Sofija Podvisocka: Fencing

One of the conditions depending on which I decided to study abroad at Doshisha University was the presence of a fencing team, since I needed a space to practice in order to rejoin Brown’s team upon my return. Doshisha’s fencing team operates with a system very different from the one I’m used to, due to the absence of a coach and the dependence on small groups to schedule their own practices, which included usually a warm-up and sparring, with a few days where we would give each other individual lessons. I would meet with the women’s epee team anywhere from two to four times a week, depending on everyone’s availability. 

Practicing with the Doshisha fencing team led me to better understand Japanese cultures in terms of the senpai/kouhai system, but also the progression from using respectful forms to casual speech as we got closer. Furthermore, since I was the youngest of the group, although I had the most experience with fencing, I was given very little responsibility in terms of practices. However, as time went on and the boundary between me and the upperclassmen began to dissipate, I was allowed more say in what the practices entailed, and could even lead some of our drills. 

That being said, Doshisha’s fencing team reminded me in many ways of my own. No matter the differences in speech between Japanese and English, the struggles of the student-athlete remain the same. Between balancing classes and practices, making time to focus on this extracurricular, and the comradery of the team dynamic, I felt very much immersed in the same society as I was back home. 

For future KCJS students thinking about their CIP going into their study abroad experience, my main piece of advice would be to choose not based on the subject of the CIP entirely, but also based on the community you would be involving yourself in. Focus on building relationships throughout the semester just as you would back home, even though there’s an expiration date hovering in your mind you can’t always ignore. The CIP itself might be temporary, but what you learn from it will remain ever-present.

6 thoughts on “Sofija Podvisocka: Fencing

  1. Sofija, it seems like you had a really interesting experience being a part of the Doshisha Fencing team. It’s great that you were able to continue doing something that you love in Kyoto, and were able to lead your fellow students in some exciting drills! The frequency with which you went is truly admirable, and balancing the tenuous relationship between being a student and being an athlete is something you seem to do well! Bravo!

    • Thank you, Carter! While it was difficult balancing the two, I will say that the amount of time I needed to commit to fencing here in contrast to back home made that a bit easier 🙂

  2. It sounds very difficult to have such a self reliant structure, between scheduling practices and even teaching other teammates!
    Would you say that nearing the end of the semester you were given equal position to your senpai, or did that dynamic of hierarchy never fully dissipate? Being the member on the team with the most experience, by the end were you able to successfully offer advice to the other girls?
    I imagine that the senpai/kouhai system must have presented many difficult moments, but it also sounds like you were able to become close within the community through the frequency of meetings and the bond of a shared sport. I’m glad you were able to build meaningful relationships over the course of the semester, even if our time here is limited.

    • I don’t think the dynamic ever fully dissipated, but I did get to a point where I began to have more responsibilities and could give advice without it seeming too forward of me!

  3. Sofija, first, bravo! this is truly a success story; a classic underdog tale. I am forever impressed by your success in all matters, you are a master of your craft.

    • Thank you for your kind words 🙂 I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends here and the bonds I’ve made in KCJS!