CCA Previews ’21: Fencing

By: Choi Beom Soo (21S03L), Boys’ Captain, and Karen Lee (21S05A), Girls’ Captain

I need to win this. All the gruelling training I’ve been through this year has come down to this one moment. Everyone in the CCA is counting on me. 

These thoughts rush through your mind as you wipe the trickling sweat from your forehead. 

“En garde. Pret. Allez!” The abrupt command by the referee to start snaps you back to reality. Adrenaline rushes through your body as your opponent charges towards you. Taking a step back, you prepare to intercept his blade and another rush of excitement flows through your body as the blades clash. A clever flick of the blade onto your opponent after the parry wins you the point. You throw your blade up in exhilaration as you realise that you have won and screams of joy fill the air. Is this the type of thrill that you are looking for in a sport? If so, fencing is the sport for you! 

Contrary to popular belief, fencing isn’t simply about two people jabbing at each other for victory, it’s a sport that requires mental and physical dexterity to outsmart and outmanoeuvre your opponent in order to score the touch. In fact, it’s not even a single sport. It’s split into categories according to the three weapon types: sabre, épée and foil. 

The three different types of weapons in fencing.

Sabre fencing is characterised by aggression and speed and the target area is the entire upper body. The blade has a unique U-shaped guard, with the whole blade being conductive. In comparison, épée fencing is relatively slower and a touch anywhere on the body will be counted as a point. Épéeists use a heavier blade, with a large umbrella shaped guard to protect the wielder’s hand. Foils are the smallest and lightest of the three. As the target area is limited to the space from the torso to the neck, foilists have to be extra agile with their bladework in order to land accurate hits. 

Every bout begins with a simple salute—first to your opponent, then to the referee. This simple action is the final step before the two fencers are executing a flurry of carefully calculated maneuvers in a mad rush of adrenaline they can never quite get enough of. To the untrained eye, fencing may seem to consist of merely a quick exchange of random blows. But to possess a fencer’s mind is to possess a keen mental agility that allows for split-second decision-making based on the smallest variations of distance and time. To possess a fencer’s body is to pair athleticism with grace. Every bout ends with a handshake, a promise to continue chasing the thrill of a close fight, of blades clashing in explosive motion; of victory. While reaching this level of expertise may take years of effort, fencers train constantly to improve themselves.

During training, we split up according to the three weapon groups to practice our footwork and sparring. This is in preparation for events such as the National School Games (NSG), which would have undoubtedly been a main event of the year if not for COVID-19. While the NSG has a quota for the number of fencers allowed to participate from each school, there are various other competitions for fencers to take part in. For example, Novices is a competition for fencers with less experience to test their mettle. Previous years have also featured events such as CCA Camp and Raffles Invites. The latter is a U20 fencing competition organised by Raffles Institution (RI), usually held in December. The competitions are what fervent fencers always look forward to as their skills and abilities are tested on the piste. Every year, many RI fencers do our school proud by winning medals in these events. However, it is important to note that winning isn’t the primary goal of competitions. Instead, the primary goals are to learn from your errors, build strong team spirit as well as display the FIRE (Fortitude, Integrity, Respect and Enterprise) values at all times. 

During competitions, the competitive spirit shines in our fencers (photo taken pre-COVID).

While fencing may be an individual sport, a large part of the joy derived from fencing is through the experiences fencers share as a team. Tackling the steep learning curve of the sport is not an easy task, and with COVID-19, this became infinitely more difficult. Yet, thanks to the effort fencers put into building and maintaining bonds with each other, we’ve managed to prove that our camaraderie can tide us through the hardest of times. From doing Physical Training over Skype to engaging in study calls and celebrating birthdays via Zoom, Fencing has tried our best to create a memorable CCA experience in spite of the disruptions we face in the present. As the situation progresses, we look forward to trying the things we haven’t had the opportunity to experience thus far, including team dinners, CCA outings, and going for competitions together.

Join fencing if you’re looking for a challenge, something new, or just some fun, because it’s so much more than just a sport.

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