En Garde: Fencing with Nick Evangelista and Mimi Shaw

Fencing instructor Nick Evangelista and student Mimi Shaw work to grow the popularity of fencing in 417-land.

By Jo Jolliff

Sep 01 2023 at 8 a.m.

Nick Evangelista and student Mimi Shaw
Photo by Leah StiefermannNick Evangelista and student Mimi Shaw Purchase Photo

Growing up fascinated with watching fencing on the screen in movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro, fencing instructor Nick Evangelista never dreamed he would one day play a part in making the magic come to life. But once he began as an instructor in California, that is where his career led him, giving him the chance to help train actors in the art of fencing for shows like Magnum, P.I

His 52-year-long career in fencing has brought him many places both on and off the screen, including teaching in Europe in the 70s, publishing a fencing magazine and five books, including bestseller The Art and Science of Fencing, and teaching fencing at Missouri State University. “Fencing has always been a part of my life,” Evangelista says. “It’s natural that I would want to keep it in my life in what I do for a living. I think it’s a calling.” 

His favorite role so far has simply been as an instructor teaching the traditional French school of fencing. “I enjoy making new fencers,” he says. “Fencing is not indigenous to this area so I’ve loved seeing it spark up across the area. It’s what I hope for.” At 74 years old, he still fences with each of his students, who range in all ages, sometimes starting with him while in elementary school and working on lessons until they leave for college. “Some of my students were so small when they first started, I had to get down on my knees so they could reach my target,” he jokes.

One of his students, seventh grader at Greenwood Laboratory School on Missouri State University’s campus Mimi Shaw, has been training with Evangelista for the past three years. Shaw’s interest in fencing was sparked at a museum, where she fell in love with the rich history of it. When she first got involved she expected to dive right into sparring and was surprised to learn the heavy emphasis on technique. “It’s really fun because it helps you think on the spot,” Shaw says. “If you have something planned out and then it doesn’t work out you have to quickly come up with another plan.”

At the beginning of 2023, Shaw decided to start her own fencing club at Greenwood Laboratory School. “It’s helped me get to know other people in other grades and classes I wouldn’t have and just feel more involved,” she says. In the next year, Shaw hopes to see fencing be classified as a sport at Greenwood Laboratory School instead of just a club so that they would be able to compete with other schools in the area as a team.