Students learn new footwork and bladework at Fencing Club

Jean-Pierre Oberste, right, charges his opponent during a tournament bout on Feb 13 in the University Center.

Image: Nick Wooten

Jean-Pierre Oberste, right, charges his opponent during a tournament bout on Feb 13 in the University Center.

Ireal James, Contributing Writer

Student interest has turned a one credit hour physical fitness course into a new club sport. The Mercer University Fencing Club, founded last September by fencing instructor James Taylor and some of his students, is training hard and already competing in tournaments.

“The coach [Taylor] and a few friends in the class formed a club, so I joined because I was interested,” said Mercer student Pawel Kraj.

Kraj said that the fencing club has been an educational experience as well as a physical activity.

“[I] wondered about joining the fencing club in high school, but never got around to it,” Kraj said.

After joining Mercer’s new club, Kraj said he learned a lot from Taylor even though he never took the formal course. The coach spent time developing students like him who showed an interest in the sport.

“I had to catch up with my bladework and footwork. Coach Taylor gave me a really good introduction to fencing,” Kraj said. “He does a great job of not only showing us why something doesn’t work, but also how to do something better,” he said.

As someone who has been newly introduced to fencing, Kraj said he enjoys the activity and working with experts as well as other students.

There are other fencing clubs who also practice with the Mercer Fencing Club.  

“Some members of the Warner Robins Fencing Society also work with us. There’s also a professor at the medical school who comes to our practices, and his advice has been particularly helpful,” Kraj said.

With the influence of other fencers, Mercer students learn different techniques that improve the way they perform during tournament time.

“I look forward to working on how I fence and learning from different people I practice with,” Kraj said.

The fencing club had mixed success in their Feb. 13 tournament in the University Center — one of their first since the organization was founded. Still, Kraj, who placed third in epee and saber, remains optimistic.

“I learned a lot about fencing and about things that I need to work on, things that I’ve been doing well,” he said, adding that he had only started with saber fencing two weeks before.

Kraj also said that there was a good fan turnout, with friends, faculty and family all showing up to support the fledgling team.

“Seeing that support from the Mercer community was great,” he said. “As a whole, the tournament went pretty well.”

The Mercer Fencing Club will fence against Georgia Tech next month. Though this will be another competition, the students seek to make friendships with their opponents.

“Our tournaments are an opportunity to meet fencers from other schools. We usually go out to dinner after the tournament with them,” Kraj said.