Learning by the Sword
Freshman hopes to spread interest in fencing
November 13, 2006 8:10 PM
Give Karin Skoog a sword and she’ll be happy.
The 18-year-old is working hard to make thrusting, parrying and intricate footwork a part of life at SF State by recently starting the Fencing Club.
“I always liked the medieval feel – swords, suits of armor, that sort of thing – and my parents wouldn’t buy me real weapons,” she said with a laugh. “So I learned fencing, and I love it because it’s a sport based more on thought than force.”
She picked up fencing while attending high school in Connecticut and Skoog said she thought many SF State students would be interested in practicing and learning about the intricate sport of swordsmanship.
There are three main weapons in fencing and each has different rules in competition, said Skoog, a freshman majoring in Chinese and minoring in business.
The foil is typically the first weapon learned in fencing. It’s a flexible and light sword. In competition, points are scored by striking the opponent’s torso.
“It’s modern times and there are lots of laws, so it’s not like it’s a real weapon,” she said, pointing to the rubber tip on her foil.
The sabre is a larger sword with a triangular blade, and the target area is anything from the waist up, Skoog said.
The epee has a V-shaped blade and the entire body is a valid target while using it in competition.
While passing through the gym one day, 21-year-old Nick Martinez saw a yellow flier about this club. He had gotten into fencing at a community college, and said half the fun was the social aspect of it.
“It’s a great way to make friends because most of the practicing is one on one, and you’re bound to spark up a conversation with them,” said Martinez, a cinema major.
He also liked how it’s not based on strength or stamina like other sports, and instead is based on meticulous thought.
Martinez is now a member of the club and looks forward to eventually competing for the school. He has only known Skoog for a few weeks but said he is impressed with her enthusiasm.
“She’s just so energetic and passionate,” he said. “I would have never got something like this off the ground, it seems like it’s a lot of work.”
Starting the club was a piece of cake for Skoog, who has earned the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor. She spent about $30 on construction paper and flier supplies to attract attention for the club’s first meeting.
“The only difficult thing at first was getting organized, but once I had my binder and hole puncher I was set,” she said.
Money will be an issue for the young club, as a foil starter kit costs at least $130. Skoog said many in the club expressed interest in buying or renting their own equipment, but she hopes to eventually have equipment at the school.
The money won’t be coming from the school any time soon, according to the coordinator of club sports, Ajani Byrd. No club sports receive funding, but they can have access to the school’s facilities and compete under the school’s name.
“We just don’t have any money right now,” Byrd said at the club’s first informational meeting. “That looks like it might change in fall of 2007, but I’m sorry to say we can’t help you right now.”
Byrd has been working closely with Skoog, and they are hashing out a time to free up some gym space for a weekly practice.
But Skoog doesn’t seem to have a problem facing adversity. When her high school didn’t have a fencing team, she joined a team that was one town over.
Skoog is hoping to use the experience with starting a club towards her ultimate goal: starting a nationwide chain of medieval stores. She wants to sell replica weapons, suits of armor, medieval clothing, and dragon statues.
“When I was younger I read ‘Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher’ and I’ve loved dragons ever since,” said Skoog, who has a purple dragon holding a woman tattooed on her right shoulder. “I still listen to it on tape, and have a ratty copy around here somewhere.”
She is also taking an archery class at SF State, and loves the skill and practice it takes. Skoog said some find her pastimes a bit odd, but the response on campus for the fencing club has been strong.
“When I tell people about my hobbies, most say ‘Whoa you fence? That’s cool’,” she said.
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