The one-hit epee contest has become something of a club tradition. Towards the end of every term, all the epeeists present – and any other fencer they can recruit – fence one another for a seasonal prize, donated by the club president. This time it was a bottle of cava, which he had selected as a suitable summer wine. The mention of summer brought groans although some of us, thinking back over the past few weeks, could recall a day when it hadn’t rained.
The rules of one-hit epee are simple. Every fencer fences every other fencer. The bout stops after the first hit so scoring simply registers V for victory or D for defeat. A double counts as a double defeat.
There were nine of us: seven who fence epee reasonably regularly, a 17-year-old sabreur who had done some epee, and a fencer who had joined the beginners in September and had never fenced epee before. A little was into the contest, we found we had the youngest ref in the business – a boy aged about 9 who took it all very seriously, watched us with care and filled in the score-sheet with great deliberation. He was a rather small and quiet ref but I feel he will soon acquire an air of authority.
One-hit epee makes me feel uneasy. Even in a bout to 5 there’s a chance to get a sense of your opponent and how he’s fencing. (I say ‘he’ because I was, yet again, the only woman competing at epee. The occasional epeeists among the women wanted to fence foil last night.) In a one-hit contest there’s no chance to pause and analyse – you just have to take your chance while watching your opponent. I began badly. My concentration wasn’t good. Walking to the piste for my first bout, I was sure I’d forgotten something but I couldn’t work out what it was. I did a quick check: mask, hairband, protective plasters on the ears, breeches, plastron, jacket, bodywire. I was just connecting the wire when I realised what was missing – I’d left my epee at the other side of the hall. Not a good start, and my level of concentration didn’t improve much during the swift opening bout.
In my second bout I was beaten by the novice – the one person I’d thought I might beat. I began to worry that I’d score no hits – at least last time I did better than that. Then I was up against the young sabreur. It was some time since I’d fenced him and that was at foil. He’s fenced for longer than me. However, his sabreur’s stance laid him open to hits and he was evidently trying to remind himself of the target area. One hit to me – it wasn’t going to be a blank sheet. A couple of other fencers dealt with me quickly. Meanwhile, the new fencer was scoring some wins while the sabreur left the piste assuming he’d lost again, only to discover that he’d won with a neat but unintended hit to the hand.
Then I found myself against someone who’d begun fencing when I did. He’s taken part in a couple of competitions at epee and also coaches fencing, so I didn’t have much hope. However, as a coach, he has said encouraging things to me in the past so I decided to take them seriously. He attacked first – and missed. Instinctively I’d responded by extending my arm and he walked onto my blade. A win to me – and an opponent cursing himself for the failed attack.
My final bout was against the ref’s dad – a far more experienced fencer. My previous opponent urged me on. “I beat him and you beat me – of course you can do it. He likes fancy fencing – go straight into the attack and hit him straight away.”
I took the advice. My first attack failed and left me to parry a counter-attack. I couldn’t mess around trying to fence well. I didn’t even aim for the arm but pushed forward as fiercely as I could. A chest-hit shouldn’t have won against a better fencer but it did.
I’d scored 3 hits out of a possible 8. This put me in joint 6th place, beating two fencers. Meanwhile the novice had achieved an unexpected 3rd place. One of the regular epeeists took him off for some coaching. A few minutes later I watched the novice hitting the wrist with apparent ease time after time.
He's shorter most epeeists but I think the weapon has just got a new recruit.
I got to fence the novice again when he was tired – he’s not used to a heavy sword. And I ended by beating the sabreur again – 5-3, I think. He had a convenient tendency to pause after each parried attack, as though to establish right of way – and his sabreur’s stance continued to lay him open. Of course, if he were to switch to epee he’d soon learn to avoid such faults. But for the moment, there’s something very satisfying in beating a sabreur.
If I ever fight a duel, I want the choice of weapons.P.S. The winner of the one-hit epee was the rather good young fencer who I beat so surprisingly a couple of weeks ago. It went to a final elimination bout in which he scored a neat wrist-hit on the club president, who'd donated the prize. Many of the usual contenders lost out through double defeats. And I'm beginning to think there's something to be said for one-hit epee.
Labels: coach, counter-attack, earrings, epee, novice, one-hit epee, parry riposte, Preparation for Attack, rain, referee, sabre, sabreur, summer, wrist hits