Club Column: Fencing

Bethany Crow takes a look at the fencing club in the latest club column.

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Photograph: Ian Meeks

Fencing may not be a sport that many know too much about before joining the team, but that’s one of the things that makes it such a successful one within Lancaster University’s history. It introduces a new sport into many students’ lives, which they may not have come across before. On a basic level, it’s sword fighting, which I have to admit, is pretty cool. But club captain, Matt Haslam, tells me that there is much more to it than that, not least that they’re just a very friendly bunch.

As the sport has generally been new to a fair amount of members, this lends itself well to a good balance between competitive fencers and casual members. Members are pushed to develop by fierce competition for spots on the teams, which are amongst the most successful the university has seen.

This year the team are set to improve on some unlucky events from last year, which saw relegation from the top league for the men, and a narrow loss for the women at Roses. This said, the men’s first and second teams both triumphed over York, with the firsts winning the close fought encounter in a spectacularly dramatic style. This is naturally a feat the men are hoping to repeat this year, and the women are out for revenge – making all the matches well worth a watch on Roses weekend.

In more competitions, the women’s team have made a promising start, with them battling for promotion to the 1A Northern League. They’re also still in contention for the Northern Conference Cup, with things looking likely for them to go the whole way. The men’s team were unfortunately knocked out by a strong Dundee effort, but are still on track to consolidate a top half finish in their league. One particular highlight of the season was a dramatic climax to the team’s home match against Liverpool, which saw a close a fight to the end, with the match not being won until the final bout, thanks to Wai Yu Kwan. All teams have something to fight for, so it promises to be an exciting end to the season.

One of the greatest assets of the Fencing Club, is that for many of their new joiners, Freshers’ Week is the first time they pick up a weapon. Whilst the team attracts experienced members, one of their biggest focusses is on developing new and talented fencers from the first week, placing emphasis on integrating them in to the team and building match experience for them. Year on year, the progress made by these previously inexperienced fencers in fantastic, with Roses offering many of them a chance to shine.

Their training schedule appears pretty hectic; with sessions twice a week for all members, as well as additional sessions for members of the team to hone in on vital skills. The team are lucky enough to work with some of the best coaches out there, which really does get the most out of the team, pushing them to achieve their very best. Teamwork is still a great emphasis for the club, with many of the more experienced fencers always happy to offer a hand to newer members. One such “club legend” is Chris Anwyl, who has been with the team for some time; who along with being one of the team’s leading fencers is always around to help behind the scenes with various aspects of the club.

Naturally, as with any sports team, socials play an important role within the team. There’s a whole variety of socials, varying from club barbeques, formal dinners and fancy-dress bar crawls. Following last week’s home game to Liverpool, the opponents were welcomed along on a three-legged campus bar crawl, showing the community nature of the team and bringing home that they are just generally one big group of friends. It’s a very relaxed club for socials, and there is pretty much something for everyone, which Matt credits to the club’s excellent social secs.

Overall there are many aspects that Matt believes make the Fencing Club what it is today. As someone who hadn’t picked up their first weapon until joining the club, it’s the fact that the club brings out the best in new members that he finds the most satisfying aspect of being club captain; watching members develop and compete in competitions, both as individuals and with teams. And of course, winning matches.