En Guarde: an Inside Look at OC Fencing


Brianna Caldwell ‘21, Staff Writer

Once again, it is that time of year. Time to bring out the foils, warm up the strips, and begin to perfect your en garde. The preparation for the 2020 fencing season has begun! 

With the help of coaches, Adam and Lisa Marthens, the Oakland and Central Catholic eagle-vikings have been busy recruiting new teammates and training for the upcoming competition season, set to start in the beginning of January. This year, the Eagles are looking forward to earning their second consecutive PIFA win. 

Want to know more about fencing? Here are some questions that I tend to get asked a lot as a member of the fencing team:

Is fencing hard to learn?

“Hard” is subjective. But to me, the basics were easy to pick up. Of course, getting used to it took some time, but with a little practice and hard work, anything is possible.

What are the rules behind fencing?

The basic rule of fencing is to hit your opponent while protecting yourself. However, the rules differ as you go into the three divisions of fencing. In foil, the style that is done in high school, the only way to get a point is to hit your opponent on their torso. This differs from sabre’s target area of anywhere above the waist, including the helmet, and epee’s approach of having the entire body be a target. 

Is fencing a team sport? How do you win?

Fencing is a team sport, despite bouts (a fencing match) being one-on-one. Participating in a fencing competition requires three fencers from each team. They take turns bouting with each other until one team wins five bouts. So even if someone loses their bout, their other two teammates are there to pick up what was lost. And if they win, then that’s one more point to their side and one less bout the team has to fence. 

What skills do you need for fencing?

While fencing isn’t as physically demanding as sports like volleyball, soccer, or lacrosse, it requires a mix of good reflexes, endurance, and a bit of flexibility as well as adaptility. All of these skills can easily be improved on, and will get better the more you practice them. 

Is fencing safe?

Although waving metal  “swords” around looks dangerous, fencing is a completely safe sport. The weapons used have flat tips rather than points, and their metal is easily bendable. In order to fence, fencers must wear several layers of clothing: a plastic chest protector that covers your chest; the biggest target area, an underarm protector to add another layer to the side that will be facing your opponent, a jacket to cover the torso, arms, and neck, a glove for your fencing hand, a lamé (though it is used more for scoring purposes), a mask to protect the face, and knickers and socks to cover your legs. During a competition, every body part except for the hand that is not being used must be covered. Also, most injuries that happen to fencers are self-inflicted.

Now that you know a little more about fencing, are you still curious about it? Feel free to come cheer on Oakland Catholic at any one of the Eagles’ home tournaments and learn about the sport firsthand!