Like most fencers, I admire good qualities and skills that I lack. There are plenty of those. For instance, almost all fencers are faster and more accurate than me. I can usually beat beginners. Occasionally a better fencer will have an off day and I'm learning to take advantage. But that's about it. And my age is against me.
Still, there are fencers it is a pleasure to watch and fight. I like fencers who evidently enjoy the bout. Every so often I'll fence someone who is skilled at fencing but doesn't seem to enjoy it - or whose only interest is how many points he (it's usually a he) can score. I understand fencing to win. Even I want to win. But I can't understand people for whom their own progess on a score board is their only pleasure.
I fence because I love it and I enjoy people who share my delight in swordplay and the fun of it all. They often fell in love with fencing through watching the old, swashbuckling movies and enjoying the swordplay. Some even read forgotten authors like Stanley J. Weyman.
Happy fencers come alive with sword in hand. Their eyes glow and they laugh with pleasure at good hits or amusing errors. While TV audiences thrill to Strictly Come Dancing, I just know that Strictly Come Fencing would be ten times as much fun - so long as the fencers enjoyed it. (But there isn't going to be much fencing on TV. It sounds as thought British fencing has just lost all its support in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.)
Some fencers win through strength as well as speed. The Historian (who the chef calls, approvingly, the Curmudgeon) is like that. Lately he's been suffering from epeeist's elbow (as tennis elbow has been renamed) so he can't take control of my blade so convincingly. The Doc is neat and subtle. He's a great admirer of neat hands and deft parries.
One of the newer fencers is skilled in both. At the club championship I found myself in the same poule as her and another young fencer. She was the nervous one, worried that she would make a fool of herself, so I reassured her, telling her she could look for hits one at a time and not worry about the outcome of the bout. She didn't tell me she was a left-hander and I didn't realise, until I saw her fence, that she was a quick learner with a good eye and neat hands. She won her first bout, against another intermnediate, 5-0 and began to relax. I managed three hits to her five. Then she beat her coach 5-1 and her poule fight against the club's best sabreuse ended with a 4-3 to the sabreuse, thanks to a hit just before the call of "time." She was beaten easily by the best fencer in the poule but went into the D.E. ranked eighth out of eighteen - quite a feat for a 16-year-old who started fencing only last year. As for me, I was knocked out easily by one of the club's best fencers (I think the score was 15-1) and finished fourteenth overall - the highest I've ever finished. (Thank you, newish fencers, for joining in - you'll all be beating me this time next year.)
I think I am improving a little but I didn't do well in the epee poules. Fortunately the D.E. saw me fencing a veteran epeeist (who prefers sabre and rarely fences epee on her visit). She's a few years older than me but not easy competition - she fences internationally as a veteran and sometimes brings home medals. I was pleased that the final score - in her favour - was 15-10. I enjoyed the bout.
Last night was devoted to sabre (I know that fleches aren't allowed in sabre any more, but couldn't resist the picture.) A visiting team took on some of our sabreurs in a team competition. Our club was victorious - we have a number of excellent sabreurs - but it looked like a good match. There weren't many epeeists but we took turns on a spare piste, pausing from time to time to watch the excitement.
When the match was over, members of the visiting team joined in casual fencing. It was good to see one stripping off his lame and taking an epee in hand. He approached us and asked if he could join in.
He was a young Frenchman, spending a few months in England between school and university. Without thinking, I replied to him in French and found myself scraping around for words - it's too long since I've had to speak French. He fenced us all, although only the Doc was a good match for him. Learning my age and relatively recent involvement in fencing, he set out to encourage me, letting me win subtly, encouraging me to attack and enjoy the bout, I don't always like it when I'm allowed to win but he was so encouraging and so polite that I was charmed. However, I didn't accept his invitation to fleche him.
Fencing in French felt special. The young fencer didn't resemble d'Artagnan and was far too youthful and enthusiastic for the cynical Gil de Berault but the language was right. Besides, as the Doc pointed out, the young Frenchman had excellent parries and ever such neat hands.
Note: I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while. I've been busy with work and other matters. I'll try to find time to blog more often.
Labels: club championship, epee, fencer, fencing, foil, hands, parry, skill, Stanley J. Weyman, swashbuckling, winning