Terrouge E-zine Archives
Mock Warfare Revisited - Fencing
By popular request (about five people), and lack of other new article ideas, Terrouge once more brings you a safe way to beat the stuffing out of your friends and strangers alike. The reason why this wasn't included in the original mock warfare issue was because, according to our wonderful editor Erin (we love you anyway! ^_~), "it's a trained sport and I guess I reasoned that few readers would have the desire, financial ability, or a club close enough". For those of you that the previous statement does apply to, we hope you'll enjoy this article anyway. You'll be pleased to know that I've been doing this mystery sport for two years now and will give you information about it first-hand. What is the mystery sport?
The first day of beginner class at my local club, the Seacoast Fencing Club (southern New Hampshire-ish based), our coach Chris gives us a brief history of the sport. Having not heard it for a long while, let me just say that fencing was originally designed to teach the art of the sword European style, much the same way kendo teaches the art of the sword Japanese style. A little funny factoid: during peacetime, if there was an argument between two people, they'd go to court. The way the argument would be settled was by a duel between the two involved. If one or both were too old or weak or a lady or something like that, they'd hire a knight who had nothing better to do at the time because there wasn't a war going on and managed to get money out of it anyway to fight in their name. Being the religious people they were, they believed that if the defendant, for instance, won the case (duel), then he was wrongly accused in the first place. God must have known this and therefore blessed the dueler and made sure he won. The best part: a duel like that would sometimes be called a tourney (you know, from tournament), and the hired dueler would be called an "attorney", which is exactly what a lawyer is these days. Neat, huh? (And what a brilliant idea- pitting two lawyers in a duel to the death. End result- half as many alive lawyers!)
Now, just like the samurai have different sword blades, so do fencers. There are also different grips/handles, but those don't really alter much. The grips pictured are French.
Now, the épée (EH-pay), is the most damaging sword. Not very flexible, so if you get hit hard you get a bruise that takes a while to heal. The target area is the entire body, so the guard is larger, and just like the foil you hit with the point. If both fencers hit, they both get a point. I suppose it tries to emulate dueling as much as possible. My second favorite.
Ah, the saber. This is what you see in the movies, or at least the guard. As you can see it covers the fingers from the side, which is crucial in a bout because the saber can not only stab but slash; it has a blade. It is based on the cavalry saber, so the target is the upper half of the body as if the fencer is mounted on a horse. Very fast and even flashy, it sells the sport like a Canyonero. I don't like it very much.
This is my blade - the skill weapon. The foil is a stabbing weapon, and because the target area is so small you must play tricks on your opponent so you can get past his blade and into his chest. The blade is so flexible it can act like a whip and hit your opponent's back, if you're tall. Otherwise you have to weave your way in. Those bloodthirty épéeists say it's deceitful and evil in a small targetish way. Learn how to aim!
Right of Way
For saber and foil, there are certain rules that decide who gets the point when both hit. These are called right of way, and say who has the right to get a point (hit the opponent, on target of course). First, if I stretch out my swordarm and make it straight (extend), then I have the right to go ahead and lunge and hit you. If I hit you on target I get a point. Now let's say I extend and lunge towards you. You can knock my blade out of the way (parry) to prevent yourself from getting hit and then gain right of way. The difference between fencing and just slashing away at your opponent is that in the former you have to get right of way before your blade legally gets to touch me. With épée, it doesn't matter who has right of way, but in attacking you must remember that you don't want to get hit yourself, so parrying is still essential.
With foil and saber, most of the bout involves you trying to get right of way and make sure your opponent doesn't take it from you. For instance, I have right of way in extending and lunging at you. You move your blade sideways to knock mine out of the way. I avoid the blade contact by dropping my tip so your blade passes over mine. I then come back up and get my hit. This is fairly common and is called a disengage (feint-disengage if you include the lunging part). Blade contact makes right of way pass from one person to the other. By parrying and hitting my blade you get right of way. If I lunge and beat your blade I get right of way, even if I didn't extend first when lunging. It's all very simple.
Since I live in the United States, I don't know how all you Brits and others have it, but over here we have the USFA (United States Fencing Association) to organize the country into regions called "divisions" (I'm in Division III ^_^), where they have a little ladder of tournaments of competition. There are national championships, and a big percentage of good fencers get to go because of the relatively small number of fencers. I once had the chance to go to some big tournament in Kentucky (I live in New Hampshire), so as you can see it is much easier to climb the USFA ladder than the NFL.
There are always plenty of events to participate in if there's more than two clubs in your state. The two major competitors (that I know of) in my state are the Seacoast Fencing Club (mine) and the Wicked Cool Fencing Club (they think they're so big). To find clubs or trainers in your area, either ask around or go on the Net. Chances are you'll find one. If not, if you have enough money, you can order fencing equipment online and buy books and stuff to teach yourself and your friends. Maybe get your school to start a team. The problem with all that is the cost of everything. The price tag of one good mask is around $150, and swords $70 or so. Now that everything is electronic, you have to get all that jazz as well - electric blades, body cords, the little beeping boxes if you're an épéeist, and so on.
So there you have it. Fencing is a really fun sport, it gives you the legs of a high jumper, the reflexes of a boxer, and the skill of a, well, um… Inigo Montoya.
(Thanks to the USFA website www.usfa.gov for the pictures under "Blades", and remember to have the proper equipment before attempting to join the sport.)