They donned their mesh helmets and strode into battle. Gripping their weapons tightly in front of them, they recognized their opponent with a nod and a sweep of the sword. After the adjudicator gave word, the bout began in earnest with both opponents looking to hit the other’s armor.
Despite sounding like a scene from medieval Europe, the actions described above actually occurred last weekend here at the Veale Athletic, Convocation and Recreation Center. The Case Western Reserve University Fencing Club hosted their last tournament of the semester, with hundreds of students from across the state taking part.
The tournament lasted for most of the day on Saturday, Nov. 5. Teams from colleges throughout the state took part, including ones from Cleveland State University, Xavier University and Oberlin College.
Club President Stephanie Huang said, “The tournament went pretty well. Everyone had a lot of fun.” Although Huang admitted the tournament got off to a late and rocky start, she was glad the club recovered and that the tournament ended early.
At the tournament the CWRU fencers did well, with the women’s team winning six out of seven rounds and the men’s side winning three out of seven rounds. The results were very encouraging, as quite a few new fencers were participating. Huang said, “We typically try to put newer people in [the first tournament] to give them some experience.”
The annual tournament is one of many on the club’s schedule. Competing in the Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) with 21 other schools, the club needs to participate in as many tournaments as possible. For an individual to be allowed to compete at the MFC Championships, they are required to fence in a certain number of officially sanctioned bouts. The CWRU tournament allowed members who don’t normally travel with the team a chance to fence and possibly gain eligibility.
Only parents and coaches attended the tournament; no students spectated. This low turn-out is probably due to Americans’ unfamiliarity with the sport. Though fencing dates back to at least the time of Shakespeare and is one of five events appearing in every modern Olympics, the sport is not very popular in the United States. That’s why one of the unofficial goals of the club, at least according to Club Secretary Ben Wu, is “to promote the sport of fencing.” He added, “It’s such a niche sport…. The community can benefit a lot from learning [about it].”
First-year student Rachel Fagerhaug is certainly reaping the benefits. Although she started fencing just a few years ago, the Fencing Club brought her to CWRU. “One of the main reasons I wanted to come here is the fact that we have a club,” she said. Fagerhaug has enjoyed her “crazy, but amazing” time with the club so far.
Many first-year students who, unlike Fagerhaug, do not know about CWRU Fencing Club, find out about it through the Sports-a-palooza event during orientation week. Wu said the event, in which the club tries to “attract as much attention as possible,” is the major way the club grows.
The club welcomes fencers of all skill levels. According to Wu, there are fencers on the club who have competed at the national level as well as students who are brand-new to the sport. “We are more of a social club,” he said, adding that the range in skill levels allows the more experienced members to teach the newer students. Even the more experienced fencers still learn, gaining different perspectives on the sport.
First-year student Jaejin Eum, who has been fencing for nine-and-a-half years, appreciates the club for teaching him how to fix his weapons. “Learning more about repairing equipment has been really helpful for me,” he said.
The teaching and learning facilitates group bonding and increases the camaraderie of the club. Other ways the club builds on this strength is through Mitchell’s Mondays, which involve members going to the local ice cream shop (Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream), a “Secret Santa” tradition and a senior sendoff.
If you are looking for a creative way to destress during the grueling school year or have always wanted to try your hand at swordplay, the Fencing Club is a great choice. As Huang said, “The people here are awesome and you get to stab a couple people. What more can you ask for?”