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BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing

Rapparee 28 Jan 07 - 06:00 PM
jeffp 28 Jan 07 - 06:13 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 28 Jan 07 - 07:15 PM
Rapparee 28 Jan 07 - 08:23 PM
Don Firth 28 Jan 07 - 10:51 PM
GUEST,Bardan 28 Jan 07 - 11:46 PM
redsnapper 29 Jan 07 - 08:25 AM
Rapparee 29 Jan 07 - 09:43 AM
EBarnacle 29 Jan 07 - 10:56 AM
dick greenhaus 29 Jan 07 - 11:11 AM
Rapparee 29 Jan 07 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,Bardan 29 Jan 07 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Bardan 29 Jan 07 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River 29 Jan 07 - 03:39 PM
Ebbie 29 Jan 07 - 03:41 PM
Slag 29 Jan 07 - 04:23 PM
jeffp 29 Jan 07 - 04:29 PM
Don Firth 29 Jan 07 - 04:43 PM
jeffp 29 Jan 07 - 04:52 PM
Rapparee 29 Jan 07 - 04:54 PM
Little Hawk 29 Jan 07 - 06:10 PM
EBarnacle 29 Jan 07 - 10:52 PM
Grab 30 Jan 07 - 05:41 AM
The Walrus 30 Jan 07 - 07:27 AM
jeffp 30 Jan 07 - 08:00 AM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 08:34 AM
Wolfgang 30 Jan 07 - 09:02 AM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 09:05 AM
mack/misophist 30 Jan 07 - 09:57 AM
EBarnacle 30 Jan 07 - 10:35 AM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 11:07 AM
Little Hawk 30 Jan 07 - 01:10 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 07 - 03:01 PM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 03:32 PM
jeffp 30 Jan 07 - 03:34 PM
Peterr 30 Jan 07 - 03:39 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 07 - 04:57 PM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 05:13 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 07 - 05:37 PM
EBarnacle 30 Jan 07 - 06:43 PM
Ebbie 30 Jan 07 - 07:13 PM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 07:40 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 07 - 09:01 PM
Don Firth 30 Jan 07 - 10:41 PM
Rapparee 30 Jan 07 - 10:43 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 07 - 01:00 AM
Little Hawk 31 Jan 07 - 01:34 AM
Rapparee 31 Jan 07 - 07:36 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 31 Jan 07 - 08:15 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 31 Jan 07 - 08:17 AM
Rapparee 31 Jan 07 - 02:51 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 07 - 04:19 PM
Little Hawk 31 Jan 07 - 04:33 PM
Little Hawk 31 Jan 07 - 04:42 PM
Rapparee 31 Jan 07 - 05:18 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 07 - 06:27 PM
Rapparee 31 Jan 07 - 06:48 PM
Little Hawk 31 Jan 07 - 06:58 PM
Rapparee 31 Jan 07 - 08:36 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 07 - 08:45 PM
GUEST,Don Last 31 Jan 07 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,Rapaire on his wife's computer 31 Jan 07 - 08:55 PM
Don Firth 31 Jan 07 - 10:01 PM
Little Hawk 01 Feb 07 - 12:15 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 01 Feb 07 - 08:28 AM
jeffp 01 Feb 07 - 09:04 AM
Rapparee 01 Feb 07 - 09:16 AM
Little Hawk 01 Feb 07 - 01:16 PM
Ebbie 01 Feb 07 - 01:30 PM
Don Firth 01 Feb 07 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River 01 Feb 07 - 03:32 PM
Don Firth 01 Feb 07 - 03:33 PM
jeffp 01 Feb 07 - 04:03 PM
Ebbie 01 Feb 07 - 05:06 PM
Rapparee 01 Feb 07 - 05:20 PM
Donuel 01 Feb 07 - 06:30 PM
EBarnacle 01 Feb 07 - 10:51 PM
Little Hawk 01 Feb 07 - 10:58 PM
Don Firth 01 Feb 07 - 11:25 PM
Rapparee 02 Feb 07 - 09:00 AM
Rapparee 02 Feb 07 - 09:11 PM
GUEST 03 Feb 07 - 05:23 PM
Raedwulf 03 Feb 07 - 05:48 PM
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Rapparee 03 Feb 07 - 06:21 PM
Don Firth 03 Feb 07 - 11:39 PM
Rapparee 04 Feb 07 - 10:28 AM
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Subject: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 06:00 PM

