Jessie Burke picked up her first foil at 13 and lived fencing. Specializing in epee (the closest form of fencing to dueling), Jessie studied with great masters and carved out her place on the strip in international competition. As far as we know, she’s the only friend of AUX with her own sports hero trading card. Jessie has moved on from the competition circuit and now runs a little hotspot, Posies Cafe. Posies has gradually become a focal point for art, music and community in Portland, Oregon. We asked her a few questions to get a sense of what it’s like to be a business owner, mom, and world class fencer.
Are there similarities between running a small business and fencing?
– The only similarities I find are the mindset. When you’re learning a sport and seem to have a knack for it, you are determined to train, study, and work through the steep learning curve to succeed. I find myself in the same place that I was when I was 13 yrs old, sort of making my way through the fog that is mastering something new, organizing the new information, and putting it into practice and seeing how it goes in the real world.
What are some of the challenges of making Posies into a centerpiece for the community?
– People are always watching the new kid on the block, and while those folks that are of like minds to me are quick to join in with my vision, those that are suspicious have to be won over. It is for that reason that our mission is that “Everyone is welcome,” and every is to be treated kindly. I’ve found that people will always be the greatest challenge, and winning them over can often just be a game of finding a way to make them feel special.
Has your daughter, Anouk, been giving her first fencing lesson yet?
– I’m really hesitant to let Anouk fence in the real world (I didn’t have the most functional training environment, so I’m pretty protective of her). She has had her first light sabre lesson, though, where I taught her to stop attacking my weapon and actually try to hit me (something that drives all fencers crazy in the movies… so much blade work and no actual effort to hit the target, which is the actual objective)
Are there things about the fencing world you would like to see change?
– I would like to see our federation strengthened and organized into an entity that can actually support its athletes. I would love to see training environments that didn’t burn kids out, but fostered their enthusiasm for the sport, and made them want to stay competitive during and after college. I would like to see athletes be able to train and travel to compete without the anxiety of financial pressures. And more than anything else, I would like to see a sense of camaraderie between the athletes on all squads throughout the season that are competing on the US team for many of the same spots.
Could you please give us and our readers some sword handling advice?
– Counter-offensiveness is the way to go… pressure your opponent to the edge of the strip/mat until they are out of their comfort zone, continue to pressure them until they make the mistake you are waiting for (your window of opportunity), and attack! Attack into their mistake, because fencing (at least epee) is won by the person who makes the fewest mistakes.
Follow Jessie’s adventures and get updates on events at Posies: