Parry this: A Q&A with the Fencing Club

Sean Coleman, 19, was a sophomore who died Sunday at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire of complications related to bacterial meningitis. Friends remember him as a kind person who was always goofing around and cracking jokes.

Sean Coleman, 19, was a sophomore who died Sunday at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire of complications related to bacterial meningitis. Friends remember him as a kind person who was always goofing around and cracking jokes.

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Chief Copy Editor Taylor Kuether sat down with the president of the Fencing Club Stephanie Gottschalk to talk about the sport and the club. Gottschalk is a  junior German major and language studies minor.

Taylor Kuether: How long has the Fencing Club been around, and how and when did it get started?
Stephanie Gottschalk: Fencing club started a while ago, I think, but it faded away until a couple years ago when some people revived it. They didn’t have a coach, so they convinced the coach at Madison to come up to EC a few times and show them the basics. Then I started here and since I had prior fencing experience, I ended up taking over when they all graduated.

TK:  How long have you, personally, been fencing?
SG: My high school is the only public school in Minnesota that has a fencing club, and they used to let middle schoolers on the team, so I’ve been fencing since I was twelve. That makes me sound like some kind of badass, but I sucked for the first few years and I usually rank pretty low in tournaments. But since I’ve been at it so long I have a good grasp on the technique and know what to teach people.

TK:  What do you like best about Fencing Club? About fencing as a sport?
SG: I like fencing mostly because it attracts an interesting crowd of people.  As a sport, I feel it’s a lot more engaged than, say, basketball. I mean, if you’re good at basketball then it’s engaged, but for someone like me, I was always getting pushed aside by more skilled players in high school gym. With fencing, that’s not an issue. It’s just you and your opponent, and maybe your opponent is a lot better than you, but you don’t get better unless you fence people who are better than you are.

TK: How many members are involved in the Fencing Club?
SG: Membership varies. We can get 70 people to sign up at BOB, and have 20 show up to the first practice, of which only half come to the second, and membership steadily dwindles as the semester progresses. We only had about three people by the end of last semester. This semester we have about five members from last semester, plus three or four new people who seem genuinely interested in sticking around.

TK: Does the club compete?
SG: We have gone to tournaments in the past. The nearest place that does tournaments is the U of M in the Cities, and we go to one of their more low-key ones where they let us borrow electric equipment. We have enough stuff for practice, but tournaments use electrical scoring.

TK: What is one thing you want readers to know about fencing?
SG: It’s not like you see in the movies. There are no flashy-slashy acrobatics. It is a real sport that requires precision and dedication, which does not mean it isn’t awesome because it is. But I feel like a lot of people who express interest in fencing just want to pretend to be a pirate or Zorro or something. We practice every Monday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in the McPhee Racquetball courts. No experience necessary, all equipment is provided, you can try it out for several weeks before paying dues, which are only $10, very cheap for a fencing club, you don’t have to be able to make it to every practice. If you start mid-semester we’ll get you caught up. It’s lots of fun and great exercise. We could use more members, especially females, for some reason the club here ends up being male-dominated, but there are a lot of really good woman fencers, such as the Americans who won the last Olympics.

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