I've been reading Nick Evangelista's "The Inner Game of Fencing" and find his point (not sorry!) about "just make the light go on" to be only too valid. I've seen the young fencers in the local club, and whether with foil, epee, or sabre they seem to want only to score regardless of form or sports(wo)manship.

I fenced sabre against a young woman who was VERY good, and beat her 5-3 because I used both the blade and the point -- which she found unsettling and, I think, nearly unfair.

In epee, fleche seems to be the rule instead of the exception. In foil, the fencers learn the flick (but not from OUR coach!).

So I've been reading. Should I forget sport fencing, writing it off as unsporting and just another winner-take-all game and take up historical fencing instead? Or should I hold out and keep playing with people my own age and hope that the things that made fencing the sport it was come 'round again?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 06:13 PM

Interesting timing, Rapaire. I've just started a fencing class at my local club. It's a lot of fun and the other guy my age (52) is there to have fun and because his son has been fencing for 2 years and he wanted to get in on it. Our instructor is very relaxed and not victory-oriented at this stage, but it is early. I'll be watching this thread with interest.

Jeff


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 07:15 PM

I used both the blade and the point -- which she found unsettling....

Yes, I imagine so. Isn't that fencing ploy known as "double entendre"?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 08:23 PM

Mais oui, mon vieux! C'est un "jeu de ferre" avec une demoiselle belle.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 10:51 PM

I confess, this subject really has me sorta tooted up!

I got interested in fencing when I was fourteen (several Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power movies and a Sabatini novel or two too many—Scaramouche, Master-at-Arms, The Black Swan, etc.) and stuck with it (yes, I said that, and I'm glad, do you hear, glad!) until, in my mid-twenties, when singing activities (gigs) started conflicting with classes, tournaments, and such.

My first teacher was Katherine Modrell, Pacific-International Women's Open Champion (French school), I had some lessons from Raymond Coates, instructor at the Washington Athletic Club (Italian school). I had an opportunity to take lessons for a few weeks from Hans Halberstadt in San Francisco (Italian School). Halberstadt was Olympic fencing coach at the time.

Even though I was physically handicapped (very restricted footwork due to polio at age two—I could move back and forth with some alacrity, but I couldn't lunge, so I had to concentrate on developing a strong defense and fast ripostes) and had been advised against competitive fencing, Halberstadt insisted that I enter an épée competition in which a former three time National épée champion (Fred Linkmeyer) and two members of the U. S. Olympic team (Gerry Biagini and Salvatore Giambra) were also entered. Astoundingly (no one was more surprised than I was!), out of twelve bouts, I lost only two (to Fred Linkmeyer and Sal Giambra) and wound up in a three way tie for third place. In the fence-off, I lost one bout to Jack Baker and ended up in fourth place. From that point on, I competed actively and enthusiastically for about eight years. I have no championships, but I have a quite satisfying collection of second and third place trophies and medals.

I also took a year's regular lessons from Jack Nottingham (how's that for a name for a fencer?), a pupil of Aldo Nadi (sort of a mix of both Italian and French schools—I used an Italian foil and épée, sometimes a Belgian pistol-grip).

With all that by way of my credentials to speak on the subject. . . .

During those ancient times (late 1940s to late 1950s), I used electrical scoring equipment only once, and that was in my first competition, the one Halberstadt insisted I enter. I didn't own an electrical épée, so I had to borrow one from the Olympic Club's "armory." All the other tournaments I fenced in, there were four judges and a director determining touches by eyeball, sans electrical scoring equipment. So for your touches to register, they had to be clean and unequivocal, and you had to clearly have the right-of-way.

