Junior international relations and diplomacy major Seth Blythe of Stewardson, Illinois spars with senior theater major Tim Tan of Granite City, Illinois during the fencing club’s most recent meeting.

For those on the fence to try something new, SIUE Fencing Club can show students how to be en garde to duel and have fun.


SIUE Fencing Club can’t be foiled as they gain the skills to fence and duel.


The Fencing Club of SIUE allows students to practice fencing and dueling and compete in tournaments hosted by area universities.


Faculty Advisor of the Fencing Club and Associate Professor of Computer Management and Information Systems Tim Jacks said the club participates in tournaments but does not compete at the school level.


“Tournaments are frequently hosted by other schools and our club has fought against teams from SLU, WashU and UMSL,” Jacks said. “We don’t typically compete against other schools, per se, or have done any team events, although it’s a possibility.”


Members of the Fencing Club can be ranked after competing. Member Seth Blythe is ranked Class D and John Beach is ranked Class B.


Clinical Adult Psychology grad student, Gabriel Alfaro, of Manteno, Illinois, said


“When a fencer gets ranked, they're basically put in a pool with other fencers of that skill level. It also means that they did well enough in a tournament to either win it outright or get within the top three of their seed,” Alfaro said. “Everyone who gets ranked first starts at rank D, but if you keep winning you'll climb up the ranks through C, B, and A.”


According to Alfaro, if a fencer is ranked they are placed within a specific group of fencers rather than the catch-all unranked category during national competitions.


Alfaro said he enjoys fencing because it involves strategy.


“I like the fact that [fencing] is like playing chess, where you have to think about what you are doing and what your opponent is doing, but it’s also pretty good physical exercise,” Alfaro said.


Junior computer science major Andrew Cline, of Gilipsee, Illinois, joined the Fencing Club in February. He said the club had just what he was looking for.


“I was mainly interested in anything that included martial arts with weapons, so I kind of looked around at the different clubs [SIUE had to offer] and this one matched what I was looking for,” Cline said. “So I started going to practices and the more I went, the more fun it became.”


Cline said his goal is to put his skills to the test within the club.


“I would definitely like to beat the best person in the club, at the moment, and I would like to compete to see where I’m at and how well I would do,” Cline said.  


Alfaro said real-life fencing is different compared to fencing depicted on television.


“[The comparisons] vary. In general I'd say it's less dramatic and many fencers on TV have been trained to do a lot of things, for better or worse, sway the referee's attention and favor one way or the other,” Alfaro said.  “At local bouts you'll see less shouting or posing after points are scored. Fencers at higher tiers do this so it looks like they've gotten the point.”


The New Adviser of the Year award was given to Tim Jacks for advising the SIUe Fencing Club.  He has been working with the club for over a year and helped with the transition of officers.


According to Alfaro the members are required to wear protective gear while dueling.


“We have to wear a four-piece uniform and we have an under-arm protector for our dominant arm — right or left — then we have a jacket on top of that,” Alfaro said. “The last two pieces are a helmet and a glove on our dominant hand.”


Jacks said due to the $2000 to $3000 budget provided by SIUE Club Sports, the club has been able to utilize an electronic scoring system.


According to The Temple News the system connects to the armor and sends light from an electronic scoring machine when the touch of a blade touches the body. It will indicate, based on colors, which part of the body is hit.


“We have gotten a lot more focused on training for competitions lately,” Jacks said. “SIUE and club sports have been very generous in giving us to pay for equipment, so we actually have a full electronic scoring system now. So we hook people up to the scoring system ­— doing live bouts and keeping score and getting the full competition environment,” Jacks said.  


Alfaro said members of the club can use the skills they learn to just have fun.


“We are classified as a competitive club, but we are also recreational, so if someone joins and they don’t want to compete, that’s totally fine,” Alfaro said.


The sport offers all three weapon options including the foil, epee and sabre.


The foil is the lightest and the most flexible of the weapons. It has a rectangular cross-section with a foiled tip.


“The foil is what people usually start with and the target area is just the torso,” Jacks said.


The sabre has a stiffer, heavier and shorter blade that has a V-shaped cross-section and a curved bell guard protecting the hand at the base of the weapon. An epee is the heaviest and stiffest weapon of the three. The blade has a triangular cross-section and spring button at the tip to cover the blade’s point.


“The epee’s target area is the entire body and that’s my favorite form and it’s probably what we compete in the most,” Jacks said. “The third form is sabre fencing, where the target area is the upper body and includes slashing moves and it’s fun and extremely fast-paced, but it requires the most armor.”


Jacks said any student interested can join and learn about fencing.


“We are a warm and friendly group of people, we welcome newcomers and we like teaching and sharing knowledge with new people,” Jacks said.

To join the Fencing Club, members must pay annual membership dues membership dues of $25. Practices are held every Wednesday and Sunday evening from 4 - 6 p.m. in the Group Activities Room and the Instructional Gym of the SFC.


For more information, students can contact Gabriel Alfaro at galfaro@siue.edu or Tim Jacks at tjacks@siue.edu.


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