A Master Fencer’s Journey to BYU, Switzerland, the Olympics, and Beyond

Two fencers fencing

Mark Stasinos uses fencing to brighten the world. Whether it’s teaching at BYU, working on TV and film sets, getting involved with the Olympic Games, or learning about French culture, Mark has pretty much done it all with fencing.

Training and Fencing Abroad

Mark’s first interaction with fencing came when he was a young boy in Southern California —his chemical engineering neighbor happened to be a fencing master in saber.

As Mark continued to fence and build his repertoire, he was able to make it a career. 

From 1981 to 1992, he ran BYU’s fencing program. During the spring and summer of 1986, Mark took a break from BYU and traveled to Dornach, Switzerland, to perform in a theater production — Goethe’s Faust. 

When he wasn’t in the theater, he fenced at the Basler Fechtclub in Basel, Switzerland. He impressed the head coach and was invited to take the master’s exam to become a maître d’armes in foil, saber, and épée. He passed all three exams — becoming certified as a fencing master in all three weapons.

One of Mark’s favorite memories from training in Switzerland was one of his earliest. When he arrived at the Basler Fechtclub, the fencing master told Mark they would face each other in a 10-touch bout. Mark would pay to train in the club based on how many points he scored on the fencing master. 

Mark defeated him 10 to 2. 

The fencing master let Mark train for free, with the condition that he work and train with the Jr. Men’s Foil Fencers — two of whom were members of the Swiss national fencing team.

Mark says of that time, “All my practices were high energy, active, and intense. It was some of the best training, bouting, and development in my career.”

Mark’s passion for the sport comes out when he talks about it. 

“Fencing is a life-long sport,” he says.  “Anyone can fence. It is a sport of developing skills, confidence, courage, problem solving, planning and execution, personal management, and self-respect.”

Looking back at his time learning the sport, Mark remembers three instructors who made a tremendous impact on his training and career — Ed Richards, Michael D’saro, and Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner trained movie stars and choreographed fight scenes for films, too. So, while training with Faulkner, it wasn’t unusual for them to fence with stars like Tony Curtis and others on any given night.

Accomplishments and Career

Mark has made some incredible accomplishments throughout his career. Some of the highlights include winning numerous awards regionally, collegiately, and nationally while he was the head coach at BYU; managing and overseeing fencing at the Olympic Games; working as the head referee for the NCAA Championships for the last three years; and choreographing fencing fights for stage, TV, and film.

Taking all of his experiences into account, Mark says that he is most proud of his work as a coach and an instructor.

“My greatest accomplishment has been as a coach and referee instructor, sharing my knowledge, training, and experiences with those who have a desire to learn,” Mark says.

Mark continues to coach fencing today. Currently, he works with a number of students who compete nationally. He and his assistant coach, Julie Seal — who also holds a number of titles in fencing as a national champion and international competitor — have a club in Orem called Utah Valley Sport Fencing.

Additionally, Mark spends time instructing back at BYU — about three years ago, he was asked to be a fencing instructor at BYU’s French Camp. 

“I hope to continue for years to come to serve and teach at the BYU French Camp,” Mark says.

Mark has certainly shown what it is to love a sport and how dedicating time and effort to something can lead to extraordinary heights. 

“Have patience, always be hungry to learn, and then share what you have learned. Be consistent in training. Ask questions, ask for advice, celebrate your accomplishments, and learn from your failures,” Mark says. “And the most important thing is to have fun.”

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