Fencing: Why I Play: Julia Yoon speaks to motivation, winning mindset


Photo courtesy of Julia Yoon

Julia Yoon. The junior epee fencer remains a fixture on the team entering her third season.

Lauren Dain, Reporter

Junior epee Julia Yoon discovered fencing as a teenager by attending classes at her local recreation center in New Jersey. She soon clicked with the sport and began spending weeknights training at her fencing club and weekends at tournaments. The sport became an integral part of Yoon’s life, so it felt natural to pursue it in college. 

Since starting at Northwestern in 2020, Yoon has honed her fencing skills and become a consistent, key member of the program. The Daily talked with Yoon about her love of fencing, how she stays connected to her home club roots and common fencing misconceptions. 

“Why I Play” is a Q&A series where Wildcats discuss their love for their sports and how they got their starts. This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: What about fencing clicked with you? 

Yoon: The feeling of winning has a lot more weight. With fencing, it was something that I hadn’t experienced before. I think that it challenged me to be creative and think outside of the box when it came to approaching different opponents. I think the mental aspect also drew me in, because I realized both people are nervous when they’re fencing and sometimes if you’re really close in skill level, or even if you’re not close in skill level, if someone is mentally stronger than you then they will basically immediately win.

The Daily: Why is epee your weapon of choice? 

Yoon: I love epee. The other two weapons, saber and foil, have these right-away rules, which are basically just to simplify it — rules that are not necessary in my opinion. I think epee is pretty straight to the point. 

You basically just get a touch, and at the same time you can hit anywhere (on the opponent’s body), so I love hitting on the foot, hitting over the chest. I like being creative with it. I think epee allows me for that expression, whereas with a foil and saber, you stop every five seconds or you’re going super fast and can’t think.

The Daily: How has your fencing experience changed since coming to NU? 

Yoon: It is so important to remain true to your home (fencing) club style, but (you’re) still adapting to this new college fencing structure. Being able to have teammates is so interesting because technically, fencing is an individual sport, but you’re still working with your teammates. I really enjoy having teammates and having them give me feedback on my fencing. I am also able to give other people feedback on their fencing. You’re actively challenging and pushing one another to be better, to think harder and to adapt in a different way. 

The Daily: What are some misconceptions about fencing you’d like to address? 

Yoon: People assume that fencers are not athletic or that they don’t put in extra work outside of fencing practice. My team and I lift almost every weekday for an hour. We put in work to make sure that we are at peak athletic capacity for our bouts and in order to be able to improve our fencing as well. Just because fencing is a mental game doesn’t mean it’s not still a physical game as well.

The Daily: How do you stay motivated as a fencer? 

Yoon: I remind myself of the pivotal moment of how I felt when I received that recruiting email. I reflect on myself as a high schooler, when I really wanted to be a Northwestern fencer and I remind myself that I’m living my dream right now. 

Email: [email protected]

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