Putting our best feet forward while fencing at Queen’s

The Journal's Sports editors try their hand at this combat sport

The Sports editors team up with Queen's Fencing.

This week, The Journal’s Sports editors teamed up with Queen’s Fencing to try out one of the swankiest combat sports around. While they didn’t transform into pros after one lesson, they did learn a couple of great moves and some fun and fancy footwork. 

After returning to the safety of The Journal house, the two reflected on their experience and the new-found fencing rivalry between them. Here’s some of the highlights of their afternoon together:  

“Like many of you, I, too, was once a small child. And as a small child, I felt that it was my obligation to go to Scholastic book fairs and read Usborne illustrated history books about knights. 

Even as an adult, I still have a vested interest in chivalry—the modern kind where you respect a woman by letting her pick up the tab.

All of this is to say that, when Queen’s Fencing reached out to me with their response to my inquiry about trying out a sabre or two, I lunged at the opportunity. 

I read prodigiously and watched more instructional videos than Khan Academy could handle. I started eating with chopsticks to finetune my fine motor skills. I even adopted a strict medieval diet of mutton and mulled wine—or, at least, I imagined eating those delicacies. 

In short, by the time our visit with the fencing team came around, I was in peak jabbing condition. 

We went to West Campus and got kitted out. Fencing apparel is athleisure meets crash-test dummy, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel good wearing it.

After some stretching, footwork, and meditative visualization, Alina and I got our start in the épée class. I was pitted against my arch-nemesis, my housemate and the captain of the fencing team, Rory McEwen.

Two steely Scots staring each other in the eye, it felt like I was on the set of Braveheart. Rory immediately kicked my ass, but not before I stabbed him a couple of times. They call that a touch in fencing.

I tried another category, sabre, and got my ass kicked by different people, too, but in new ways. One guy even did an experimental move on me, the Flying Impalement, and stabbed me in my masked face.

Then it was time for the heavyweight bout between Alina and I, the marquee event. Everyone crowded around and cheered. It was a really big deal. Then I won and everyone chanted my name and, at least in my dreams, carried me around on their shoulders.

I want to thank Queen’s Fencing for the indelible memory. I’ll cherish it forever.”

Jack Rabb, Sports Editor


“Before stepping into the experience, I was nervous. I had no previous fencing experience or knowledge. But after trying my hand at the sport, I feel much more educated on what fencing really is.

The warmups at first were no problem. Running laps? Cool, I do it all the time. Then came practicing footwork, where I discovered there’s much more to the sport than just lunging at your opponent. The footwork is a basic skill that I did not have, nor did I really seem to pick it up. But, after a lot of practice, I finally began to learn enough of the fundamentals to get started.

After learning the basic moves, it was time to throw on protective wear. Little did I know that there were a bunch of components to a fencing uniform: a mask, a jacket, and a glove, to name a few.

After being hooked up to a wire that connects the sword to the score box, I started my first round against a member of the Queen’s Fencing Club.

As soon as the round began I realized how complicated fencing truly is: not only did I have to be quick, I had to attack my opponent as soon as possible so they wouldn’t gain a point on me. I think I lacked some fighting spirit at first, since everyone collectively chanted at me to “be aggressive!”

Next up Jack and I faced off. This time, as soon as one of the team members said “en garde,” I lunged at Jack. Unfortunately, he lunged right back at me and whipped his sword back and forth so fast that it was distracting. At one point, I remember yelling at Jack to “stop being so aggressive” and getting some laughs from the more experienced fencers watching us struggle.

By the end of the day, I was tired and hungry, but definitely more knowledgeable about fencing. I’m also definitely ready to try again soon—and beat Jack next time.”

Alina Yusufzai, Assistant Sports Editor

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.