[Very important:   the concept of "right-of-way" is based on the idea that, in a real duel, which a fencing bout is supposed to emulate, no one in his right mind would respond to a direct attack with a sharp blade, which unless stopped or deflected, will slither painfully and lethally through your lungs, by merely trying to stab the attacker a split-second before you, yourself, are shish-kabobed. If you did something like that, both of you would be laying there on the floor looking very much like a couple of stuffed olives transfixed with toothpicks laying on an hors d'oeuvre plate. If fencer A extends his sword-arm, point in line with fencer B's chest, and lunges briskly, and fencer B does nothing to defend himself, but extends his sword-arm in the hope that fencer A will run onto his point, and they both score, the point goes in favor of fencer A, because he initiated the attack and fencer B responded in a manner that no reasonable person in a real duel would have done. The fencer who initiates the attack has the 'right-of-way," and the attacked fencer is, quite reasonably, expected to defend himself as he would in "real life," and is penalized by losing the point if he doesn't do so. This rule holds (held) for foil and saber fencing. In épée fencing, simultaneous or near simultaneous hits were scored against both fencers.]

Within recent years, the judges (with real eyeballs) have been replaced by electronic scoring equipment. Rules of right-of-way have been abandoned in favor of setting the scoring equipment at an interval of 1/25th of a second   which is to say, if fencer A touches fencer B over 1/25th of a second (but, say, only 1/5th of a second) before fencer B touches fencer A, the second hit is locked out electronically and the point goes to fencer A—regardless of who initiated the attack. This has changed fencing radically.

It had been years since I'd seen any fencing (since even when they telecast the Olympics, they rarely—very rarely—show fencing events. But a decade or so ago, I watched several Olympic fencing matches. And I was appalled at what I saw. There was neither art nor science to it anymore. Two guys would stand back, out of distance, legs bent, but otherwise form so sloppy that I couldn't believe these were Olympic class fencers. Then, they would rush at each other and engage in a frantic jab-fest that looked like a couple of sewing-machines run amok! No attempts to parry or otherwise defend, just wild jabs. Usually in under a second a light would flash, and a point was awarded to one of the two—despite the fact that if two people had engaged in an exchange like that armed with real, sharp weapons, both of them would be on the floor either already dead or mortally wounded. It verged on the ridiculous. It verged on the disgusting!

No. If I were able to return to fencing, I wouldn't go near "modern sport fencing." I see little art or skill to it. It's simply "who can jab the fastest." I would locate my nearest classical fencing salle d'armes and indulge in the enjoyment of engaging in the real sport of fencing, which involves the development of the kind of skill that any true art does, along with the tactical sense and guile of chess, only at high speed. This, along with the additional vicarious adventure of imagining that my life is at stake and comport myself in a manner consistent with that assumption.

I have not read any of Nick Evangelista's books, an omission that, despite the fact that I am no longer able to fence, I plan to rectify for the sake of nostalgia if nothing else. But I have read several articles by him, and I agree wholeheartedlyi with what he says.

Don Firth

P. S. Under the assumption that electrical scoring equipment actually is an improvement (one does run unto blind judges from time to time), if the time interval between touches were set at half a second, or even as much as a full second, instead of the present 1/25th of a second, I think it would induce people to learn how to parry an attack before going on the offensive themselves and greatly reduce the wild and very unseemly jab-fests.

P. P. S. Also, I wonder what would happen to a jab-freak if his opponent just stood there, waited for the attack, and parry-riposted as I used to do. I doubt that a lot of the fencers I saw on the tube actually knew how to feint to draw a parry and then attempt to deceive it, or have even gone so far as to set up a second-intention attack:   launch a false attack in order to draw a parry-riposte, then parry that and counter-riposte.

