Since I’ve been at a fencing tournament all weekend (club nationals!), I’m pretty much just in fencing mode, so I’m going to talk about fencing! Hurray! Being on the fencing team at Amherst has been one of the defining aspects of my college career. With that, I’ll give you my top three favorite things about fencing, followed by the one thing that I hate.

Things I love:

1) The swords.

I gotta say, the whole reason I joined fencing was so that I would be able to stab people. So far, it has more than lived up to my expectations. While sword-fighting in movies looks impressive, it’s actually incredibly stylized (shocker). If you fenced on the strip (the length of ground on which two fencers face off) the way they fence in the movies, you would be stabbed. And laughed at.

The 3 types of fencing blades. A = epee, B = sabre (the best weapon), and C = foil.

2) The people.

I doubt there is any group on campus that brings together such an eclectic group of personalities. We have every personality type along the spectrum because fencing is a sport that appeals to so many different groups. You don’t have to be super-athletic to participate, which broadens its reach greatly. We have people from all different backgrounds. Some had fenced before coming to Amherst, most had not, but those who know how help those who do not, and it all works out. I have made some of my best friends on the fencing team, and this weekend has already been some of the most fun I’ve had this year. Even the fencers I’m not close with are just fun to be around because they’re clever, quirky, and all-around nice people.

3) The balance between independence and teamwork.

Part of the allure of fencing is the fact that while you are part of a team, it’s also very individualized. Basically, you can fence in a group so that your win/loss record and number of points add towards a team total. That said, your bouts (matches) are still very much your own, so you don’t feel too pressured about affecting the performance of others. While you can drag down the team average with a loss, you can’t cause a teammate to lose a bout. There are also just individual tournaments, where you go with the team and fence, but you’re not fencing in a group so your score only counts towards your ranking.

Things I hate:

There is sort of an unsportsmanlike culture in competitive sport fencing, in which it is okay to scream/exclaim after scoring a touch (which is when you score a point for stabbing your opponent, basically). It is the most bizarre thing ever. You hear everything from blood-curdling screams to yelling of the word “KA-POW”. And no one bats an eye. It’s almost universally accepted to gloat over defeating your opponent. Luckily, here at Amherst we don’t hold with such blatant disregard for the feelings of others. Yeah. We’re cool.


*picture credit to jimandsandi.com