The Virginia Fencing Club hosted their inaugural tournament this weekend at Memorial Gymnasium. The tournament featured Fencers from George Washington University, the University of Mary Washington, and Liberty University. For those who may be unfamiliar with fencing, the sport is divided into three categories based on weapon. Foil, a lighter weapon in which fencers target the torso area specifically; épée, original sword of the sport in which any point of contact is fair game; and sabre, the weapon used to target any point of contact above the waist. Matches are timed to 3 minutes and last until one of the fencers scores 5 points or the clock runs out. “Today is primarily designed to be a learning experience,” Fencing Club President Nick Monahan said. This first tournament was specifically designed for rookie fencers – those new to the sport or new to Virginia, or new to competing with that weapon. The competition grouped fencers into pools and had them compete in individual matches against each other, round robin style. After all of the pools have completed, a bracket is created for the direct elimination rounds. The fencers then compete individually for a first place, second place, or third place score. “It’s always fun. This is mostly for the new guys to check it out and see if it’s something they want to continue with,” junior Andrew Becker said. “Hopefully they stick with it, usually the more they get into it, the more they like it.” Of the 40 active members of the fencing team, 20 new members from the Virginia fencing team competed in the tournament. “It’s been great having all this interest,” senior Amy Linderman said, “our new fencers are really dedicated and we’ve been pushing them really hard, but they’ve been taking it well.” This year, the fencing club showed a greater interest in sabreurs than in previous years. In fencing with a sabre, there is no typical “right of way” meaning that any fencer can attack or parry an attack at any point in time. In foil and épée, however, a fencer can only score when they are on the offensive. The sabre is the cavalier style of fencing, and is typically described with dramatic thrashing movements in which you can earn a point with the side of the weapon as well as point. This is another basic difference from foil and épée, in which points are earned with the tip of the weapon. Erin Goodier, a first year who is new to the sport and new to Virginia fencing competed in her first round as a sabreur today. “It’s really fun and just as exciting as I thought it would be,” Erin reflected, “You don’t have to poke people, you just have to be aggressive at the right time.” As the rookie fencers were competing, the veteran fencers served as judges, coaches and administrators of the tournament. President Monahan who not only was in charge of running the tournament, was also head judge and everyone’s go-to for problem solving. You can’t help but feel the pride and excitement of the veteran fencers as the newer members were competed. Virginia fencing is completely student-run and operated. Although they typically hire a coach for one week in January, the practices and training are run by veteran captains chosen by level of experience and interest in the sport. The general atmosphere of camaraderie is eminent even to the newest fencers. Jacob Blevins, a first year competing in épée sums it up perfectly. “I like it better that way [with student coaches],” Blevins said. “It just seems easier for people closer to your age to teach you.” There’s no doubt that Virginia fencing is excited about what the upcoming season has to offer. With 8 major tournaments on the horizon and countless invitational events, there are plenty of opportunities for the team to show their enthusiasm for the sport; and with an active twitter site (@Virginiafencing) and a spectator friendly atmosphere, the entire student body also has the opportunity to learn about it too.