Fencing: The Physical Chess


Fencing may seem pretty simple to some who are unfamiliar with the sport. It may look like you are just trying to poke the other person with your fencing sword and earn victories that way, but it is far more complicated than that.

“Fencing is like a physical chess,” says Alissa Bandalene, Fencing Club President. “It’s a great sport, with a lot of tactical and endurance performance.”

One of the most complicated elements of fencing is the equipment involved. There are three different weapons used in competitive play and each has a different “target area”, or areas on the body where, once hit, counts as a point to the person who hit it

In every style of fencing fight, the fencer will have a weapon, fencing pants and jacket, a helmet, and gloves.

The three weapon types in fencing are:

Saber: The saber’s target area is the whole helmet, the waist-up including arms, but not hands. Fencers wear a lamé (pronounced luh-may) that is an electric sensor jacket that points out when the fencer has been struck within the target area. The helmet is also metal in saber matches, so it can pick up strikes to the target area on the head.  The lamé is worn in addition to the fencing jacket.

Foil: The foil’s target area includes the hips up to just under the chin, but does not include the arms or head. The lamé is in a tank top form in this type of match and includes a helmet with a sensor bib to include the whole foil target area.

Épée: The target area for épée match is the whole body including legs feet, hands, and head. There is no lamé  for this type of match.

The Fencing Club competes at a high level, having ranked in 11th place at the national fencing tournament held at the University of Notre Dame with women’s foil, and their men’s and women’s saber having ranked 8th place.

“Our expectations for next year will be high,” says Bandalene. “We expect to place higher in the rankings for next year.”

“The great thing about fencing is the fact that it is a sport with legitimate sword fighting,” states Bandalene. “The sport is also completely open to newcomers. We usually don’t see people who have fenced before unless they are at one of the Big 10 schools.”

If you are interested in joining the Fencing Club you can join their Facebook group or contact an officer from their GrizzOrgs page. They are looking for new fencers and will be at Go For the Gold this Saturday, March 22 from 10:30am to 1:30pm in the Oakland Center. Come by and talk to them if you are interested!


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