After winning competitions at the Club Sports National Tournament last year, the UVM Fencing Club hopes to continue their success against opponents this season.
The unique and aggressive sport of fencing is an Olympic event that sets two sword-wielding participants against each other as they attempt to score points by landing touches on the other competitor.
Competitive fencing at UVM began as early as 1926, when the Cynic covered the club for the first time. Throughout recent years, UVM has struggled to fill their squads. However, this year the team anticipates a strong season after acquiring new fencers with previous experience in the sport.
Junior Jennifer Dunn is the UVM Fencing Club president, and has been fencing since she was a first-year. Dunn is excited about this year’s club due to increased recruiting. This year over 111 students signed up for the club.
While there are many participants who have little experience in fencing, Dunn ensures that much of practice time is dedicated to teaching the basic rules and etiquette of the sport. Every year, the club takes nearly 50 percent of first-year fencers to the Club Nationals.
UVM Gradate student Dave Harris has been fencing with the club for a year, and had been fencing for several years before he came to Vermont. “A lot of fencing is about how much you put into it,” Harris said. “Someone who comes in not knowing anything, can progress quite a bit even within a year’s span, and make a really valuable contribution to the team.”
While practicing, the club fences in the gym, on the courts or on the indoor track. The squad usually meets three times a week for two hours. Throughout the year, UVM travels to tournaments around New England, as well as hosting their own. This year the club will visit Tennessee to compete in the Club National Championship.
Senior Sylvia Sword had fenced before she entered UVM, and has placed at the Club National Tournament twice. Sword enjoys having a wide range of skills on the team because players are ranked both on skill and participation, which determines whether they will compete on the A, B or C strip. The rank of A is the highest level at which a fencer can comete.
There are three different weapons that the competitors use in their matches’. The foil, epee and sabre. Harris explains that with the foil and epee, the competitor must use the tip of the weapon to score points against his or her opponent, however when using the sabre, any strike to an opponent’s body will earn points.
The target area while fencing with a foil is the vest, which the competitor wears over their chest. When using the sabre, the participant must strike the opponent anywhere above the waist. However, when competing with the epee, a short lightweight blade, any strike landed on the opponent will receive points.
“Weapons are plugged into an electrical system, and when you make contact it completes a circuit,” Harris said. “With an epee, it is a button press. With a foil and sabre, it completes a circuit with a metal jacket that results in either one or two lights turning on.”
Dodging the weapons of the opponent, known as “parrying,” is an effective way to earn points while fencing. Harris explains that he normally scores points by simply diverting or parrying from his opponent.
Sophomore Fencing Club treasurer Zach Lavigne has been fencing since his first-year at UVM. Lavigne explains that because fencing involves unique weapons, special clothing is also required. Running or fencing shoes must be worn at all times to ensure good traction on the strip.
Socks and knickers are also needed to cover up the legs of the fencers. A thick jacket covers the chest and stomach area, while a screen mask covers the face and head. A glove is worn on the defending hand that holds the weapon. Although the participants are clothed from head to toe in protective equipment, Harris reminds us that bruises are often the result of strikes, which are often suffered during a match.
Sword has been on the epee squad since she was a first-year. Despite her victories during the Club Nationals, she enjoys the team atmosphere, and believes the team spirit is just as important as winning.
In the upcoming weeks, UVM will host the Fall Foliage Tournament. The Tournament is part of the USFA and Green Mountain division, which brings in competitors from all over Vermont to compete against the club.