Fencing Talk with Catherine Case Szarwark: The Inner Sport of Fencing

According to Catherine Case Szarwark, the sport of epee fencing dates back to nineteenth century France where it developed based upon fencing principles.  It has been part of the Modern Olympics since their inception, reports Szarwark, and it currently experiencing a steady growth in popularity.

The athleticism required is obvious, points out Catherine Case Szarwark.  The sport features rapid movement and almost instantaneous decision-making.  It requires quick reflexes and the stamina required to remain at peak efficiency throughout a series of matches that typically run throughout the day. According to Catherine Case Szarwark, pinpoint accuracy with the epee itself is a characteristic obvious to even the most casual observer.  But there is much more to epee fencing than meets the eye, as Catherine Case Szarwark, a three time All American form fencer for Penn State University, notes.

To begin, Catherine Case Szarwark explains that fencers constantly shift their balance, change angles, move their blade point and reposition themselves.  The successful epee fencer, adds Szarwark, must adjust to the opponent’s changes while positioning themselves for a successful attack.  This process is mentally much like a game of chess.  But as in chess, notes Catherine Case Szarwark, the mere act of responding to a threat can create new openings and new opportunities for attack.  As patterns develop, each fencer uses the other’s response to set the other up for a new angle of attack.  Then, says Catherine Case Szarwark, because of the speed of the attack and the close proximity of the fencers to each other, it is virtually impossible to respond to an attack.  One either anticipates and repels the attack, or one loses.

However, points out Szarwark, talent and physical ability are not irrelevant.  But each advantage carries its own baggage. Catherine Case Szarwark recalls that at 5’ 5” she was one of the taller fencers in Women’s Division I NCAA fencing.  Her reach and strength gave Catherine Case Szarwark an advantage that she could use.  However, Szarwark acknowledges that she presented a larger target than her smaller opponents, and explains that, regardless of height, no fencer can come within striking range of an opponent without coming within the opponent’s striking range.

Ultimately, Catherine Case Szarwark states that training is as much about mental discipline as it is about physical performance.  The most successful epee fencers, according to Catherine Case Szarwark, are those who possess the focus and concentration to effectively use the physical tools and training to maximum effect. In short, Catherine Case Szarwark concludes, fencing at the highest levels is much like playing basketball with Michael Jordan, while simultaneously playing chess with Bobby Fisher.

About Catherine Case Szarwark

For Catherine Case Szarwark, accomplishments came early in life. While friends were hoping to adapt to middle school, Catherine Case Szarwark found her passion. Szarwark started fencing in the sixth grade when a mini-fencing class was offered for physical education. She discovered that she loved it and possessed a rare talent.  Catherine Case Szarwark’s parents were supportive and her path to success began.

Catherine Case Szarwark spent six years at the Nashville Fencing Academy where she developed into one of the finest fencers in the country.  While attending Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee, Catherine Case Szarwark rose to the highest-ranking American epee fencer in the under-17 age category.  Her fencing for the American team took Catherine Case Szarwark to Italy and Germany, and Szarwark spent time at the United States Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she trained alongside Olympic hopefuls from all over the United States.

Upon graduation from high school, Catherine Case Szarwark elected to attend Penn State University where she fenced under the legendary Coach Emmanuil Kaidanov.  There, Szarwark compiled a record of 149 wins against only 35 losses, for an 81.0% winning percentage.  This remains the sixth-best in the storied history of fencing at Penn State University.  Catherine Case Szarwark earned all America honors three times, and was the captain of the Women’s Epee team in 2006-2007 when Penn State University won the NCAA National Championship. In speaking of this team, Coach Kaidanov singled out Catherine Case Szarwark for her leadership and dedication.

Catherine Case Szarwark also earned All Academic Big Ten honors, and finished with a 3.4 grade point average at Penn State University.  Szarwark now lives in New York City and has taught fencing at the New York Athletic Club. She works at NYU School of Medicine and is involved in Junior League of New York.

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