Through: Jacob Matty, Peak Partner
Marie-Rose Bruskiewicz, head coach of the SFU fencing team highlighted our on guard position on Tuesday’s practice. She assigned 10 push-ups to anyone offline. Known for its tough workouts, the training regime is in line with the team’s aspirations to compete at the highest level.
The first workout of the semester ended with a ten-minute plank, during which groups of seven were only allowed to have two people rest at a time. It’s a team building exercise to help us learn to cover each other’s weaknesses. It is the camaraderie within the team that separates the experience of fencing from what many might perceive as a solitary sport.
In fencing, you need to be completely self-sufficient, but rather than isolating your teammates, it’s a great way to bring the team together. In every fight, you get to know your opponent intimately – how they react when surprised, the types of situations they shoot best in, and the forces they try to play on. You have to fence everyone differently, and after a few fights with a team member, you get a really deep perspective of who they are.
“Although the matches are played by individual players, their performance is the culmination of individual and teamwork,” said SFU fencing team member Jonathan Hui. “We train, advise and encourage each other as a way to learn from each other.”
The diversity of members’ sporting backgrounds, ranging from martial arts to dance, running and football, means there are many different approaches to fencing.
Matthew Cheng, a team member who also practices karate, said: “Karate helps my fencing, and fencing helps my karate, especially if we start looking [similarities in] footwork. While fencing is somewhat linear as a sport — an athlete‘s movement is limited on a track (resembling a track strip) about one meter wide – it puts more emphasis on the details. “Fencing can be much more precise,” he said.
Relying on nationally renowned fencers India and Canada, the fencing team’s coaching corps is no stranger to the world stage, nor is it lacking in experience to support its fencers in their endeavours. The heart of it, coach Bruskiewicz says, is in the training. “We [aim to] live under pressure, so that when the pressure of competition finally arrives, it does not surprise us.
For this reason, many exercises also have a mental component. From reacting under pressure to learning how to push your body through mind-numbing amounts of repetitions, the workouts are designed to train fencers with the “confidence [that] comes from a belief in your ability to handle difficult situations.
Because in addition to training athletes, the team pushes its members to be the best they can be, on and off the track.