Physical chess

Pamela Crimbchin

Fencing club aims to build fan base, host tournament

The fencing club practices every Tuesday and Friday evening in the Gym Annex at 7 p.m. The club said they hope to host a tournament in the near future for all fencing clubs from surrounding areas. Although the club has few members, they said they want to

Credit: DKS Editors

A sword is a weapon with a long metal blade and a hilt, used for thrusting or sticking.

Fencing is a fight with swords. However, to the Kent State Fencing Team, the sword is a mere extention of their arm and becomes a game of phsyical chess.

“There are a lot of interesting people who fence,” freshman physics major Chris Douglas said. “We are all not just really geeky people, although we do tend to be. But geeky people are good.”

The fencing club has taken this year to re-dedicate itself to the intellectual sport of fencing. With more members, the team hopes to have a tournament this spring at Kent State.

“A lot of the surrounding schools in different states and such, have fencing clubs,” Kate Hall, sophomore fine arts major said. “And since there isn’t a lot of tournament activity in the area, you tend to get a lot of people at the tournaments that do happen to know fencing.”

Fencing in Northeast Ohio and surrounding states is relatively small. The lack of participation in fencing causes there to be very few tournaments. The consensus of the fencing team is that holding a tournament at Kent State could bring around 100 fencing competitors from many different states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The small size of the fencing community causes fans and fencing enthusiasts to travel long distances just to watch the tournament.


Kent State has a mostly epée and foil teams, but the team practices saber from time to time just for fun.

• Epée is the thickest blade sword, because it is the fastest fencing. During epée, everywhere on the body is fair game for a point. However, it must be the point of the sword that hits the opponent.

“Anything’s game: hand, wrist, bottom of someone’s foot. If you can get it,” Bussard chuckled. “I’ve seen it done.”

• Foil also only uses the point of the sword. The fencer uses the thinnest blade for foil and everything between the neck and chest, excluding the arms, is allowed. There are also rules in foil about the right of way and which player goes first.

• The third type of fencing, saber, is the most difficult. The entire blade of the saber sword is game for a point. Players are allowed to hit anywhere from the waist up, including the arms, but there are more rules about which players have the right of way.

“It’s a very tight knit community,” junior chemistry major Greg Bussard said. “Most fencers in Northeast Ohio know each other.”

Fencing is a unique sport that many students probably think about doing; however, very few ever do. Some of the fencers, such as Hall, enjoyed fencing in high school and wanted to continue fencing in college.

“(I fenced) a little bit in high school, just as one of the units given at school,” Hall said. “We fought for like five weeks a year.”

Other members started at fencing clubs around their hometowns.

“I found the Rouge fencing club online,” Douglas said. “I wanted to do (fencing) for a long time, but I wrestled and was poor.”

No matter how long a fencer has been a part of the sport, or how serious they take it, his or her favorite thing about fencing is always the same: stabbing people.

“It’s a stress reliever,” Hall said. “You can just sit there and poke at people for two hours or so.”

Douglas said he agreed with Hall but that he, “just thought it would be cool to run around and stab people.”

The fencers need to understand the basic rules of fencing, which are taught at the practices. Once the fencer has this down it’s the match that is mentally demanding.

Fencers must read their opponents quickly and react with cat-like reflexes to block during a tournament and practice. Fencing is also based on rhythm and meters. After a player establishes a pattern they change that pattern to confuse opponents.

“(Fencing) gives you alternate ways of thinking,” Douglas said. “This gives you a way to do something physical that also involves thinking. So, you’re doing something physical that is productive.”

Besides being mentally demanding, fencing also encompasses a large amount of physical endurance and the understanding of ones own body.

“It’s a lot of fast movement and a lot of stamina is required for it,” Bussard said. “You also have to be very aware of your body because you can’t turn around and run away when someone is coming out at you.”

An important fact many outsiders don’t know is that during a tournament the fencers’ left arms must stay up and behind them at all times. Not doing so results in penalties for blocking the opponent’s point zones. Holding a left arm in the air for that long is demanding enough without the quick footwork, dodging of sword tips, attacking opponents and mental analyzing of what the opponent is doing.

Fencing may have originated in many small sword schools throughout France, but Kent State’s Fencing Team brings the physical chess to this university weekly. With some more members the team could host a fencing tournament at Kent State University and share this rare game with all students.

The Fencing team meets every Tuesday and Friday night from 7 to 10 in room 153 of the Gym Annex. It’s only $20 for the whole semester.

Contact Student Recreation and Wellness Center reporter

Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].