I Challenge You to a Duel: The dueling club brings sword fighting to Grossmont.

Dylan Pheifer, Staff Reporter

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In mid-October, a student came to school dressed like he was going to fight the Scottish for the crown. He’s Alexander Drastal, one of the few officers of Grossmont’s dueling club, a group that meets to practice sword fighting.

When 2 p.m. came around, three more students had joined Drastal outside Griffin Center with two plastic short swords, two long swords and two foam shields. When things were just starting, students had also just started to get out of class, and many were happy to see the unique experience on campus, though only a few participated in the end.

The dueling club is unofficial because it lacks a teacher sponsor; however, its members are still able to gather on campus without issues from the school. Four people founded the club last year: Drastal, Raymond Benito, Nicholas Armes and Yoshi Fujikawa.

“The group used to have a lot of people but scheduling has slowed that a bit,” Armes said. “What typically happens is new people will join for one or two sessions.”

Last fall, Benito, the club’s unofficial founder, brought a couple foam swords and decided he should start a dueling club. The school administration has been quite tolerant of the dueling club. Other than telling the club members to mind the landscape so that the grass doesn’t die, the school hasn’t had issues with the group.

Alexander Drastal dressed up to duel Photo by: Dylan Pheifer
Alexander Drastal dressed up to duel
Photo by: Dylan Pheifer

The rules are very basic: usually people start in a circle and they cannot hit the face, neck or groin. Hitting anything outside of the limbs is a win, and, if struck in a limb, the participant loses the ability of that limb. In an official competition, such as the Society for Creative Anachronism or Amtgard, striking two limbs will also bring a win. In short, a limb is worth one point, the body is worth two—and two points would be a victory.

One of the dueling club’s members, Santiago has been learning how to duel for about a year now. He gave some tips on dueling, starting with the horse stance, with the body turned and shoulders relaxed, which is reminiscent of some styles of boxing. Drastal explained that the idea was to allow a person’s weight to do the work for them, demonstrating how much power he can bring to his sword with just a proper swing of the hips. Similar to many martial arts, the swordsman also went over blocking with a sword. He explained four positions of the sword that shaped a diamond, which let him have the advantage against a striking opponent by being prepared to intercept an attack, as well as provide an opening.  The final lesson was in footing, which was very simple: If you go left, start with your left foot; right, use the right foot; front, the front foot. Basically you use whichever foot you needed to step in the direction you want to go so that the stance can keep its integrity as you move.

The dueling club meets outside on the grass in between the Grossmont center and library every Wednesday at 2 p.m. The group is very inclusive and looking to gain new members as well as legitimize its status as an official club. To really understand dueling, you have to try it for yourself.