Dueling and climbing to the top

Davis Climbing meetings
Mondays 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 to 11 p.m.
Rocknasium
720 Olive Dr.

UC Davis Fencing Club meetings
Mondays and Wednesdays 6 to 9 p.m.
Upper Hickey Gym

Some student organizations throw parties, some study together and others put on dance shows. But there are also groups of students who poke each other with swords and climb walls for fun.

With over 500 student organizations on campus, both Davis Climbing and the UC Davis Fencing Club (UCDFC) are simply faceless names on the club list. Little do students know, that not only do these sports teams exist, but both also compete in intercollegiate tournaments several times each year. Members hone skills in sword wielding and rock climbing while forming bonds with fellow peers.

UC Davis’ previous rock climbing club was revamped with the lead of club president Paul Brower, renaming it Davis Climbing in the fall of 2012.

“We just got it really rolling this past fall, so this is the second quarter we’ve been really going at it as Davis Climbing,” said Brower, fourth-year environmental science and management major. “So we basically deleted the last club and restarted it with new officers.”

Brower also added that Davis Climbing promotes training the mind and body through rock climbing. It is a game of strategy — from choosing a route to controlling breathing — in which members better themselves with experience. Good climbers don’t necessarily have to have a bulky physique. They are simply talented, creative and very good at problem solving.

“You’re exercising your mind and your body,” Brower said. “There’s really no sport like this that I’ve ever experienced in which you do those things at such a level that climbers do. Basically, when you’re figuring out routes, you’re triggering a kind of thought process similar to puzzles, because you have to figure out sequences to the route. As you get better and more experienced with your climbing, the sequences get way more complex and physically demanding, so it’s so much a mind game as it is a body game.”

Davis Climbing competes through USA Climbing, nationally recognized for competitive climbing. The club participates in the collegiate climbing series competing against Northern California schools, including Sacramento State, Humboldt State and Cal Poly SLO. Davis Climbing will compete in about five different places around the region with the first one on Feb. 23 at Sonoma State. The regional competition will be in Spring Quarter in Reno.

“I just love seeing so much work and effort come into life,” Brower said. “Seeing people finding something that they can really relate to and benefits them physically [and] mentally. Climbing is just very versatile. Any size, shape, [or any] background of a person can climb. There are different forms of climbing, but they’ll be able to find something.”

With approximately 15 to 20 active members, Davis Climbing has beginners and experts alike. It is available to anybody who wants to join with an initial investment in shoes and a purchase of a $34-per-month membership at Rocknasium in downtown Davis, where all meetings are held. Davis Climbing meets on Mondays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 p.m.

Meanwhile, students are also geared up for another UC Davis competitive sport, complete with swords. The Fencing Club was founded in 1954 and is the oldest sports club at UC Davis. While the club has beginners, they also have students that are members of the United States Fencing Association (USFA), the national governing body for fencing.

The club’s coach, Thom Cate, is a competitive fencer of over 16 years and member of the USFA. He was also elected president of the Northern California Intercollegiate Fencing League in 2004.

UCDFC is registered as a sports club and competes intercollegiate against other schools, such as UC Berkeley, Sacramento State and UC Santa Cruz at least once every quarter. Their next competition is in Cal Poly SLO on Feb. 16.

“Historically, we’ve swept all the competitions,” said David Marias, third-year entomology major and UCDFC vice president. “Between our size relative to the club, the caliber of fencers that we have, and [that] a lot of the novices we train do very well, we do very well [overall].”

Every quarter, 10 to 25 students and sometimes professors join the club. UCDFC currently has about 40 members. It is open to any UC Davis student with quarterly dues of $50 to pay for the coach, tournament fees and fencing equipment and repair.

“We’ll take anyone even with no experience,” Marias said. “It doesn’t matter. All your experience could be watching Princess Bride with the famous fencing scene. We’ll be happy to take you.”

Besides teaching fencing skills, the sports club also emphasizes safety and a social environment. After all, what other club allows you to skewer your friends while staying safe and friendly?

“We’re college students that like hanging out and enjoy stabbing each other with 25 inches of aircraft-grade steel,” Marias said. “You can’t go wrong with that. Everyone’s there for the fun of it. I mean, yes, we have our competitive sides and it’s a lot of fun, [but] none of us are like, ‘I’m here to go to the Olympics.’ People get together, want to fence and have fun with it.”

With weekly practices and weekends of tournaments, UCDFC certainly requires time and motivation. However, this pays off with the valuable experience that members gain and the close-knit relationship they are able to build with each other.

“It’s a lot of work and it does take up a lot of time,” said Karen Sean, third-year biotechnology major. “You put up a lot of effort just to keep things together, but it’s self-improvement. You have to be able to look at yourself, what you’re doing wrong, and how you can improve.”

If you want to check out the team, UCDFC meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at Upper Hickey Gym.

“I got here, saw the team, figured why not give it a shot?” Marias said. “I haven’t turned back since.”

JOYCE BERTHELSEN can be reached at features@theaggie.org

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