P. P. P. S. Fencing is very physical, but primarily, it's a mind-game.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 11:46 PM

When I last fenced, (fairly recently), I noticed that people expected a feint as a matter of course. To the point where you could sometimes score a point by simply advancing into range and lunging. They stood there with a very bemused expression on their face.

More importantly, my take on things is that fencing is rather far from a real duel/swordfight at this stage and it's unreasonable to expect people to behave as if they are fighting in one. At the end of the day, no sword designed for offensive purposes was anywhere near as light as a foil and a lot of techniques would be impossible or inefective with a real sword. For another, what person would fight in a straight line if their life was at stake? No, if you want something more realistic join up with a good re-enactment crowd and find someone who'll sort of 'freestyle' (with blunt weapons obviously) rather than coreograph everything. I've known people who did that sort of stuff and it looked fairly taxing and realistic. They got the odd bruise but no real injuries either.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: redsnapper
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 08:25 AM

I found the same attitudes appearing Rapaire.

Unfortunately, shot/totally eroded medial meniscii have put paid to my fencing and a torn ligament in my left arm has temporarily (I hope) done the same for my archery!

RS


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 09:43 AM

I'm not in the same class of fencing as Don, nowhere near. But I like fencing and do it for the mental and physical exercise and I don't plan to stop doing some form of it.

I took fencing in undergrad study as a drama course. Foil, of course, and we fenced in heavy sweatshirts, masks, and without gloves. No injuries because the instructor watched us like a hawk and set rules: for instance, you faced your opponent, saluted, masked, measured your weapons, backed a step or two, crossed blades (in en garde, with your left hand "cocked"), and only began when the judge's weapon brought the crossed blades up and s/he said, "Fence!" At the end of the bout you unmasked and shook hands.

There is none of this now. The umpire commands "Fence!" and the poking begins.

Yes, I'm glad that there is improved safety requirements, but the onus still comes down to the individual fencers.

Perhaps I'll start a subgroup of Classical Fencers.

Bardan, a fully functional modern repro colichemarde weighs 16 to 18 ounces (say an average of 0.48 kg). According to FIE rules the total weight of a foil cannot exceed 500 grams (or 17.64 ounces avoirdupois). In brief, the weight of a modern foil and the weight of its 18th Century functional ancestor is pretty much identical. As for not engaging in fights with pointed weapons, perhaps it might help if "sport fencers" remembered the past of their sport.

I have seen a case where two college students (male) were "just screwing around" with foils. They were masked but otherwise in street clothes. The tip of one foil broke and it wasn't noticed; the tip caught in the placket of one of the guys' shirt and ripped a line from his wrist to the his shoulder -- 200+ stitches were required to close the wound. (No, they were NOT in the fencing class. They simply decided to "screw around sword fighting" in their words. Their college careers were also abruptly terminated.)

A broken tip CAN penetrate even a Kevlar vest. If only in the interests of safety fencing weapons should be treated with respect!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:56 AM

Many years ago, I betook my son to a noted NYC program. It's the one which turned out several olympic medalists last time around. As is usual, they started all the kids on foil. On my own, I worked with him on epee. Apparently the method they encourage is the charge. Once I showed him the simple parry and he hit himself on my point a few times, he got the idea and never lost another match to that technique.

He now teaches foil and epee at a local salle with his afterschool program.

My technique is based on my limited mobility due to bad hips, ankles and knees. While I do a step here and there, mostly I work with my wrist and arm and an occasional duck.

As mentioned above, the inclination seems to be away from full skill fencing to "go for the kill at all costs" type fencing. The only way to overcome this is to work at spreading the skills around and being better that the chargers.

30 years ago, when I worked with the Rutgers team in my spare time, I did not see that tendency. I suspect that, at least among American fencers, it is a response to the European domination of the sport. "If this is what it takes to win, we'll grit our teeth and do it, even if it isn't by the book."

