| 03.20.2018

Getting to the point – UI Fencing Club aims to teach students technical skills while fostering camaraderie


University of Idaho senior biology major Philip Kock first joined the Fencing Club on campus after learning about the organization during Palousafest his freshman year.

Now the president of the club, Kock said his experience with fencing at the university has been an invaluable one.

Mamta Kandel | Rawr
Zachary and Benjamin Spence spar at Fencing Club practice in January in the Physical Education Building.

The club of about five members meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Physical Education Building Room 111 and Kock said it”s a place where anyone who is interested in fencing can stop by, regardless of whether they have prior experience with the sport.

“I had no prior experience when I joined, I just watched a lot of nerdy sword fighting movies,” Kock said. “You don”t have to have any experience, we teach beginning, “never held a foil up” to advanced.”

Not only does the club encourage anyone who is interested to join, but Kock said the environment is also inclusive and engaging.

“It”s a really interesting dynamic where I”ve seen some kids come in and they”re super awkward and unsociable,” Kock said. “As they start fencing, they become more talkative and more social, so it”s a really cool dynamic.”

Kock said one of the trickiest parts about fencing is that many students think of fencing as effortless, like in “The Princess Bride,” but the sport actually requires a great deal of technical skill.

UI Fencing Club Coach Duncan Pulmatier, whose fascination with knights as a child prompted him to pursue fencing in 1969, said romantic misconceptions regarding fencing are surprisingly common.

“It”s a much more competitive sport than people at first think,” Pulmatier said. “A lot of people gravitate toward it probably for the same reasons I did, they have romantic feelings about the musketeers and knights and that sort of stuff, but it”s not that way.”

Pulmatier said he also believes many people are deterred from trying fencing because of the amount of skill and technique needed to learn the sport.

“It”s the unusual person who takes it on, is suited to it and sticks with it,” Pulmatier said. “Many beginners are put off by the fact that it”s not a game you can compete in with just minimum involvement.”

Although the more technical side of fencing might come as a challenge in the beginning, Pulmatier said once the basics have been learned, the sport is a great way to stay active.

“It”s highly specialized, difficult to learn and master as a sport,” Pulmatier said. “But when you start to get good at it, it”s a great sport and a very satisfying one.”

When it comes to learning the sport, Kock said there is nothing more rewarding than seeing improvement and watching a move work during a match.

“A fencer is seeing an action work – on the face level of fencing, it”s relatively simple,” Kock said. “You attack somebody who either defends or doesn”t defend, so seeing something work, that”s the best feeling.”

Kock said being a part of a club also helps alleviate some of the challenges that come with learning how to fence, as the club members are a support system for one another.

“It”s a great place to make friends,” Kock said. “We”re not really a super active club, I mean you”ll break a sweat, but it”s a fun way to make friends, have a good time and let out some stress.”

Corrin Bond can be reached at  arg-arts@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @CorrBond

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