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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Unmasking NIU’s Fencing Club

Josephine Dunmore
Angela Nyam-Ochir, president of Fencing Club, gives instructions to members on what skills to focus on and practice in Monday night’s meeting. (Josephine Dunmore | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Stabbing and slashing are the usual words to describe a violent crime; but at Fencing Club, both of those actions are totally legal and encouraged.

The NIU Fencing Club is a group of students who meet from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Recreation Center, Studio A every Monday and Thursday for 2 hours to practice the combat sport.

Just like any other sport, Fencing Club likes to start with a warmup, fencers work on stretching out their bodies and practicing fencing stances.

After a warm up, the action begins.

The group splits into three sections based on the type of blade they use. The type of blades are foil, épée and sabre. 

Sophia Durbin, a junior mechanical engineering major and secretary of the Fencing Club, said that members will get to pick which blade they want to use.

“Someone will take you under their wing, we’ll give you the basic form, we’ll do a crash course of how to learn, and then that will be your segue into learning any of the three blades,” Durbin said. “On your first day, we’re going to show you all the different types of blades there are, and then we let you choose whichever one you want to do most, whichever one is the most fun.”

The foil blade is typically the best for beginners as fencers can only get hit in the torso area of their body and only use the tip of the sword. 

The épée blade uses the tip of the sword to strike, but it can be used to hit anywhere on the body. 

The final sword is the sabre where the strikes are in slashing motions that use the entire sword but not the tip and also can hit from the hip up on their opponent. 

Durbin said using the sabre can be seen as reminiscent to some sword fighting movies.

“When you think of Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s saber.” Durbin said. 

In their groups, the NIU Fencing Club works on drills, partners will strike and block at varying paces depending on their skill level.


Ethan Gamble, a junior computer science major, demonstrates a practice drill for other members to work on during Fencing Club on Monday night. Gamble has been a part of the club for three years, and he said it’s been a great experience. (Josephine Dunmore | Northern Star)

Fencing Club has many different skill levels from students who have been fencing since middle school to ones that have joined the club this year. 

Laine Stillwell, a senior international relations major, who recently joined the club said that everyone should give the club a try. 

“They teach you how to do everything, especially if you’re new, you can even come in now and we’ll help teach you how to learn,” Stilwell said. “It’s just really a fun experience, and I recommend everyone should just give it a try.“

The strip is the most awaited part of the practice, where the fencers get the chance to use what they have learned in drills in a competitive match. 

Two fencers line up on the strip, facing each other, all geared up and ready to battle. The referee signals them to start and the fencers strategically make their moves. 

Like a chess match, the fencers attempt to tactically thrust, swipe or poke depending on their sword while the other opponent blocks or evades the incoming attack.

Whenever a player is struck with a valid touch, a point is earned and the fencers reset to their respective sides and begin again. They will battle to up to 15 points and then another pair takes the strip.

Although Fencing Club is mainly about combat, the group also places an emphasis on hanging out with friends.

Parker LaSalle, a senior math education major, who has been a part of the fencing club for 3 years and is the former president of the club, said the club is welcoming to anyone.

“It’s fun. It’s a workout. It’s something to get you out of your dorm if you’re just looking for something,” LaSalle said. “ We’re a pretty laid back club. If you want to just come chill, hang out, do homework in the corner.”

To join Fencing Club, members pay $20 annually. The fee pays for all the equipment, as the club provides you with everything you need.

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