Imagine being in an individual match realizing that it’s just you and your opponent out there. Emotions run deep as you experience anxiety from wanting to be the winner of the match. It gets a little worse as you’re either waiting to start the match or waiting for the final results. Pressures from the team, family, and from yourself, all cloud in the mind all throughout the match. Only in the end do you realize that even if you lose, the match is a learning experience, it was fun, and you’ve now gained more skill in the combative sport of fencing.
Alex Hendrix, 19 year old athlete says that he participated in fencing for fun. “If I could describe fencing in one word, I would say it was intense, at times”. Like any other sport, fencing is mental and of course, physical. It’s mental because the competitors need to read their opponent and focus on landing those touches. Catching the opponent unprepared is sort of the key or more so the goal of the individual competitors. It’s physical because competitors physically move their bodies in order to dodge incoming touches. It’s a bit fast so the touches are scored electronically which are read by the equipment and tracked by spectators. “We wear protective gear for two reasons one, so that we are protected during the match and two, so that the touches can be scored” said Hendrix. The protective gear includes white jackets, gloves, mask, and white knickers which stop at the knee.
I’ve seemed to notice that many are misinformed about fencing. It´s not too popular with the people I encounter so there´s a few things not really known. Some people don’t count it as an actual sport. I think that way of thinking is unfair to those who go far in fencing. For example, those who enter into the Olympics.
People who aren’t apart of the fencing community probably don’t know that there are three different sword that you battle with, not just one. Both competitors use the same sword when they compete with each other. Depending on what sword is being used the targets change. The first sword is called a foil. Only the tip of the sword is used to score points. It includes flicks or thrust but no slashing. The target using the foil is the torso. The second sword is called an epee. This sword is a bit heavier than the foil which makes for a steadier pace. It allows the spectators to follow the movements of the epee more closely. The target using an epee is the entire body. The third sword is called a saber. Points are scored with the tip as well as the edges of the blade. Using the saber, competitors can slash. The target is only above the waist including arms and head. According to Craig Schmidt´s article ¨What is Olympic Fencing¨, he writes that below the waist using the saber is off limits because it follows a tradition of it being unethical to try to injure an enemy’s horse.
Hendrix hasn’t been in any competitions he just takes classes and builds his skills for fun. When he first started out he was 15, fencing was a bit of a struggle for him because it was new and wasn’t like basketball or football. He was determined to understand it because he had friends who were good at it. They would always tell him that it takes practice because it’s a lot of thinking and understanding the opponent. So he practiced with them. They went over foot techniques practicing distance. They also went over reaching techniques.
When Hendrix goes to a fencing class he makes sure he has all the proper equipment. In one of his favorite classes he discovered that he was an aggressive fencer. There are the passive fencers and the aggressive. He’s pretty much more aggressive with his approach when he’s practicing in a match. Hendrix is about 5’7 and a bit muscular. He has brown hair, blue eyes, and he wears glasses. He believes that people in these classes are surprised when they find out that he’s aggressive because he wears glasses which he also believes is weird. He uses the foil sword during the classes he attends. There’s usually about 15 to 20 people who also join these classes. Girls also participate in fencing. When people think of fencing they think of men sword fighting on horses centuries ago. Alex mentioned that when he first started out he was surprised to see that girls practiced too.
During classes, they do warm ups to get their legs moving. Foot movement in fencing is kind of like in boxing, how they move around the ring except for in fencing they usually just move back and forth. It’s about distance and timing. Competitors keep enough distance so that they don’t get touched by the opponent. They try to go in for the touch at the right time so they get the points. Hendrix likes that it’s fast, it makes it fun for him. He tries to push himself and test his strategies to see what needs to be improved in his technique. “During classes really like to practice with a new passive fencer because since I’m aggressive, it’s interesting to see the moves they make when I’m trying get the touch” said Hendrix. Watching other people practice is good because you learn their movements, strengths, and weaknesses.
I think it’s amazing to see and learn about a topic that’s not popular in your own surroundings but such a big deal to someone else. I have learned much more about fencing than I knew before. Hopefully more are informed on the complex sport of fencing.