The 2028 Olympics
“That two years was really to work every day, every night, to make sure I had everything set up from a financial standpoint and support … So two years from now, I can be back on the strip, back in my whites competing full time (and) essentially enjoying the sport that I love,” she said.
“I look forward to her future. We’re just beginning,” Malcolm Muhammad said.