quaker fencer

kathz isn't quite my name. I may be a Quaker. If I'm a fencer I'm a bad one and I don't do sabre. If I'm a Quaker I'm a bad one - but you've worked that out already. Read on. Comment if you like. Don't expect a reply.

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Location: United Kingdom

Saturday, September 06, 2008

corridor fencing

My breeches seemed to have shrunk slightly in the past twenty-four hours. It's strange that dinner with the chef should have that effect. It seemed possible they would shrink further if exposed to the rain, which was bucketing down. I decided to remain dry and conserve my energy for fencing. I booked a cab.

Something bad has happened to the floor of the main hall at the leisure centre. No-one is allowed into the hall but, crossing the bridge to the small hall allotted us, I could see an expanse of fractured concrete through gaps despite curtains of plastic sheeting obscuring the view. No-one knows when we shall get our floor back.

For the moment we have two rooms: the small hall often dedicated to kick-boxing and a squash court. There wasn't space for a full-length piste and we gazed around anxiously. The main hall was further cluttered with large blue mattresses. A large rubbish bin stood in the middle of the floor, collecting drips from a leak in the ceiling. I tried to look on the bright side. The bin could be part of a fencing fantasy. It would become a barrel of wine, due to be pierced by a sword or pistol-shot in the course of a lengthy fight. The effect is included in the d'Artagnan street - and rooftop - theatre at Parc Asterix. As wine gushes from the barrel, d'Artagnan tastes it and comments, mid-fight, and comments, "mauvais cru" ("lousy vintage").

We stood in a circle for warm-up and footwork practice saw us in two rows. At least the weather meant attendance was down - somewhere between twenty and thirty, I think. We kitted up and established four pistes in the hall: two electric and two steam.

As the intermediates headed to the squash court for a lesson, I found myself gazing down the corridor towards the changing rooms and further squash courts. "It looks like a piste to me," I found myself saying. "We could fence there."

One of the intermediates - a tall, dark girl who looks as though she should learn epee - looked up and her eyes gleamed with understanding. Quickly we agreed to to fence foil in the corridor once her class was over. I returned to the small hall. Only two other epeeists were looking for a bout: the youth and the student. They had arranged to start by fencing each other. For some time I watched.

Fencers were careful not to monopolise the pistes and bouts were fast and short. All the same, I did quite a lot of watching before I picked up my sword to fence the youth. He's better than me and hits hard - I've numerous purple circles on my right thigh to prove this.

For some reason he was aiming at my head. He caught the mask with blows that made my teeth chatter and once hit the centre of my forehead so forcefully that I felt the blow there, even though my forehead's well-protected by the mask and no blow can actually land on my face. The hits to my head did him no good. While he scored many more hits than I did, I tended to catch him on the wrist or forearm as he advanced to attack my mask. But his hits landed all the same.

Later I fenced the student, who had remarked that he was very out of practice. For a while I thought I wasn't going to score a single hit. But in the end I landed a few blows. I comforted myself with the thought that he was young enough to be my son. Then I re-assessed. He's young enough to be my grandson.

Eventually the moment for corridor-fencing arrived and I can't praise the practice enough. It was like being in a movie. We went back and forth between the walls and the only thing we could focus on was hitting one another.

When my opponent had to leave, I tried again, against one of the coaches. He'd done dungeon fighting - a real-life fantasy gameplay - and loved it at once. The focus of the bout is sharpened, you need to keep your blade under control and your footwork precise while watching your opponent. All are things you should do in ordinary fencing, but corridor fencing is far more intense. - It feels both real and like freeing fantasy prisoners from a castle dungeon

I managed to ignore the painted walls, the radiators and the safety signs. Stone would have been better.

"Perhaps we could try the staircase," the coach suggested, and then, hopefully, "the leisure centre might agree .. as a one-off, for a promotional video."

Perhaps they'll even install a chandelier.


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2 Comments:

Anonymous Katie said...

I don't quite see how the bin pictured could catch drips from the ceiling. Surely they would just bounce off the top?

I think I would have liked to fence on the blue mattresses. It would have been a bit like fencing in a bouncy castle.

10:23 am  
Blogger Kathz said...

The question of the bin puzzled me too. Perhaps there was a cunningly positioned hole in the top.

I shall suggest fencing on blue mattresses next week. Putting on the floor would make space for an extra piste, if it was used only by very thin fencers.

12:33 pm  

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