Mention fencing and you are likely to evoke images of swashbuckling pirates or medieval knights. But this international sport is not necessarily what Hollywood portrays.

“Many think of sword fights from movies when they think of fencing,” said Michael Cogswell of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering and member of the Virginia Tech Fencing Club. “While others do practice sword fighting for historical accuracy or to make exciting scenes in movies, modern Olympic fencing is a competitive sport that employs athleticism, practice, and skill to defeat opponents.”

From 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 25 , the Virginia Tech community will have a chance to learn about fencing during the 2016 Hokie World Games.

"We believe that sport transcends language and cultural barriers to bring people together,” said D.J. Preston, assistant director for club sports. “Hokie World Games is a focused attempt to bring together people from all over the world to learn and celebrate a sport.”

Hokie World Games, sponsored by Virginia Tech Recreational Sports,  takes place annually as the finale of International Week at Virginia Tech. The Council of International Student Organizations partners with Cranwell International Center to coordinate this year’s International Week, March 21-27. A full listing of International Week events is available online.

Friday’s Hokie World Games will consist of stations staffed by Fencing Club members and will include a fencing demonstration to explain the basics of the sport and exhibit different types of fencing. Another station will introduce footwork to participants, and a final station will allow students to try out the sport in a controlled environment.

“Fencing is a very interesting and interactive sport,” said Preston. “You can be a novice and not feel overwhelmed to learn the techniques. And who doesn’t enjoy playing with swords? We feel that the sport of fencing is far-reaching and can capture a wide audience. We enjoy providing diverse recreation options to reach as many of our community members as possible, and fencing is an opportunity to do just that.”

Bryan Kress of Chantilly, Virginia, a senior majoring in construction engineering management in the College of Engineering, is president of the Virginia Tech Fencing Club. He has been a member for three years.

“I played soccer, lacrosse, and football in high school, but fencing is quite different from most sports,” said Kress. “You aren’t competing against a whole team, and you don’t have a role to play in a larger scheme of the game. You are simply competing against two people: your opponent, and yourself.”

Cogswell has fenced for 10 years and has been a member of the Virginia Tech team since 2009. “Fencing has a uniquely appealing combination of qualities for me,” he said. “It’s individual, and strategy is important. In fencing, you can get pretty far by being fast and strong, but you can also do well with strategy by reading what your opponent is going to do next and coming up with creative ways to counter that. I was never very enthusiastic about team sports like soccer and football, but fencing stuck because of its individual, intellectual nature.”

The Virginia Tech Fencing Club was founded in 1979 and currently has about 30 members, ranging from students who are interested in competing to those who are just there to have fun and make friends. The competitive club fields both men’s and women’s teams in all three Olympic weapons: foil, epee, and saber. The teams compete in collegiate club events and United States Fencing Association individual competition. They practice every day of the week.

Joining the Virginia Tech Fencing Club requires no prior skill or knowledge of the sport, and the club offers free lessons for beginners at the start of the fall and spring semesters. For more information, along with upcoming dates and contact information, visit the team’s page on GobblerConnect or join its email list. 

“I think it’s great for the Virginia Tech community to see the history of an international sport like fencing and how it came to be the modern sport that it is,” said Kress. “Although the styles of movements in modern fencing are vastly different from when it first came about, the dualistic nature of the sport has remained intact.”

Written by Holly Paulette.

Share this story