Touché — an eloquent word usually reserved to commend a friend’s well-executed joke — has a more practical application for UCSB’s fencing team.

The team is part of the Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California and competes with other colleges in the region including UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, University of Southern California, Arizona State University and Claremont College. The squad will compete in five major competitions during the 2010-11 school year, four of which will be team-based while one will be a one-on-one fight.

President Nicholas Holmes, a fifth-year physics major, said the team consists of a close-knit fencing community.

“The teamwork and camaraderie among people at UCSB is excellent,” Holmes said. “We also get along pretty well with the other colleges and have friendly animated conversations with them as well.”

The team is composed of six squads. Each squad consists of three groups of three single-gender fencers. The male and female groups both have one squad for each of the three different types of weapons used in the sport.

Holmes said each sword allows fencers to score in a different manner.

“The three weapons in collegiate fencing are the Épée, the Foil and the Sabre,” Holmes said. “The differences in the weapons are how you score touches or points. With the Épée and the Foil you score touches with the point of the weapon and with the Sabre you score with the edges.”

Vice President Alexandra Long, a fourth-year biochemistry major, outlined the basic rules of fencing for each particular weapon.

“In Sabre and Foil, one person is obviously attacking while the other can parry the attack and then can decide to start their own attack,” Long said. “The rules of attacking are referred to as right of way rules. The Épée is a free-for-all weapon that can be used to hit anywhere and there are no rules about who hits who.”

According to Coach Tim Robinson, the team has been led by prominent Russian coaches over the course of its 40-year history.

“We have a rich history of fencing at UCSB,” Robinson said. “In the 1970s, the head coach of the team was Zolton Van Somogyi — a fencing master and Hungarian refugee who had been in a Russian Gulag. Somogyi was later replaced by Mark Berger — a Russian fencing master.”

Holmes said anyone interested in joining the team — regardless of experience level — can attend practices or enroll in the university’s exercise and sports studies classes. The group meets on campus for three-and-a-half hour practice sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Robertson Gym room 2120. Monday and Wednesday practices begin at 3 p.m., while Friday sessions commence at 5:30 p.m.

The team will compete at UCSB on Nov. 20 in Robertson Gym.

Photos by: Dro Sohrabian