How old is the team? Is there any interesting history about the team?
Izzy Esler: It was founded in the 1930s as a varsity team up until the 1970s. Now it is a club sport.
How do you recruit for the fencing team?
Duncan Reilly: The ExCo is a big part of recruiting. There are definitely some youth clubs around, but most people had no experience before coming to Oberlin. We can’t rely on people who have already had experience fencing.
IE: Yeah, the ExCo is vital for recruitment.
How many people are on the team?
IE: Right now there are 30 active members on the roster, but we usually get 15–20 out to practice. There are about 50 people on our listserv.
What weapon do each of you use, and what weapons are the most fun or popular?
DR: I’m an epeeist, personally. If I didn’t think epee was fun I would have found something else.
Why is the epee your favorite weapon?
DR: It’s the most strategic weapon. It’s not about being faster or stronger than your opponent, but about out-thinking them, thinking on your feet and making sure that you have a great defensive strategy lined up and then going in for the kill.
IE: I fenced before Oberlin in high school, and I always used foil. We were in these fencing competitions where we would bring squads of people, so I switched to foil to fill the spot and really liked it. To clarify, foil and epee are the weapons you stab with, saber is the weapon you slash with. Epee is without a limit, so you are all in white and the whole body is the target.
In foil the target is just the vest where it’s everything from the torso up.
DR: Epee is the most strategic because you can still be hit after you touch your opponent.
Had either of you fenced before Oberlin College?
DR: I did not. I started when I took the ExCo the second semester of my sophomore year. Before that I had only played some club soccer. But fencing was the best decision I have made at Oberlin.
IE: I started when I was a freshman in high school, so this is my sixth year of fencing.
Does that give you a big advantage over people?
IE: My high school club wasn’t very structured, so I learned a lot more techni- cal skills at Oberlin from being around my more advanced teammates. We have a re- ally good coach that comes in — he’s a world champion fencer that comes in from his Cleveland club and gives us private les- sons, so that helped me gain confidence and ability.
What are competitions like?
IE: The tournaments are part of a national ranking system, which is why people would want to travel in to compete. We are more team-oriented, so we go to an annual fencing championship every year and that hosts squads who compete together. Next year we are going to Kentucky to compete in the championships.
DR: Team spirit is a big part of what the Flaming Blades are all about. Our team has rainbow socks, which started out as a joke about Oberlin’s reputation. But now we are famous for it, and everyone recognizes our socks when we go to tournaments.
Do you have any pre- or post-game rituals?
DR: We have our team chant, which is “covered in bees.”
IE: It’s an Eddie Izzard song from the ’80s, and not a lot of people feel connected to it any more. But we have other team traditions, like our parties. We have an armory in Hales. Nutella is a big part of our food rituals, and we always do warm- ups and stretches together.
How can Oberlin students come watch?
DR: All day Sunday in Hales. Foil, the pokey weapon that aims just for the torso, starts at 9. Saber, which is a cutting weapon that attacks the upper body, starts at noon. Epee, which is a pokey weapon that aims at the entire body, starts at 2.
IE: It will be pretty packed but anyone can walk in and watch. The ExCo is pretty popular. We have 20 people in it, and they all will be there.
IE: The team gets a good cross section of the student body, and I appreciate that. I have made some of my best friends fencing, so I appreciate the community aspect as well as the mental and physical aspect.