When you think of fencing in South Texas, barbed wire may be the first thing that comes to mind. Not so at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where students get the opportunity to learn, practice and compete in the unfamiliar and somewhat esoteric sport of fencing.
Enthusiasm, skill and confidence is making a serious contender of the intramural fencing club, said Grace Buchanan, one of the volunteer coaches.
"Team members are winning many bouts and making a lot of new friends," said Buchanan, a 30-year veteran of the sport.
Genesis Rodriguez, the fencing club's vice president, had her bladed weapon for a recent competition.
"I'm kind of nervous, but I'm prepared," said Rodriguez, a political science major.
Rodriguez's petite frame bounces with agility in her head-to-toe, protective uniform.
"A lot of people see me as very tiny and say, 'Uh, is that a good sport for you?' But this sport gives you a lot of balance. It's a good workout, mentally and physically," she said.
Buchanan helped Megan Haberzettle and J.J. Mendez start the fencing league at the local university about 18 months ago with equipment donated by the Coastal Bend Fencing Society. Others such as University of Texas Fencing Club alumni Chris Erickson, Zach McGee and Jay Young, also offered their volunteer services as coaches.
The club has since grown to about 23 members who duel on weekends on campus.
Members had their first taste of competition and victory in October when they competed against several other Texas university clubs at San Marcos Baptist University. The local group placed fourth in saber, 11th in épée and fourteenth in foil.
"It's high energy and a lot of fun," said Cristian Romo, a computer science major, who has practiced the powerful and quick thrusts of saber fencing since high school in Jourdanton.
"There are a lot of calculations to see how you can get your opponent to mess up. It's like a chess game. You have to make split decisions and hope you get it right," he said.
Marine biology major Katrina Smith, captain of the épée team, began fencing at age 13 after coveting a sword she saw at a local flea market in Plano. Her mother let her purchase the weapon under the condition that she learn fencing. She has since competed nationally and at the Junior Olympics.
"I like fencing because it's very sportsmanlike. Everyone is willing to help. You meet people from all different backgrounds. It's very cultured," she said.
"People think it's a tough sport that involves hitting each other. It's fun and builds character. It's not scary at all," Rodriguez said.
Student Fencing Photo Gallery: