Fencing Club offers new opportunities, hopes for successful season

FIERCE FENCING: Fencing club members practice by competing in pairs. Club practices always use full body gear for protection.

Jacqueline DeWitt

FIERCE FENCING: Fencing club members practice by competing in pairs. Club practices always use full body gear for protection.

Anuskha Kalra, staff reporter

Thwack! The sharp snap of a fencing sword rings through the empty senior cafeteria.  Groups of white-clad fencers dart around their opponents, deftly dodging and parrying their way to victory.  Today is a typical Thursday for the South fencing club. From the sidelines, senior Captain Brandon Moy carefully observes the practice, and reminisces about his introduction to fencing.

“I’ve been doing it for four years,” Moy said. “I started at GBS, and [the fencing club] began at the same time. I was pestered by a friend into joining, and I found I really liked it.”

Moy had no experience prior to his involvement with the club. However, Moy participates in activities like karate, and felt a connection between the quick movements of the sword and the martial art. Sponsor John Skorupa, who fenced in high school and now coaches the club, describes the feeling in more detail.

“It’s like playing chess physically,” Skorupa said. “You are trying to outwit and outsmart your opponent. It’s a form of offense and defense and it’s a great physical workout. You’re burning hundreds of calories. “

Skorupa has seen the club grow in the four years since it first began. With nearly 40 kids on the team, there are now two men’s teams and two women’s teams that compete at the varsity level for fencing.  Every year the club gains around twelve new members, and Skorupa considers that this growth is due to media.

“A lot of kids are exposed to video games and this is the [real life] version of that,” Skorupa said.

“[Also] with the popularity of movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the James Bond movies,  which have a lot of sword fighting, you can [now] try it and build on it.”

Sophomore David Stern has thoroughly enjoyed fencing club, both for the camaraderie in the team and the activities practiced each meeting. Concerning the fencing atmosphere, Stern feels connected to the team because everyone on the team is kind to each other.

According to Stern, there is a specific schedule of activities the team does most practices, in order to help the team warm up and practice their skills.

“We first warm up with [stretches],” Stern explained. “Then we do some foot work drills, and then we get ready to fence.”

Moy also adds that besides fencing club practices, there are numerous tournaments in store for the team this season. This year in particular is going to be special, he went on to say.

 “We have a lot of events coming up,” Moy said. “At the end of this winter season, we are going to host the first ever Illinois State Fencing Championship. We’re inviting all the fencing clubs in the state.  Not a lot of it has been finalized, but it is something to look forward to.”

The Great Lakes Fencing Championship is another highlight for the club’s season. Teams from Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois will compete at this tournament, which is hosted at New Trier High School. Stern describes one of his favorite fencing club events.

The first [tournament] at Stevenson [during my freshman year] was the best because it was the first one, and […] I had no idea what to expect,” Stern said.

Much like Moy, Stern joined the fencing team with no experience in his freshman year, but was able to grasp the sport fairly quickly. According to Stern, he is very glad that he joined the team, even if it was only to try something new. He went on to explain how a typical tournament, something he greatly enjoys, would play out.

“[You] would be sorted into pools of five people and fence all five of those people,” Stern said. “Then your score is calculated, and then you are placed into a bracket, and the worst will play the best until a winner was found. There can be about 70 people in a bracket, although it’s different for each tournament.”

Stern emphasized that newcomers shouldn’t be afraid to come and join fencing, for they will be treated with kindness.  Along with Moy, he hopes that the Illinois State Fencing Championship will bring more people into joining the club.

“Last year, we were just starting out,” Stern said. “This year we’re in a division, and we’ll be playing different schools. We’ll be better this year. We have a lot of [promising] people.”