Thursday, April 24, 2014
Last updated: 4 days ago

Cross swords with classmates at the UBC Fencing Club

Photo Josh Curran/The Ubyssey

Whether you’re looking for an exercise routine, a new mental workout, a place to meet fellow students or a chance to blow off steam in a good-old-fashioned duel, the UBC Fencing Club has a spot for you.

“It’s the only club that you can poke people without having to apologize!” laughed Stephanie Chiu, former president of the club. Chiu joined back in 2002 as an undergrad studying food science, despite never having picked up a sword in her life.

“I started fencing when I came to UBC. Before then, I didn’t know there were fencing clubs available in B.C., but when I walked around on Clubs Days and saw fencing, I thought I’d try it. I’ve been part of the club ever since.”

Recreational fencing has been available on campus since the 1930s, but The Fencing Club itself has been an official AMS club for about 50 years. The club formed a competitive team just over 10 years ago, and three members are currently D-ranked fencers on the international point system. The club also hosts the annual Stephen Lazar Memorial Tournament, which has over 30 years of history and attracts fencers from across the province and over the border.

Ten years ago, the Fencing Club’s membership sat between 20 and 30 fencers, but in recent years those numbers have grown to around 50 or 60. Current club president, Eloi Mercier, predicts an increased interest this year thanks to the publicity that fencing received at the Summer Olympics. Mercier noted that many people were talking about the Olympics at the UBC Fencing Club booth on Imagine Day. While Canada has never taken home a medal in fencing, Mercier is sure that if it were to happen, it would get even more people interested.

“We want to promote the club, advertise tournaments,… promote fencing as a recreational sport, a new sport just to keep [people] fit and to increase our competitive team,” Mercier said.

The club is currently offering a promotion, encouraging anyone on the fence to come out and give it a try. They boast the lowest fees in B.C., with the first lesson and all the equipment supplied for free. All that prospective fencers need to do is drop into a practice. All skill levels are welcome, from experienced duelists to intrigued beginners.

“What makes fencing fun is that you don’t always have to be fit, you don’t always have to be young,” said Chiu. “I’ve seen 50-year-old fencers beat a teenager, even though the teenager has more energy; a lot of it’s just strategy.”

Members can learn and work within their own comfort zone, but everyone is given the option to try competing, said Mercier. “We like to organize tournaments for beginners so they can get a real tournament experience.”

“It keeps you fit,” said Karl Maibauer, a second-year club member majoring in philosophy and economics. “… You strengthen yourself intellectually; there’s camaraderie. If you’re in first year and you want to do something fun and active, fencing is perfect.”