Temple international fencer brings experience to club

Aziz Alsarraf chose to go to college instead of continuing his competitive fencing career.

Sophomore accounting major Aziz Alsarraf (left) works on blade techniques with Temple fencing club Vice President David Chodor during practice at Pearson Hall on Nov. 11. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Aziz Alsarraf’s father gave him two choices when he graduated from Dasman Bilingual School in Kuwait City. He could go to college or become a fencer.  

Alsarraf, a sophomore accounting major, gave up his competitive fencing career, but still gets to enjoy the sport. as a foil for Temple’s club fencing team. 

He was born and raised in Kuwait City and left home for the first time to attend college when he was 18, he said. Alsarraf fenced competitively for 10 years and competed on the Kuwait National Team from 2011-16.

Alsarraf didn’t like fencing when he first started. Originally, he wanted to play soccer, but his father pushed him to fence, he said.

“As human beings, we don’t like being forced into doing anything,” he added. “My dad insisted that I be a fencer. It was pretty simple, but I didn’t want to.”

Alsarraf took a break from fencing in 2009, but he ended up falling in love with the sport when he joined the national team in 2011, he said.

Khaled Jahrami, Alsarraf’s father, fenced in Kuwait and for its national team from when he was 18 until he was 30. As soon as Alsarraf was old enough, Jahrami pushed fencing on him, which wasn’t always easy for Alsarraf. 

Jahrami is the manager of a Kuwait fencing club and coached Alsarraf when he was growing up, he said. 

“He was hard on me,” Alsarraf said. “It was tough sometimes. People knew that I was his son, so everyone would look at me differently and think that I’d get whatever I wanted. He didn’t want to treat me that way, so he coached me like any of his other students.”

Alsarraf helps run Temple’s practices, as he is the only student on the team with international experience. 

“He brings a lot of experience, specifically international competitive experience more than anyone else in the club,” said David Chodor, a sophomore political science major and the club’s vice president. “When we have practice and when I fence him, I not only gain more knowledge just from practice, but also from his experience from Kuwait’s National Team.”

Even though it can be frustrating to compete against Alsarraf in practice, it’s also almost like a “private lesson,” Chodor added. 

“It’s great because he knows how to lead and has so much experience traveling worldwide,” said Nadir Syed, a senior management information systems major and the club’s president. 

“He’s taught us all these new techniques, and we’ve all gotten better from it,” he added. 

Alsarraf’s family still lives in Kuwait, and he takes a 15-hour plane trip every summer to see them. 

“But family’s everything to me,” he said. “My biggest supporter is my mom. She doesn’t know fencing, but she tries her best and asks how I did in my competitions.”

Alsarraf said he wouldn’t make his future children fence — or force them to do any other thing.

“I said that when I grow older, I won’t force them to do anything,” Alsarraf said. “I love my dad and I love fencing, but I won’t make my kids fence. They can fence if they want to, but I won’t force them.”

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