North Texas Daily

Fencing club: crossing blades since 1941

Fencing club: crossing blades since 1941

Fencing club: crossing blades since 1941
February 06
00:23 2014

Jordan Ottaway // Intern Writer

When Monday and Wednesday nights are coming to a close, the UNT Fencing Club is just getting started with its practice from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. in the Ken Bahnsen Gym.

Being the oldest club at UNT, the Fencing Club strives to keep improving at each practice so its reputation can continue to spread and more students will want to join, compete and gain an appreciation for the sport.

“We like to be a place where they can come to grow,” biology senior and student instructor Stephen Koch said. “We are about making friends and having fun, while also getting a good workout.”

The earliest clear documentation of the Fencing Club dates back to 1941, but UNT fencing itself goes back to 1909. Members of the Olympic Athletic Club can be seen crossing blades in the 1909 North Texas State Normal School yearbook, The Yucca.

In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s the North Texas Daily – at that time known as The Campus Chat – also featured fencing club articles. During that time, some fencers qualified for sectional and national tournaments, and that same mentality remains as a core value of the club today.

To publicize itself, the club has a booth at campus events like student orientations and the annual Rec Extravaganza, held at the Pohl Recreation Center. Despite the representation of plenty of other clubs, the Fencing Club still gets attention because of its unique nature.

“We are unlike other sports because of our stance and endurance required for a three-minute bout,” Koch said.

The club is currently trying to talk to the UNT Housing Association to take its promotion to the next level by doing fencing expositions in the common areas of dorm halls. Here, members would set down electrical strips and fence competitively to let students see the sport in person.

“[We do the expositions] to show people that it’s not silly and it is an aggressive sport,” mechanical engineering freshman and vice president Kristin Gudmundsson said.

The club also has expositions to show the sport takes practice and isn’t something that can be easily picked up.

“We had a bodybuilder in here and after 20 minutes of footwork drills his legs were shaking,” Koch said. “He was totally unprepared.”

Most of the money to support the club comes through donations and fundraisers, since funding from UNT’s Rec Sports doesn’t cover all of the requirements. Footwork is taught from day one since it is essential to being a successful fencer.

“I personally think footwork is more important, but bladework is more exciting,” history graduate Eric Windsor said.

Though some coaches in other fencing clubs may require members to practice on footwork for up to a year before touching a blade, the UNT club speeds up that process. Usually, members are able to use the blade in two weeks.

From there they will learn basic blade attacks and defenses while incorporating footwork. It depends on the fencer, but usually the techniques are picked up fairly quickly. Some members need about five months to be comfortable with the techniques, while others have made significant progress in a month.

As part of the Southwest Intercollegiate Fencing Association (SWIFA), the club travels all over the state along with more than 20 other schools to compete in all-day tournaments.

Some of the schools UNT fences against are Texas State University, Baylor University, University of Houston, Texas A&M University, University of Texas, Rice University and Texas Tech University.

TAMS student Tristan Britt joined the club this year and already has tournament experience.

“I met some really good fencers [who] went to state level competitions, and they were willing to give advice and pointers when the bouts were over,” Britt said. “You only get better by fencing good opponents.”

There are two different kinds of matches, or bouts: pool bouts that conclude at either three minutes or when the first fencer reaches five points, and direct elimination bouts that are three periods of three minutes, or first to 15 points.

To start a bout, the fencers salute each other by crossing their blades to each other, the spectators and judges. Failing to do so may result in a penalty.

“We try to build them [members] up to be very competitive and very active,” Gudmundsson said.

The Fencing Club has a special bond among its members, and they have grown close to one another. Even new members who just joined feel like a part of the club and converse with anyone else in the club.

“Everyone is talking about different things that spark interesting conversations because of how diverse our club is,” Britt said.

The next tournament club members will participate in is the Wang Memorial tournament March 1 at the Irving Convention Center in Irving.

Feature photo: Mechanical engineering freshman Kristin Gudmundsson, left, and biology senior Stephen Koch practice a style of fencing called eepe on Monday night at the Bahnsen gym. Eepe is form of fencing where any part of a fencer’s body can be touched to score a point. Photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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