By SHOSHIE BAR-MEIR
While Ida Crown hosts seven different sports teams, fencing matches are structured differently than most other types of games. A fencer would compete in a one-to-one match with his or her opponent instead of playing simultaneously with teammates, like in basketball or soccer.
Coach Ed Kaihatsu, who has trained athletes in the sport at the University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern University, has said that “While we don’t have the time to commit to full-time training, [the fencers] are there because they want to be there… and that makes it much more fun and engaging.”
Despite the fact that all the major tournaments and meets are held on Saturdays, which inhibits the Ida Crown team from competing in most matches, the fencing team still finds a way for the fencers to demonstrate skills they’ve learned against opponents.
The coach describes it as an “ad hoc” schedule, meaning it differs every year depending on the schedule of other schools. “The fact that they’re fencing us as a school is an accommodation for us because we’re non-conference to them,” the coach explains. “They do that as a favor and to help keep fencing alive at Ida Crown, but it is almost off the books.”
The fencing team is open to both genders, and everyone interested in the sport is accepted onto the team. Their practices are usually three time a week for two hours, with the first hour dedicated to warm-up and conditioning and the second for building technique and training with the weapon.
Jacob Felix, a senior at Ida Crown and one of the captains of the fencing team, joined the team his freshman year of high school. He reveals that his years of fencing experience have taught him how “to be confident and to commit to my decisions and action. If I decide to initiate a complex attack, I can’t turn back without missing, or worse— getting hit. Life is the same way; if I start doing something, I have to go through with it if I want to succeed.”
He also explains that everything is in the hands of the fencer, and nothing is left to chance: “Everything that happens on the strip in a bout is determined by you.”
Shira David, a sophomore, has fenced since middle school, and has found that fencing is “a great way to release all my pent up energy from sitting in classes.” She stated that the sport has taught her a way to be calm and collected in normally high-stress situations. “It’s not your natural instinct to let someone run at you with a blade. You really want to run or to hit the blade really hard, which you can’t do if you want to win,” she said.
As for an objective for this year, Coach Kaihatsu indicates that a competition-based goal is simply impossible due to schedule issues, but he also insists that winning meets is not the priority in fencing.
“I try to get them to focus on team unity and not focus on winning, but to trust in their training,” the coach said. He states that his main goal for the team is to just love the sport and continue in college.
David further explains that fencing is one of the few sports that anyone can participate in and requires no prerequisite athletic ability.
The coach also expresses that fencing is a unique sport that one should try if there is even the slightest interest. “In all sports,” he says, “you get to know about yourself, and you put in hard work that helps build you as an individual, but fencing is still one of the few sports left that is a ‘gentleman sport.’ Your etiquette, your manners, and your integrity all count.”
This article originally appeared in The Crown Prints student newspaper and was posted here with permission.