Students find passion in swordplay duels

Students find passion in swordplay duels

Students at Diamond Bar High School already participate in a staggering variety of extracurriculars and athletics. However, DBHS juniors Daniel Zoubtsov and Cassie Nam have pushed athletics further outside the box by participating in the combat sport of fencing.

Fencing is divided into three disciplines: the traditional “foil” with flexible blades, the strategic “epee” with full-body exchanges and the modern “saber” with aggressive scoring. Zoubtsov and Nam have practiced the sport and honed their skills for years, with Zoubtsov fencing for over three years in foil and Nam fencing for over four years in foil.

“Fencing has always been a pure interest of mine,” Zoubtsov said via Messenger. “It wasn’t until I took an Archery merit badge with the Boy Scouts that I was introduced to the club that I currently attend.”

Zoubtsov practices with his club for two hours every week and at home occasionally, in addition to private lessons to focus on technique and efficiency.

“We wear very protective gear, which reduces the amount of damage we take,” Zoubtsov said. “However, our lower half is not protected, so usually whenever I’m fencing, depending on the skill level of the person I’m fencing, I change my defense to a more upper-body approach, which comes naturally with my height and stature.”

The junior has competed in small tournaments against other clubs and was scheduled to participate in a large fencing event last year, but was unable to due to COVID-19.

“I enjoy the mental appeal of the sport, as it makes me have to think outside of just being physical,” Zoubtsov said. “It is, in a sense, a chess game with blades; a mental and physical standoff against your opponent, each to their own strength.”

Meanwhile, Nam was encouraged to begin fencing by her parents, who thought that her existing athletic skills would be beneficial in the sport. She usually practices two to three hours daily with her club and up to 25 hours per week, ramping up as competition season approaches.

“It is a pretty good time commitment, with fencing clubs being so scarce in amount compared to a lot of sports because it’s fairly unique,” Nam said via text. “I’ve driven about 2-3 hours to merely get to practice.”

She said that she enjoys fencing for its element of physical strength coupled with strategy and mental concentration.

“I qualified for Nationals in 2018-2020 and competed; I will be competing this summer again,” Nam said. “I qualified for Junior Olympics in the same time frame as well and have also competed in several North American Cups.”