A day in the life of: A Fencer

This article is part of the CCA Previews for 2016.

by Ng Jing Chun (16S06N),Boys’ Captain; Chloe Chu Min (16A01E), Girls’ Captain

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Our team photo.

Ever watched Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars? Well, here is your chance to emulate your movie heroes and be a skilled swordsman/swordswoman!

A typical day of training begins with 30 minutes of warming up, which normally means several rounds around the track followed by some dynamic stretching. Afterwards, we do “foot drills” – intense and fast-paced exercises that aim to increase speed, agility, balance and explosiveness. The coaches then lead us in some footwork training. In fencing, familiarity with combinations of foot movements has to be achieved, much like how a dancer has to perfect a set of body movements and how a boxer learns boxing combinations. After all, fencing is a martial art that has been practised by the likes of Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These gruelling sets of squats, jumps, lunges and quick foot movements often foster team spirit, as we encourage each other to push through the last set and stretch our limits. It is oft-quoted that going through common adversity forges the strongest bonds, and it is precisely such tests of physical and mental endurance that make us feel a special sense of belonging to the team.

After completing footwork, the call from the coach to “suit up” is one that is greeted with great enthusiasm. There are 3 types of blades in fencing, namely Foil, Epee and Sabre. They each have the same foundational movements, but have different rules in competition. Based on your specific skill sets and physique, our coaches will advise you on which blade you should specialise in. “Suiting up” means that we change into the specific equipment needed for our blade and split into the 3 blade groups, each helmed by 1 coach. Under each blade group’s coach, we learn hits and parries specific to the blade we use. Fencing is often described as “physical chess”, as you have to learn strategic movements and carry them out with dexterity to counter your opponent’s moves.

We put these moves into practise when we end off training with multiple fencing bouts. The rush of adrenaline you feel as you step up to the piste and face your opponent is particularly invigorating. When you fence, someone literally charges at you with a weapon, and you have to have courage and confidence to meet the attack and calmly execute your moves to win the point. The satisfaction of evading an attack and landing your own hit is unmatchable. The sounds of clashing blades, shoes screeching against the floor and triumphant “war cries” make for a galvanising training environment.

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So, what else can you expect from this CCA? What you can be sure to gain are special bonds you share with your teammates. We bond over the pain of defeat, the backbreaking toughness of training, and the sweetness of victory. Many may argue that fencing is an individual sport without much need for teamwork, but you can be sure that in this CCA, teamwork and team spirit is everything. We’ve worked hard, played hard and fought hard together, and in the process built valuable friendships that we will cherish for life. Due to the relatively small number of fencers in Singapore, the fencing community is also one that is tight-knit. We often see the same faces at the regular competitions that we participate in, and going for free sparring sessions organised by Blade Club (training in school is helmed by Blade Club) during the weekend is also a great way for you to get to know fencers from other schools.

Outside the official trainings on Tuesday and Thursday from 4.30pm-7.30pm, fencers often meet up for meals, additional physical trainings or just to hang out. We make it a point to carry out a fitness program beyond school training, regularly hitting the gym, going for runs and training our agility. The whole team also undergoes regular beep tests to keep track of our fitness. There is also an annual CCA camp organised in March.

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All smiles after physical training at MacRitchie

So, don’t hesitate to join Raffles Fencing – it’ll be an experience that you will never regret! Not only does it train your mind and body, but more importantly, you will walk away from this CCA with some great memories that you will hold dear for life.

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