Fencing Crossroad

By Bryan Kennedy

When Jason Lambert was growing up, there were not any fencing masks or the protection he uses today lying around the house.

Instead, Lambert armed himself with goggles for the cool water of pools, swimming for his high school. But when his path led him to UK’s campus, he fell in love with fencing.

“A friend told me about a club that taught fencing,” Lambert said. “I came over and checked it out and have never left.”

Now, as a geology senior, Lambert is still involved with the club. Lambert has transformed from an apprentice to a teacher and is currently one of the club’s coaches.

After years of honing his fencing, Lambert has gained recognition. He has recently received a seed ranking from the United States Fencing Association’s epee division.

Epee is one of the three types of fencing, each named after the type of sword used. It is a form of combat against another fencer using a sword with a triangular cross-section blade and a large bell guard. To score, the point of the sword can strike anywhere on the opponent. Foil fencers use a more flexible sword called a foil and score a point by striking the tip of the sword against the opponent’s torso. The last form, saber, is scored by slashing an opponent above the waist.

Although there are now several club members who compete in these types of fencing, the membership is significantly lower than it used to be. It was not until 2001 that the club started to build back its membership.

“Fencing here at UK got its start in the late 1970s, but it was huge here at UK in the 1980s,” Lambert said. “It was well-funded back in the 80s, but it was in the 90s that members of the club started to disappear.”

Alex Morris also arrived at UK unaware of fencing. Like Lambert, he participated in other activities growing up.

“I was in marching band in high school, I played basketball in middle school and soccer when I was little, but that was pretty much it,” said Morris, a psychology senior.

“When I got here I had a friend that was in the fencing club at UK, and I decided to come out and try it,” he said.

Three years later, Morris is the president and the captain of the team. He is also one of the members who compete in tournaments.

“Last year we had six compete in a tournament and had eight others come and cheer us on — that was a great feeling,” Morris said.

The Fencing Club has about 15 regulars who come and practice every week. The club accepts new members during its practices every Tuesday and Thursday at the Buell Armory.

“When we have new people come in, we start with teaching them how to stand and then teach them how to advance and retreat,” Morris said, “and then we teach them some lunging techniques. After that we wait a while to give them a weapon just to make sure that they are ready for it.”

When a club member is ready to compete on a larger scale, there are several tournaments available. The team regularly travels to competitions in Louisville and Cincinnati.

“If you want to join the club, throw on some tennis shoes and something you can move in, then come on out and we will teach you everything you need to know,” he said.