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'Trilogy' combines swordplay, literature

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GINA R. HEINE
April 28, 2008
— When Michael Pfau tells people he fences, some joke that he strings barbed wire between posts.

No, he tells them, it’s the Renaissance sport of sword fighting.


Pfau, a UW-Whitewater student, was among those who showcased their fencing skills Saturday in the Sabre Rattlers Invitational Fencing Tournament at UW-Rock County. All of the competitors are or have been students at UW-Rock and have learned to fence in the course offered on campus.


Peter Mory, who has been teaching fencing at UW-Rock for 41 years, said the tournament is to “give some of the alums a chance to come back and fence and give the classes a chance to see what it’s like to participate in a real live tournament—the nervousness and going through the whole protocol of competition.”


The tournament offered bouts using three thin-bladed weapons—the foil, épeé and sabre. Each has a different blade and blade guard and varying scoring schemes, said club co-advisor Brian Duckwitz, who also teaches English.


Last fall, Duckwitz and Mory started what they jokingly refer to as the “sword trilogy,” a set of three fencing-related classes that can earn a student an interdisciplinary credit. The trilogy includes a literature class, fencing class and a seminar that links the two.


“It’s unique,” Mory said. “I don’t think there’s another college in the country that (does that). If there is, I’d like to know.”


The romance of the weapons often is what draws people to fencing, Mory said.


“Everyone likes to watch a good sword-fighting film,” he said.


Club president James Herring always thought fencing was a neat sport, and a demonstration in high school intrigued him. Now in his second year of fencing classes on campus, Herring said the sport is a natural match for his good hand-eye coordination.


“It’s been hard to learn all the different styles,” he said.


The sport can result in injury, but no one recalled anything major.


“In the beginning, most people are sort of afraid of the blade—they’re kind of shy around it—but you just got to get in there,” Pfau said.


He’s suffered bruises and welts especially while using sabers because “essentially you’re whipping each other with metal rods.”



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