Why you should try fencing

SFU fencers reveal how the sport stole their hearts

a photo of an SFU fencing practice.
PHOTO: Matthew Cheng / The Peak

By: Matthew Cheng, SFU student

Fencing is an ultimate test of character. It’s about rising to the occasion and never losing sight of the little details: a hesitation in your opponent’s footwork, their tendency to use a certain technique, and their likeliness to strike. Your biggest obstacle is your own mind just as much as it is your opponent’s. In a sport with such little room for error, athletes always have to be on high alert, waiting to defend an attack or launch at their opponent.

The Peak sat down with the athletes and head coach of the SFU fencing team to understand the skills needed to place yourself in front of a blade.

Cole Peterson joined the SFU fencing team with an AAA hockey background. Although familiar with the pressure and training of competing, fencing is Peterson’s first individual combat sport. Unlike hockey, there’s no team to assist you on the field and no teammate’s strength to depend on in fencing.

He described fencing as “something to look forward to, for the most part, and something to improve on constantly.” While victories may feel a little sweeter as an individual, there’s more accountability placed on the athlete when results aren’t going their way. Fencers have to toy the line of striving for perfection without being too self-critical. Peterson referred to the natural hardships and triumphs of fencing as a “rhythm” — steady, everpresent, and something each person has to get used to. “I’m back in a rhythm now,” says Peterson. 

Natasha Sing joined the SFU fencing team after 14 years of competitive dance. She reflected on how different the spotlight is on the piste (fencing track) compared to the stage. “The pressure is so much more involved,” said Sing. “It gives you a lot more confidence in yourself.” 

Another thing pressure can do? Make athletes get comfortable with the uncomfortable, which often translates to personal growth. “Its made me grow up a little bit,” said Sing. “It takes dedication, so I see myself being dedicated in a lot of other things in my life.” 

Marie-Rose Bruskiewicz, head coach of the SFU fencing team and world-class fencer, came from a soccer environment, and didn’t start fencing until her first year of university. But her initial curiosity in the sport developed into an unbreakable dedication.

“There’s no one there who’s going to pick up the slack for you,” said Coach Bruskiewicz. “You’re your own offense, your own defence, and everything in-between.” Coach Bruskiewicz has built a team which not only provides athletes tools to excel in competition, but to flourish in life as well. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons in fencing that I’ve applied to my life that have made me not just a better athlete, but a better person.”