Of course, this parallels the situation in basketball, where the rest of the world is focussing on technique and our players focus on being stars.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 11:11 AM

Innaresting. How many fencers (or ex-fencers) do we have among us? I was one, oon the Columbia College team, back in the dark ages.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 12:21 PM

Friend of mine just sent this, and I thought it apropos of this discussion:


A farmer went out one day and bought a brand new stud rooster for his chicken coop. The new rooster struts over to the old rooster and says, "OK, old fart, time for you to retire."

The old rooster replies, "Come on, surely you cannot handle ALL of these chickens. Look what it has done to me. Can't you just let me have the two old hens over in the corner?"

The young rooster says, "Beat it: You are washed up and I am taking over."

The old rooster says, "I tell you what, young stud. I will race you around the farmhouse. Whoever wins gets the exclusive domain over the entire chicken coop."

The young rooster laughs. "You know you don't stand a chance, old man. So, just to be fair, I will give you a head start."

The old rooster takes off running. About 15 seconds later the young rooster takes off running after him. They round the front porch of the farmhouse and the young rooster has closed the gap.

He is only about 5 feet behind the old rooster and gaining fast. The farmer, meanwhile, is sitting in his usual spot on the front porch when he sees the roosters running by. He grabs his shotgun and - BOOM - he blows the young rooster to bits. The farmer sadly shakes his head and says,

"Damn.....third gay rooster I bought this month."

Moral of this story? .........

Don't mess with the OLD FARTS - age, skill, and treachery will always overcome youth and cockiness!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 03:23 PM

On a very tenuously related note

The rooster on the farm has just died and the farmer goes to buy a new one. His last rooster was amazing and he's actually thinking about buying even more hens as well so he gets very picky. Finally the guy at the market says, "listen, there is one other rooster I've got. You'd have to be sure though- he's a randy little bugger. A lot of guys have brought him back- said they just couldn't handle him." The farmer agrees to take the rooster and sets him to work straight away. The rooster repetitively and energetically shags every hen on the farm. He moves on to the turkeys and even the ducks before collapsing in a heap in the yard. Minutes pass and still the rooster doesn't move. Vultures start circling overhead. The farmer is heartbroken. He paid a fair bit of money for the rooster and he was starting to admire the little fellow. He goes over to pick up its body. It opens one eye, winks at him and goes "ssshhhh!".


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Bardan
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 03:28 PM

I know people can hurt themselves mucking around with fencing equipment. Hell I know people who knew exactly how to treat the stuff who still got hurt. I always had to salute my oponent and the judge(s) and I always thought that your left hand was just meant to be cocked in the en garde position. (Except not for sabre, blah blah bah.)


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 03:39 PM

Fencing? Yeah, right! Gimme a flippin' break, eh? You are just, like, tryin' to impress women and make a big flippin' show of yerself agian, Rapeiare. I know you, man. You are like shameless, eh?

I'll tell ya what REAL fencing is, man. You get a hole flippin' big lot of stuff that is...hot. Know what I mean? I mean stuff that useta belong to someone else but it don't no more cos you took it when they wasn't lookin'. You gotta turn that stuff into cash fast so's you can buy beer and dope and smokes, right? So...you gotta find a man who will, like, pay you quick about say half of what he will get when he sells it all to other people who you don't know. You get the money and get flippin' drunk and stoned all week. THAT is fencing, man. What you do is a flippin' joke. NOOOObody who is cool does that anymore. Trust me on this.

I mean, JEEZ! It went out with Zorro, eh? It is sooooo like "yesterday". Know'msayin'?

- Shane


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Ebbie
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 03:41 PM

Question for ya: In the olden days of dueling, were there rules and traditions that dictated what was proper and seemly in fencing? In other words, say one's opponent turned his back, would that mean that the contest was over? Did the duel have 'rounds' or innings or time outs? Or if one opponent was clearly - wildly - out done in skill would that the better one refuse the duel or would he use the fact to kill or immobilize the other? Would a young man fight an old one?

