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Fencing 101 features varsity instructors

October 25, 2012

By Dan Stanton

Early Sunday afternoons on campus can be quiet, but around 1 p.m. in the Woodling Gym, you may find students of dramatically different backgrounds fighting each other with swords.

Fencing 101 is the name of the new intramural program started by Mike McDonald, Salih Yasun and Christine Bocci. All three are members of Cleveland State’s varsity fencing team.

The program meets from 1 to 2 p.m., and it’s open to any and all CSU students.
At any given meeting, students with majors ranging from Psychology and Political Science to Engineering and Journalism who may or may not know an epee from a saber, or a parry from a riposte, will be fencing each other within 30 minutes.

A typical session starts with introductions of the instructors to the attendees and the attendees to each other, followed by some basic stretching and warming up.

The first thing the instructors teach is the “en garde” stance. When in en garde, fencers are in a stable position from which they can easily move forward or backward in order to keep distance between their opponents.

After learning that basic stance, attendees learn the proper way to advance (move forward) and retreat (move backward).

Moving in fencing is very specific and deliberate. It is also incredibly fast. It requires a combination of being able to move where you want to move at a moments notice, and at the same time, being just as ready to move in response to your opponent.

Once the attendees have the basic idea of footwork down, a basic attack, the lunge, is learned.

The lunge is a combination of using the arm to strike with the sword and using the legs as something of a springboard to further enhance the strike.

These three basic elements are all the attendees need to know before being issued a jacket, mask and their choice of weapon: foil, epee or saber.

The foil and epee are both stabbing weapons, and fencers attempt to strike their opponents with the tip of the sword (on the torso for the foil, and any part of the body for the epee) in order to score a point. Any part of the saber, however, when striking an opponent above the waist, can be used to score a point.

The canvas jacket and a mask for Fencing 101 are purely protective. But in competition, a second jacket, called a lamé, is put on over the canvas jacket. The lamé is made of electrically conductive materials, and it is able to electronically record a strike.

Once equipped with properly fitting gear and a weapon of choice, the attendees start fencing, and they continue to do so for the last 30 minutes or so of the session.

To engage in Fencing 101, meet at Woodling Gym in the Physical Education building at 1 p.m. on Sundays. If the doors are locked, you can gain entry via the Rec Center.

For more information, contact Mike McDonald by email at michaelmcd33@gmail.com, or call him at 440-829-1578.