Tsinghua’s ballerinas with foils get a stab at “physical chess”

October 24, 2017, By Naanga

 Beijing, China (Tsinghua) – The groan and clank of swords come from a fencing hall, south-east part of Tsinghua’s Comprehensive Gymnasium. A single wall of the hall is fully adorned with fencing equipped, including blades, masks and jackets hanging on the wardrobes and these staffs are using no end for team preparation, daily course works, association’s practice, and athletes training.

The pioneers of Tsinghua’s fencing team wouldn’t conceive of a recent situation when they were practising only the basic movements with homemade swords outside in snowy day, in 1958.


Photo of the China’s the first official fencing courses taught at the Tsinghuain 1961


“When I came here in the Tsinghua, there was only two selective-courses for fencing. But now we have seven courses for fencing, every class has 30 students, and it means Tsinghua’s Fencing ‘family’ is broadening around 500 students, including students’ association, the school’s fencing team, in every school year.’ said Liu Shuang, a fencing coach, and she started teaching the sport at Tsinghua in 2004.

She entered fencing at the age of 14, in 1991, inspired by Alexandre Dumas historical novel ‘The Three Musketeers’. In that time, finding a coach is one in a blue moon in China whereas now above 800 fencing clubs operate only in Beijing. The aspiration, Liu Shuang first, followed being a fencer, gave her tonnes of the success story, had been leveraged her sports career from a member Heilongjiang province fencing team, a champion of National women’s fencing competition, a world-class referee, the first international fencing female referee in China. As the referee, Ms Liu participated in many competitions such as the Asian Games, the Youth Olympic Games, World Cup, World Championships and China National Games.

“The fencing is built my physical strength but also influenced my outlook on the value of life and behaviours,” said Liu Shuang. Then she continued “I don’t want to be a single benefit receiver of the fencing, I would like to disseminate the beauty and unique charm of fencing. If the fencing will be positively influenced by my students’ academic and practical knowledge during their study, at the competition even in their work experience, it is my only wish to return a favour of fencing.”

Under her instructions, the Tsinghua’s fencing team has to alternate in achieving excellent results in National University Fencing Competitions. Wang Zi Cheng, for instance, a champion of the National University Fencing Competitions in 2016.


The Tsinghua’s Fencing Association’s students during the training


“I love fencing because it contests my intelligence, and no matter strength and heights. I have always being confronted mental challenges when I was squaring off against my opponent, and it helps me to develop my strategic thinking and academic disciplines. Also, I think fencing is a terrific stress reliever, all problems and worries melt away, as we concentrate on technique and strategy.” said Omibao Zheng, a visiting postgraduate student of Network and Information Security lab,  at the Tsinghua University.

However, fencing is a sport that requires power, flexibility, and speed, it demands focus, strategy, tactical execution, and incredible forethought. That is why many people willing to use the “physical chess” metaphor.

“The people in China are inclined to believe that the Tsinghua’s students are the smartest, so our fencers attract a massive audience, especially focus on their tactics during the competition,” said Liu Shuang.

She is likely to describe fencing as the “Sports Ballet” because many of the ballet positions are derived from fencing. Likewise, the sports ballet, the fencer use the same sort of skill set – understanding timing, tempo, measure and velocity. Additionally, the student has to develop a sense of body awareness, not only knowing how their own body is positioned, but how they are positioned about his or her opponent.


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