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.

Location: United Kingdom

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Fencing doesn't usually attract a big audience. I'm not sure why because it's obviously exciting to watch a couple of people trying to stab one another. I bet we'd get an audience fast enough if we took to fencing in the streets as the pubs closed.
As things are, passers by at the leisure centre sometimes stand and watch - often with amazement and longing. They linger at the door or on the bridge above the halls, taking in the excitement of men, women and children attacking one another with swords. And then, sometimes, at club tournaments, a few partners, parents and children of fencers turn up to watch and cheer.

The only supporters I've ever had have been fellow fencers. My son would encourage me occasionally when he fenced. (He's thinking of returning but has outgrown all his kit - suddenly he's 6 feet tall.) And occasionally other fencers would cheer me on out of sympathy for the underdog.

Most of the encouragement I received came from fellow bloggers, often on the other side of the Atlantic, or friends who would try to remember to ask me how fencing had been. Friends are very good that way. A friend in France even phoned once to tell me about some fencing he'd seen on television, though he wasn't sure what weapon they'd been using. Sometimes I think my enthusiasm for fencing is quite a trial for my non-fencing friends.

In recent weeks I've been pleased to see a colleague bringing his son to the beginners' class. These days the beginners start before the rest of us so there's a chance to say hello and see how the son is progressing. It's early days but he's looking good and I hope he'll continue with the club. But when I arrived, I couldn't see them.

Attendance was pretty low for us. I don't know if the problem was the dark night or the flu and colds that are circulating. We're still in a cramped area as work continues on the floor of the big hall - we're not likely to be back there till mid-November. Perhaps other people felt the same reluctance as me when I got on my bike, wondering how long I could continue with fencing. My age is against me. My level of fitness is low and I don't get enough practice. I'm never going to be a good fencer. My ambition is to turn up and feel I did better than the week before. "Not enough," I thought. "Perhaps I'll give up next time my epee needs repair."

Warming up banished some of the gloom. I'm always surprised at the way exercise makes me feel better. Afterwards the fencers dispersed and I struggled into my plastron and jacket. There was only one other epeeist there - the Man man. He must have felt discouraged too as he's much better than me. But he smiled cheerfully and said we'd have to fence each other.

Just as I was connecting the wire from the box to my jacket - always tricky as the connecting loop is stiff and hard to open - I looked up at the gallery and saw my colleague with his son. They waved, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. "Oh dear," I thought as I put my mask on, "now they'll see how bad I am." But I was also warmed by the thought of watchers who were, indisputably, on my side. I reckoned I'd have to do my best.

Every time I looked up they were smiling, waving - even clapping gently. I lost more points than I won but it felt so good to have people on my side that I was making more of an effort - and winning more points than I expected. When, finally, my colleage and his son (still smiling) waved goodbye, I felt warmed by their support.

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Anonymous Katie said...

Maybe when the floor is finished you'll be able to try out that sliding-along-the-floor move. I would also come back from France to cheer you on if you promised to throw certain people off the balcony.

5:28 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

by the way, have you seen Theatre of Blood? There is an excellent fencing scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5ZyTe6r_gI
Unfortunately it is with sabres, but it takes place in an actual leisure centre and there is some very inspiring trampoline action. Ignore the longish meths-drinking interlude in the middle.

5:35 pm  
Blogger The Gray Epee said...

That was a very strange clip Kathy.

Or perhaps I am just not fully caffeinated this morning.

Support is a wonderful thing. You could fence without it, just like you could have a turkey sandwich without hot German mustard.

But it is better with it.

BTW I have moved my journal

1:17 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

I LOVE Theatre of Blood, especially since lots was filmed in the old Putney Hippodrome, near where I grew up.

I can't throw people off the balcony of the room we're currently using - or not easily - because there is glass between the balcony and the hall.

Sorry to startle and alarm you with the clip, Jim. I'm not a fan of the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet film as a whole but my kids thought it terrific when it came out - and the fight scene is, I think, pretty startling. I also find myself quoting bits of Hamlet sometimes when I fence. (The other good bit of the Kenneth Branagh film of Hamlet is the performance of the great actor Timothy Spall. He plays Rosencrantz.Unfortunately he outshines Branagh as Hamlet.)

1:29 pm  

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