On a Wednesday night in Sam Carver Gymnasium, the clank of metal can be heard throughout the building. In Gym D, students clad in white with protective masks can be seen lunging at each other with foil in hand.
Many students have yet to see Western’s fencing club in action, but will get the chance when the club hosts the first tournament of the year on Sunday, Feb. 17, in Carver Gym A from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I’ve never seen a fencing tournament,” said Western freshman Andie Wall, who is in her first quarter with the club. “I really don’t know what to expect, but I know it’s going to be awesome and pretty intense.”
Fencers from the Bellingham Bay Fencing Association and Central Washington University will be competing against Western in the tournament on Sunday.
Tournaments start out with a preliminary competition that separates competitors into four separate groups. Each fencer has a matchup with every person in their group for three minutes, or until the first player makes five touches with the sword on the opponent’s torso.
The results of the preliminary round determine which fencers compete with each other in the elimination round, said Western junior Taha Rabbani, president of the club.
The elimination rounds are longer than the preliminary, typically lasting six minutes each or first to 10 touches. The fencer with the best performance competes with the fencer with the worst performance, and then the second best fences against the second worst. This ranking continues until the two fencers who performed at the same level compete. In this round, anyone who loses an exchange is out of the tournament, Rabbani said.
Western’s fencing club is open to Western students and staff. The practices are on Mondays and Wednesdays in Carver Gym from 9 to 11 p.m.
Rabbani started fencing for his senior project in high school.
“One of our goals [for the club] is to make fencing accessible for anyone who wants to try it out,” Rabbani said.
The club provides any equipment and lessons needed for new fencers for $50 per year.
“I always think that [fencing] is something that everyone kind of has a little interest in, because there’s swords and sword play in general,” Rabbani said. “I think people will usually have that kind of an interest growing up as kids.”
Fencing is an Olympic sport, but the Olympic Games fencing is very different than the way regular clubs play, Rabbani said.
“Things are a little bit slower paced [in club fencing], obviously because the Olympics are so fast back and forth,” Rabbani said. “For us it’s a little bit more relaxed because we’re a club sport and we don’t compete as often with other schools. But when we do, it’s a friendly competition.”
Western’s club focuses on foil fencing, which uses a thin sword that bends on impact to help prevent injury. The target areas for sword touches in this type of fencing are the torso, back and groin, said Western sophomore and fencer Jake Unzicker.
“I didn’t know anything about fencing before going into the club here and I’ve been doing it for about two years now,” Unzicker said. “It’s a great opportunity for actually learning how to do something as opposed to just being on a team and trying to win. It focuses on the learning aspect of it.”