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Durham University Fencing Experiences

Interview with M1, W1 and Club Captains 2015/16

How did you discover fencing? (and how much do you fence now?)

Anthony Avis: I attended a taster session at the age of nine, and was immediately hooked!

Laura Daieff: My brother started fencing at university, and as the typical small sister who constantly looks up to the older sibling, I knew I would start fencing once in Durham. Surprisingly, I was selected to fence for the Women’s 2nd team after only 2 novice sessions. Fencing 4 to 5 times a week allowed me to improve rapidly and I now fence for the Women’s 1st team.

Joe Schenkel : I ran through a whole gambit of sports as a kid; Tae Kwon Do, baseball, tennis, swimming, soccer, and I’m sure a few others. None of them stuck. Between the ages of 10-12 I did nothing. Parents said, “Joe, you’re getting fat. Go do something.” I was like, “K.” Ran into a tiny fencing club at the mall, which happened to have one of the best coaches in the US (Misha Itkin). Rest is history.

How do you balance fencing in BUCS with your degrees?

Anthony: Efficient use of time, and the occasional late night.

Laura: Fencing several times a week requires a reasonable amount of commitment. Sometimes it even feels like I am either fencing or studying in the library. Yet I know very clearly what my priorities are; were I to choose between fencing and my degree, I would prioritise the latter without any doubts. However, I believe that fencing and my degree complement each other rather than standing in conflict.

Joe: Get stuff done. Sleep. Party. There’s enough time in the day for two. Sleep is for the weak [This is not endorsed as a strategy for everyone. Ed.]

What do you think fencing offer students new to the sport?

Anthony: It’s a sport which requires a hugely diverse skillset, so it can offer students all sorts of things. It’s a great workout, a huge confidence booster, and most importantly you get to hit people with swords; what’s not to love?

Laura: First of all, fencing (or any other sport) offers the chance to take a break, and focus all your attention on something non-academic for a few hours. What is specific to fencing is its polyvalence. It requires a good level of fitness, a capacity to react quickly, to think strategically, as well as the skill to feel and read the opponent. And one might be surprised how useful those skills can be outside of fencing!

Joe: You get to stab people with swords without getting thrown in jail. ‘Nuff said. In all seriousness, though, most of the major lessons I’ve learned in life came through fencing. Like most things in life, you get what you put in. Fencing can be a fun new thing to do on weekends, or it can consume you and want to make you push yourself to new limits.
Getting good at something doesn’t happen all at once. It requires fire from within. You may hit a plateau for months before making any significant improvements. Fencing will teach you discipline and patients, as you can’t just overpower someone through physical fitness alone. That being said, fencing will get you into pretty great shape. A fast fencer will beat a strong fencer, a smart fencer will beat a strong fencer, but a smart, fast, strong fencer will beat everybody.

What’s the best thing about Durham Fencing?

Anthony: I’m not sure I know what the single best thing about DUFC is, but I can tell you the things which I think are really great about the club. The facilities are phenomenal (as is our level of support from the university), and there’s a real family atmosphere which creates a great support network, no matter how experienced a fencer you are.

Laura: I’ve played various sports, in various contexts and for various teams. The reason why I’ve stuck to fencing, for now three years, is the wonderful team spirit. Beyond giving me the chance to meet students from different colleges, year groups and nationalities, I got to know some of my now closest friends, and I’ve even met my college husband through fencing!

Joe: The team. I consider them family. It’s clichéd but true. The strength of the wolf is the pack; the strength of the pack is the wolf.

Describe fencing in 3 words

Anthony: Really tired legs.

Laura: Polyvalent, elegant, three-musketeer-ish

Joe: Best. Game. Ever.