Young fencers on the road to greatness


Mark Lindahl

Jabreel Green attacks his opponent in a match at Recreation Sports Facility in Berkeley, California on October 21, 2017

Aaron Tolentino and Mark Lindahl

Before the sun is up, shoelaces are being tied, muscles are stretching and the training begins.

This dedicated training routine includes running multiple hills, push-ups and working out vital abdomen muscles.

Many would think this training regimen would be tied to a sport like basketball, track and field, football, etc.


Diablo Valley College students, brothers Ummi and Jabreel Green, are training to perfect their craft in the sport of fencing. Both Ummi and Jabreel are nationally ranked fencers, competing in various tournaments throughout the country.

Since age 5, Jabreel Green has been training to become the best fencer he can, with his older brother, Ummi, not far behind him.

“I plan on taking (fencing) to the Olympics, trying to get to 2020 or 2024 and I’m just trying to do it as a lifelong sport. They have fencing for 80-year-olds,” Jabreel said.

“Go-getters” is how Sharina Green, their mother, best described the brothers.

“It’s how they are,” said Mrs. Green. “Just competitive guys wanting to excel.”

The most amazing thing about it all is the age of the brothers. Ummi is 13 and Jabreel is 12, definitely not the typical age of DVC students, where they take classes.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and one of America’s most important movies helped shape the future of these two young fencers.

Since the first time he saw the famed movie franchise Star Wars, “Jabreel was like ooh mom I want to do that. And as a mom that’s fencing,” Mrs. Green explained.

“I thought I could buy him a toy lightsaber and he’d be over it, but he was like, no Mom, this is what I want to do,” Mrs. Green said.

Once Jabreel’s family realized this newfound passion, it was only a matter of time before fencing began to become the focal point of every day life.

“They were coming of age and we needed something to do as far as sports for the guys and football, as parents, we weren’t feeling as much,” said Anthony Green, their father. “Jabreel kept pressing us so his mom ended up finding him a fencing gym.”

Jabreel constantly badgered his mother to fence until it got to the point where she finally gave in.

“Right now, this is what you’re saying you want to do, I want to support you in that,” said Mrs. Green.

So after scouring the East Bay for a fencing gym that would take in a young, energetic 6-year-old, they finally got their wish.

According to Mrs. Green, the family repeatedly kept calling until a coach of East Bay Fencer’s Gym said, “bring him.”

Jabreel, at 7, had his first breakout year when he was beating older opponents and steadily moving up the ranks. This was when he thought he was getting good at the sport and wanted to take fencing to the next level.

Ummi described the time when he realized his potential in the sport and that he can compete at a very high level against the best of them.

“First time I beat the best player in my gym, Keith. I think he won the world championships. So I won; he was pretty mad at me,” Ummi said. “I was 12; (Keith) was around my dad’s age; He was 45.”

Ummi has beaten fencers who are not only much older than him, but also those who are world-renowned.

But even though he has notable wins under his belt, “Just because you are winning, people are going to come for you because you’re on top… (you) gotta keep working,” his mother explained.

No matter how much of a mismatch Ummi allegedly faced heading into a match, he used his greatest strengths to overcome those challenges.

“(Ummi) has nice footwork and also he has the explosiveness,” said fencing coach Abdul Habek.

Ummi is a talented athlete that possesses the explosiveness to strike opponents using his athleticism. Whether size or any other physical mismatch is present, Ummi can use his explosiveness to counter that.

His style of fencing uses athleticism to his advantage. However, Ummi’s athleticism and maintaining it can also be his biggest challenge.

“The conditioning, being able to stand on the strip for three minutes straight, because that’s how long a bout is,” Ummi said on his most difficult skill to acquire. “You get three periods of three minutes and that’s a pretty long time because in épée you have to move around a lot. If you stop moving, that’s the time for the enemy to attack you.”

Jabreel, on the other hand, fences in more of a strategical and tactical manner. He sees the hardest skill to learn a bit differently.

“Discipline, because if you don’t respect the ref, the ref can black card you or he can take away points from you for just not being honorable, you have to follow the sport, follow the rules,” said Jabreel.

One style of fencing the brothers do share is their passion for each and every match.

“Jabreel cries,” Mrs. Green admitted. “If he loses he’ll cry but that’s passion. It means he really cares about the sport.”

These two young men love fencing and know the potential they have within themselves.

“Ummi, his frustration comes within the match. So if he’s losing in the match he gets upset. It’s a mind game and you have to keep your head in the game,” said Mrs. Green.

While Ummi and Jabreel are rapidly on the rise, Mrs. Green said, “they have their moments and they’re growing but they’re still young.”

The maturation process and growth of Ummi and Jabreel is a family-wide process. Everyone in the Green family plays an integral part in the improvement of these boys.

Jabreel appreciates the effort his dad has put in to help him.

“(He) travels with me to nationals,” Jabreel said. “He’s always there to help me, give me tips.”

From a pure fencing standpoint, Jabreel seems to have the most significant help in his development as a fencer coming from his older brother.

“He helped me become a better fencer because he kind of inspired me because last fencing season, he got seventh in the winter nationals in Cleveland, so he inspired me to work harder, become a better fencer because he started beating me,” said Jabreel about Ummi.

Not only does Ummi push Jabreel to work harder, but the two brothers are also friendly rivals.

During a tournament last year, Ummi and Jabreel met on the strip, and Ummi came out on top at the end. “It didn’t feel as good as he thought it would,” their mother recalled.

Competition is what fencing is about, but the Green family knows there’s more to life than just fencing.

“Leave it on the strip. You’re brothers first, fencers second, and then if you have to face each other, he’s your enemy on the strip, then it’s over,” said Mrs. Green.

But even if Ummi and Jabreel end up facing off against each other, the guidance of their parents has made the Green brothers not only better individuals, but also better teammates.

“My parents help me stay focused, make sure everything I do is making me a better as a fencer and in life,” said Ummi.