Fencing: Reach out and Touch Someone

Student, Sarah Lanaghan, enjoys fencing during her free time.


Sarah Lanaghan, Juinor, is sparing against an opponent.

Tanasia Himes, Writer

While most students participate in typical sports such as football, softball , or soccer, Sarah Lanaghan, junior, participates in fencing. Fencing is a sport of swordplay, that is enjoyed by many people of many different ages. It’s a mental and physical workout that helps fencers learn how to use their strategies against their opponents and helps them build physical endurance as well as agility and accuracy.

Sarah Lanaghan, Junior, Is getting her uniform on to begin her lessons.           Photo courtesy by Sarah Lanaghan


Lanaghan enjoys fencing in her free time. 

How long have you taken fencing lessons?

I have been taking fencing lessons since February of 2017. So a year and 8 months. I started doing Foil fencing in January, and then I upgraded to Epé fencing in December of 2017.

What equipment is needed, and what costs are involved?

The equipment involved includes the chest protector, underarm protector, jacket, gloves, weapon mask, knickers, high socks, tennis shoes. And if you’re fencing electric then you need the electric cord. Some of these pieces will vary depending on which style you fence. There is Foil, Epé, and Sabre.

What weapon did you start off with at the beginning, and which one do you use now?

I started with Foil because you learn a lot of the basics and fundamentals that are used for other styles later on if you decide to switch. Epé fencers call it “The Dark Side”

What was the hardest part of transitioning between weapons?

The hardest part about transitioning between weapons, personally, is how you hold it. With an epé you have a bigger guard around the handle of the weapon to hide your hand because now everything is target. In foil only the area covered by a one-piece swimming suit is the target. If you hold the weapon like a foilist, then you’re completely open. Also, in epé you move your hand first and then your feet for a lot of the moves while in foil you would move them together. Also, in foil, there is this rule called right of way where it’s kind of like taking turns, and your moves depend on and change with whose turn it is. In epé, who ever touches (stabs) first gets the point and if you both score within less than a second, you both get a point.

Have you ever gotten hurt from fencing? If so what happened?

Oh yes! I get hurt a lot. I went last night and I got 8 bruises in one night. I twisted my ankle due to me lunging and not being completely balanced, so I landed wrong and kept going down. You will get bruises depending on your opponent. I tend to be light with my touches where Nathan (my opponent last night) is very harsh and swift. So I have these 2 bruises where you can actually see where he stabbed me and where it skidded across my skin. It’s pretty wicked.

Do you go to competitions or do you just do it as an extracurricular activity?

I have just been doing the sport as an extracurricular activity. I was planning on doing competitions, and then I switched weapons so I had to start from scratch so I don’t feel confident in myself yet.

Have you done any cross-training to help you improve in fencing? If so what were they?

I also do color-guard. That really helps me become more fit to fence, both sports use different muscles. It still helps my endurance.

How long do the lessons typically last?

Lessons are from 6:30 to 7:30, but you can stay until 9 if you want. I typically stay from 6:15 to 8:00, but there have been a few times I went until 8:45.

Besides the actual sport of fencing, what have you learned from participating in this sport?

I have learned a lot about confidence and how to meet and talk to new people. When you fence, confidence really helps your performance, and I have taken that into my everyday life. It really makes a difference. Also, where I go to fence is a half-hour drive from my house, and no one from my school is there, and I meet so many types of different people. I have fenced against a doctor, two native Italians, quite a few college students, a lawyer, a professor, this one home schooled kid who speaks fluent French and some Latin who also does ballet. Some kids are as young as six and seven and some adults are in their 60s. Before each bout (each match of fencing), you have to introduce yourself, and it’s just a good way to practice how to meet new people and introduce yourself and how to get along with people you don’t know.

What do you see as your future in this sport?

I see myself practicing this sport well into old age. I hope to begin competitions in the next year.

If someone wanted to get involved in this, what advice would you give them?

I would advise them to come and watch. it’s not exciting to watch but extremely fun to do. Also, do not be scared of people coming at you with basically a sword. Do not give up if you do not understand at first because the terminology is quite a bit to take in, and it takes a lot of hand and foot coordination that may take time to develop, but you’ll get there. It’s worth it in the long run.

What else would you like to add?

My instructor is Dr.Jane Littmann. She is the first A rated Epé fencer in the world, Ranked number one in the US and North American Circuit in Womens Epé in 1986 and 1990. And so much more. She is in the Museum of American Fencing.