Get en garde: Mercer’s Fencing Club

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Reilly Moncrief

Cecelia Poehlman (left) and Mo Baldwin (right) practice with foil swords.

Fencing is not a typical sport. It involves little movements, small steps and complete concentration. Participants train in a combination of running, gymnastics, dance, plyometrics and yoga in order to prepare for competitions. 

Since 2015, Mercer University’s Club Fencing Team has been led by James Taylor, an experienced fencer who teaches the course in the College of Liberal Arts and coaches the team. He said fencing is an anaerobic sport that requires more than what most people think.  

“Fencing is a well-rounded physical discipline because we work on all sorts of things with the human body because as fencers we need all sorts of different capabilities,” Taylor said. “You have to have flexibility, strength and endurance.” 

Taylor said that fencers tend to be individuals interested in music, theatre and dance as opposed to typical sports such as soccer or baseball. He also compared fencing to physical chess because of the way one thinks and processes information while totally relying on one’s own and their weapon. 

After warming up, the team puts their gear on. This includes masks, jackets, knickers and gloves. Participates also pick their weapon, choosing between a foil, epee or sabre. Each sword is built differently and comes with its own set of rules and strategies.

“We’re a little bit like Harry Potter in a way because sometimes the fencer chooses the weapon and sometimes the weapon chooses the fencer,” Taylor said. “Each of the weapons has its mentally, its own personality.”

The team is also led by team captain, senior Elijah Maier, who has been fencing since his freshman year. He said the club has grown since he started and that members are always welcoming new people to join. 

“There aren’t many sports where you can stab people with a sword and they’re okay with it,” Maier said.

Maier said that he was interested in fencing before he got to Mercer and joined the club when his friend brought him to practice. Growing up, he said he participated in historical fencing. 

The club has three competitions scheduled for this semester, with hopes of adding a few more. Fencers competed at the University of Georgia Jan. 25-26, and they will be competing at Emory University Feb. 22-23 and the Georgia Institute of Technology Mar. 7-8.

The club meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the UC Intramural Courts. It is also offered as a PE course in the College of Liberal Arts.