Was it a 'gentleman's game', in actual fact?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Slag
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 04:23 PM

Fencing was kind of rare in my area (Central California) but I found a club and fenced for a couple of years while in college (foil). My long arms were about my only advantage over those more skilled. I wished I could have kept it up. Fond memories.

But if YOU do keep with it, as with virtually any sport, you get out of it what you put into it. Sportsmanship is paramount. Otherwise it ceases to be a sport and you might as well be fighting a real duel because that is the direction it takes without it. I'm sick of the "Win at any cost" mentallity that infects professional sport today. I've pretty much, tuned it out. Yup, that means "No Super Bowl" next Sunday.

Fencing (at least in the classical form) is also an art. It showcases blinding speed, poise, balance, form and high intelligence. It has history and tradition. It's a confidence builder. It should be taught, at least at the introductory level, at every highschool. That and Chess. Then, (in addition to the regular curriculum) will you truly be educated.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 04:29 PM

When I was in high school, only the girls got to do fencing. They probably didn't trust the boys with swords. They were probably right.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 04:43 PM

If you're properly equipped and dressed, and if you avoid the obviously idiotic (like fencing without a mask on), fencing is about as safe a sport as there is.

I'm not up on current advances in fencing equipment, but I wore a fairly heavy 12-ounce duck jacket (sort of turtleneck), padded in crucial areas (where you were likely to get hit—sword arm more padded than the other arm, etc., and it veed down between the legs with a strap that fastened in back. Along with it went a pair of close-fitting pants of the same material—all white, conforming to fencing rules. Gauntletted leather glove on the sword hand (also white). Regulation fencing mask—strong, close wire mesh, with a padded bib that provided additional protection for the throat. No cute little red heart on the left side of the chest, however; you see those only on calendar girls.

I've been hit in the chest a few times with the end of a blade that broke on the occasion when my parries were deceived, I got touched, and my opponent's blade snapped as it bent. It didn't feel good, but no injury. That doesn't happen all that often, though. I also got hit in the face once when about four inches of an opponent's épée blade (stiffer and heavier than a foil blade) snapped and the broken end hit my mask. The mask (a good, solid, three-weapon mask) held. It left a bit of a dimple in the wire mesh, but it came nowhere near coming through, however. That's one of the things the mask is for.

The only time I've ever been hurt fencing, and that was not seriously, was when I was fencing épée with a friend. We didn't have point d'arrêts on our weapons, but we didn't have them padded by wrapping them with a bit of adhesive tape either. The tip of the blade is blunted, looking sort of like a nail head. The tip of my friend's blade tore through my sleeve and plowed a six-inch welt into my forearm. Most painful. Kind of nasty abrasion, but it didn't actually bleed. It went away within a few days

But—it was my own damned fault. I was wearing a sweatshirt at the time, not my fencing jacket.

Good question, Ebbie. I'll have to get back to you on that (I just noticed your question as I was cutting and pasting this into the message box, and I've got a guitar student coming in a few minutes). Yes, there were indeed rules about formal dueling, and strict ones at that. As the Code Duello evolved over the years, it got really complicated toward the end of the nineteenth century.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 04:52 PM

Now an additional bit of protection is required for bouting. It's a plastic shield for the underarm and side called the plastron. A little extra bit of shielding against a direct stab with a broken blade.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 04:54 PM

Ebbie, fencing is and was a sport. People DO get hurt, even killed, but the idea is to score points, not to kill people. The FIE has rules about everything from the weight and composition of the weapons to the publicity for major matches. Equipment must pass strict safety rules -- in 1982 a Russian (Smirnoff, I think) had the tip of a broken foil penetrate his mask and into his eye and brain -- and the FIE (Federation Internationale d'Escrime) has ever since become stricter and stricter about safety.

A duel is a organized, formal, fight in which the purpose is to wound or kill your opponent. It was surrounded by rules: the Seconds were to stand thusly, the surgeon was to be in attendance, weapons and location were mutually agreed upon, etc. Here's a link to the Irish Code Duello of 1777; and here is a link to American rules. It WAS possible to refuse to fight a duel.

