By Sean Fitz-Gerald
Two years ago, Shannon Flynn decided to take a stab at learning how to fence.
The fourth-year early and childhood education student took an eight-week training course at the RAC and immediately fell in love with the little known sport.
“It’s a great stress relief because you can just get it all out,” Flynn said. “But it does hurt.”
After her final match at the Ryerson Open in Kerr gym last Saturday, Flynn began to look at her battle scars.
She finished third overall in the women’s foil, and had clusters of pink and purple bruises across her right shoulder.
“It stings, but you kind of get over it,” Flynn said, smiling as she rolled the sleeve of her shirt back over the marks.
On the surface, fencing looks a bit like sword fighting with tinfoil.
Like any dual scene from the Three Musketeers, a fencing match begins with the two competitors facing off with each other.
From there, the similarities to movieland end.
The fencers, protected by thin white pants and a vest not much thicker than a spring jacket, prepare to duel.
The fencer’s sword, known as foil, is attached to a machine by a thin line running through the competitor’s jacket.
When the match begins, the two fencers size each other up and lunge into battle.
The battle, known as an action, usually lasts less than 10 seconds before someone makes contact and is awarded a point.
The Ryerson Open was divided into two rounds.
The first was a round robin of sorts, with fencers randomly duelling each other in order to get ranked.
Once ranked, the competitors advanced into the elimination round. Fencers were eliminated after just one loss in the second round.
One of those fencers was Ryerson’s Bryan Hartwell.
The third-year computer engineering student ended up finishing 18th out of 30 competitors.
“You almost really don’t care if you win or lose because it’s like a social event,” he said.
Hartwell, who has only been fencing for a year, only started with the sport because his karate classes were cancelled.
“I didn’t really know anything about it,” he said.
“But it’s really a challenge because you have to calm yourself and visualize your target.”
The only other Rams fencing team members to compete was Catherine Burnett, who finished 13th in the women’s foil.
The RAC’s first fencing classes are full and there is a waiting list to get in. However, a new class will begin next semester.
All equipment is supplied by the RAC and the cost for students is $40.