KAYSVILLE -- The building that Wasatch Fencing calls home was filled with beeps, electronic trills, and the occasional screech of frustration on Saturday afternoon as fencers participated in the 10th annual "Will Fence for Food" tournament.
More than 60 fencers from the Utah-Southern Idaho Division of the United States Fencing Association donated food in lieu of entrance fees to compete in Saturday's tournament. Instead of medals, donations were made in the names of the winners to the Utah Food Bank and the Family Connection Center in Clearfield.
Fencers used three different weapons in the tournament: the foil, the epee, and the sabre; each with different rules of engagement.
"Foil and epee are like playing chess at one hundred miles per hour," said Wasatch Fencing director and coach Ron Hendricks. "Sabre is like playing checkers at two hundred miles per hour."
In both epee and foil, fencers use the tip of the weapon to score touches against their opponents. However, touches when using the foil are only valid if they land on the opponent's torso, whereas touches when using the epee can be scored anywhere on the opponent's body. Dueling with sabres is meant to simulate cavalry combat; touches can be scored with the tip or the blade and must be made above the waist.
Touches are registered by electric score boxes when the electrified tip or blade of a fencer's weapon comes into contact with the metallic jacket or mask of her opponent. The resulting beep and score light signals the referee, called a director in fencing, to halt the bout and issue points accordingly. Under the watchful eyes of the directors, trying to gain a touch by making a move that would get a fencer killed if she were using a real weapon will not gain the fencer any points.
"It's fun. It's really attractive to people who like to compete one-on-one," said Hendricks. "It's a thinking sport. Not only do you have to think, fencing teaches you how to think."
Aaron Comeau, 14, said he has been fencing for four and a half years and got into it after his dad bought him a Jedi light saber for Christmas.
"Fencing has taught me to pay more attention to smaller movements and body language," Comeau said, adding that the small movement of an opponent's wrist can telegraph a move.
Amanda Goodman, 16, said she became interested in fencing after seeing the sport while watching the Olympics. Goodman also said she appreciates how much strategic thinking is required by the sport.
"It takes a lot of strategy and finesse, not just a lot of muscle," Goodman said. "Although it is a very athletic sport; it takes a lot of strategy and technique."
Hendricks estimated that, between cash and food donations, approximately $2,000 would be raised for the Utah Food Bank and the Family Connection Center.
Hendricks said the decade-old event was the brainchild of Robbie Malcolm, who fenced in Park City and started "Will Fence for Food" as a school project for his high school. Malcolm then went on to fence for Princeton, but he and his family continue to support the tournament he started.
For Hendricks, the success of fencing students like Malcolm can be partially attributed to their involvement in sports.
"I'm a big believer that kids should be involved in sports," said Hendricks. "Competing in sports is a microcosm of life. Sometimes you win, sometimes someone is better than you and you lose. You learn how to deal with that and how to grow."