A swash-buckling good time
by The Press and Standard | October 4, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 2, 2019 at 3:34 pm
to join Salk’s new
It’s Thursday afternoon and the usual quiet of the first floor main hallway of USC-Salkehatchie is being periodically pierced by the sound of steel on steel: the Salkehatchie Fencing Club is in session in the meeting room at one end of the hallway.
Periodically, the metallic sound draws a student to the other side of the double doors. They are invited in to get a closer look. Some come into the meeting room, some are content to watch from the other side of the doorway.
This marks the second year two Salkehatchie professors, Francis Burns and David Hatch, are leading the club members through their training on the martial sport of fencing.
Dr. Hatch is the Division Chair of Salkehatchie’s Arts and Languages and an associate professor of English. Burns is an associate professor in the Chemistry Department.
Burns said the first year “went reasonably well. We had close to a dozen students attend at least one fencing club meeting. Three to four students became regular club members.
“We had to work out some kinks,” Hatch added. “The most difficult thing is finding a good time for all of us to get together. Then we had to get some new equipment. I have a lot, but not enough for a whole club.”
It was a mutual love of fencing that led the two educators to team up to form the Salkehatchie Fencing Club.
Hatch, who attended BYU, said he was a part of the university’s fencing club and then attended a fencing school. “I was nationally ranked in foil for several years.”
Hatch said fencing provided him lessons he found beneficial in life. “The sport requires athleticism, discipline, creativity and decisiveness,” Hatch explained.
“People are also expected to be spectacularly polite. We always salute each other before a bout, we must respect the decisions of the judges, and we always shake hands after a bout,” he added.
Burns’ sister was on her university’s fencing team. “I visited her and found it to be intriguing.”
When he enrolled at Ohio State University, Burns took a series of physical education courses and then tried out the OSU’s fencing team, joining it as an epee fencer.
“I practiced three hours each day. I also spent many weekends traveling to fencing meets. I spent more than 40 hours a week during the fall and winter seasons. I also had to complete all of my science courses, including laboratories. I was a scholar-athlete, maintained a GPA better than 3.0,” Burns said. “As a result, I learned physical and mental discipline. This discipline has served me throughout my life, particularly during my doctoral program.
“Fencing also taught me to focus. When a heavy metal blade attacks, my body’s adrenaline starts rushing and my heart rate spikes,” Burns said.
“I had to learn to channel my energy and stay focused on my opponent. Fencing is always exciting.”
There are three types of fencing: foil, epee and saber. Foil is the most common weapon and the one the members of the Salk club use.
“We spend the first half of our meetings on basic skills and drills. We also discuss the rules for foil fencing,” Burns said.
“The second half of our meetings are on sparring. We take turns to fence against each other,” he added.
“When I arrived at Salkehatchie, I mentioned in passing that I was a former fencer,” Burns explained.
“This lead to a conversation with Dr. Hatch, who is a foil fencer. Dr. Hatch asked me to work with him in establishing a fencing club at USC Salkehatchie. I have not fenced since my undergraduate education because I raised a family. However, fencing is an excellent sport for middle-aged people.
“We feel like it is unusual and that students might not be able to learn to fence anywhere else in the neighborhood,” Hatch said. “Fencing has a long tradition, of course. It was one of the first 10 events at the revived, modern 1896 Olympics games in Athens. For that reason it is a martial sport, not a martial art, but it is classic and fun. And who doesn’t like a good swashbuckling movie?”
This year, Hatch and Burns decided to open up membership in the club to community members.
“This university is part of the community. This university is all about community. We want to fulfill the role of being central to the education of this area, and that includes introducing new sports and activities as well as new ideas and new professional skills,” Hatch said.
Burns added, “We want to encourage our community to participate in our campus’ events. Our student population has a high turnover, as do many universities. As a result, we would like to increase continuity through community involvement.”
They hope that the community has residents who have some experience in fencing who want to rekindle their love of the sport, as well as citizens who want to try their hand at it for the first time.
“This can be a lifelong sport,” Hatch explained.
“I am turning 50 soon, and I regularly thump on 20-year-olds. In this sport, being experienced and sneaky is much more important than being young and fast. That and learning how to move your feet. Always move your feet.”
“There are no fees associated with our fencing club. We are working on establishing it as a permanent organization. This will require additional equipment, but we are just getting started,” Burns added.