Inexpensive sport keeps competitive, rich tradition at CU
Watching a club fencing practice may seem like watching a match from medieval times, but the CU team sees otherwise.
This sport is played by dedicated members and has proven itself well against other schools.
SCORING IN FENCING
There’s a different target area for each weapon. For the épée, it’s the entire body. In saber, any part of the body from the waist up, including head and arms, is a valid target. In foil, a touch can be scored only on the trunk, from the top of the collar to the groin lines in front and to the line across the tops of the hip bones in back. (For women, the hip-bone line is also the lower limit in the front of the body.)
A touch must be scored with the point of the blade in épée and foil. In sabre, a touch can also be scored with the front edge or with the top third of the back edge.
“It’s a very honor-driven sport and a very athletic sport. It’s a huge mind game,” Fencing Club President and junior psychology major Jessica Miltenberger said.
The sport, which developed out of chivalric duels between knights about 1,000 years ago in England, can trace its roots here at CU to before the turn of the 19th century. In 1899, former Olympic fencer Fred Hellems was appointed dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Fast forward to 2007, and the CU club fencing team is alive and well. With around 15 regular members and annual tournaments in Berkeley, Calif., the sport once played by a Latin professor at CU more than 100 years ago remains a club sports staple.
Miltenberger said the first mention of a fencing team at CU was during the 1930s. In the 1960s, an official club team was created.
Miltenberger likens her sport to one a little less obscure, but with a major twist.
“It’s chess at 300 miles per hour,” she said. “It’s so much thinking and strategizing.”
The match is played on a 2-meter by 15-meter strip and the match is concluded once one player achieves five points. A point is given for striking an opponent with the tip of the épée and foil, two types of fencing weapons. With the third weapon, the sabre, a player may use the front blade to slice at the opponent.
One of the club sport’s greatest attractions is its price, said Miltenberger.
“We’re actually by far the cheapest club in Colorado,” she said.
To participate, membership costs $35 per semester.
Beginners with no experience can attend an introductory course, held twice every semester by the team.
The introductory course costs $30 and meets every Tuesday and Thursday for six weeks and emphasizes footwork and blade work. The first semester on the fencing team is free if taking this class.
The team takes a trip to California for the West Coast Collegiate Nationals every January. This past January, the team fared well, given the circumstances.
“We did ok actually, considering we were one of three teams that aren’t NCAA (affiliated) and ridiculously well funded,” Miltenberger said.
This year, the team even hopes to send qualified fencers to the summer nationals in Miami, Fla.
Unlike other club sports, though, the fencing team does not have an actual record since the sport is so individualized. Individual fencers are ranked, though. The best fencers on the CU’s team are C-rated. For comparison purposes, Hellems or any other Olympic fencer would be A-rated.
The fencing season concludes this semester in May, following the Mile High Team Tournament.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Evan Acker at email@example.com.