The graceful but violently dancing feet move across the floor. It’s all over in seconds. With a flash of the blade and shift of stance, a winner grasps victory and a loser tastes defeat. The sport of fencing is an elegant demonstration of the body and muscle through the art of combat.
However, if you are at the Maple Street YMCA from 6:30-8:30 on Wednesday with the Triblade Fencing Academy, you’ll see a less majestic side of fencing.
Triblade was created in the late 1980’s by Maestro Craig Smith. The club was incorporated in 2012 and has programs with both public and private schools in addition to their partnership with local YMCAs.
Fencers of all levels practice in the space. From beginning students trying to master the basic parry and block, to more advanced students honing their skills for competition.
Loy Norrix senior Izzy Wikle has been fencing with Triblade since the spring of her freshman year.
“Fencing requires limited athleticism, and teaches you a lot of life skills you wouldn’t expect. Fencing taught me how to lose,” said Wikle. “Not just in sports, but in life. Failure is a learning tool, if you don’t fail you have no sense of how to improve. There is always room for improvement.”
There are three types of fencing, Epee (fencing with a thin rectangular blade), Foil (fencing with a heavier rectangular blade), and Saber (fencing with a modern, slashing cavalry sword). With Foil and Epee, you are only able to use the end of your sword to score, with saber you are able to use the sword’s edge. The edges and ends of the swords are covered, and participants wear protective face gear to prevent injury.
While specific rules vary, in general, “The famous words of Jon Snow [from “Game of Thrones”] do generally apply. ‘Stick them with the pointy end,’ with a few extra bits for safety,” Wikle said.
In her childhood, Wikle loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the movie “The Princess Bride” which led to her interest in fencing. This is no surprise considering some of Winkle’s idols in the fencing world.
“I personally don’t watch that much Olympic fencing,” Wikle said, “So the fencing idols closest to my heart are: Bob Anderson,who was responsible for the swordplay seen in “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars” and “The Princess Bride” as well as many other swashbuckling classics. As well as Peter Diamond, who worked alongside Anderson in “Star Wars” and “The Princess Bride.”
Wikle plans on joining the Michigan State fencing team next year, although she doesn’t plan on competing seriously.
When asked what she likes most about the sport, Wikle replied, “My favorite thing about fencing is the camaraderie and sense of community and family within the club.”
Many would think that fencing, being non team-oriented, would not have the same sense of community as sports, such as soccer or hockey, in which the entire team works toward the same goal. Yet looking around this gym space on the second floor of the YMCA, the ease in which the program members interact sends a very different message. It is very apparent that, even though they are dueling each other, everyone in that room is fighting to achieve the same goal: to help each other become better.