A street fight with swords wasn't a duel -- it was a street brawl with edged weapons. The fight in "Romeo and Juliet" where Tybalt stabs Mercutio "under Romeo's arm" was Tybalt simply using a ploy to kill Mercutio. When Hamlet asks, "What is his weapon?" he is told "Rapier and dagger" -- meaning that Laertes fights with a rapier in one hand and a dagger in the other (there was also such things as rapier and cloak, rapier and buckler, and even rapier and rapier). There were (and are) no rules in a street fight: you hurt or kill the other person.

Hamlet's fight with Laertes would have been fought with genuine weapons, only with the points blunted. That's why when Hamlet is bloodied by Laertes' poisoned rapier Hamlet is surprised -- and why "they exchange rapiers." This was a move where the opponents basically were standing toe-to-toe, their weapon arms linked, and one snatched the other's weapon away -- like the unblunted tip, this wouldn't have been done in a friendly match!

By the way, fencing rules today don't permit the exchange of weapons...or a lot of other neat stuff.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 06:10 PM

Regarding your question about duels, Ebbie...there were quite a lot of duels among officers in various of the armed forces here and there, and those were usually well supervised by superior officers, and yes, there were proper rules of engagement agreed upon beforehand, and usually adhered to. The price of not adhering was to have one's reputation and career ruined...if one survived, that is.

Some of those duels were with guns, others with edged weapons.

Duels among the nobility tended to sometimes be pretty well regulated too, I think. It all had to do with image, prestige, that sort of thing. Such matters were important to one's future career.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Jan 07 - 10:52 PM

The purpose of the German Schlager duels was to create fancy scars, aka Heidelberg scars, so that the German "gentlemen" could show off visible evidence of their bravery. The last six inches or so of the blade toward the tip were sharpened. No mask was worn and, when skin was broken, an irritant was rubbed into the cut to make a keloid type scar.

Other European countries had different rules, including measurement of weapons to make sure that neither party was disadvantaged. The Royal Navy had a rule that officers were not allowed to challenge their superiors. cf, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, in which Captain Keen explains to Hornblower that it is good to have fought a duel and even better not to do so again. He also explains the reason for this stricture as being that, especially on a foreign station, advancement would be too easy if officers killed their superiors off.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Grab
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 05:41 AM

For "historical" fencing in the very near past, I'd advise checking out "Three men on the Bummel" by Jerome K Jerome, specifically the chapter where he watches the Mensur at a German university. It was written about 1900, IIRC. It's a fantastically funny book - except for that section, which pulls no punches.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: The Walrus
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 07:27 AM

"...The purpose of the German Schlager duels was to create fancy scars, aka Heidelberg scars, so that the German "gentlemen" could show off visible evidence of their bravery. The last six inches or so of the blade toward the tip were sharpened. No mask was worn and, when skin was broken, an irritant was rubbed into the cut to make a keloid type scar..."
I thought Heidelberg was the one place that they were used stabbing weapons rather than the Schlager (something to do with facial scars on theology students) - I'm sure I'll be corrected on this point.
"...No mask was worn..."
I believe there was, however, a modified set of goggles with a 'nasal' protecting the eyes and length of the nose (presumably 'out of play' areas).

Of formal duels, in the British Army of the Penninsula War, Wellington had to issue an order forbidding duels among his officers.

W


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 08:00 AM

Wikipedia has a good article on fencing, with information on the various forms.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 08:34 AM

Mensur, as far as I know, is still practiced in Germany. The neck is tightly wrapped in layers of silk, the eyes and nose protected by iron goggles, and the hands with heavy gloves. The participants face each other inside a circle, out of which you cannot step. There is little footwork, since the idea is to BE cut. The "winner" is the first person to make a bloody cut more than an inch long.

I've got a great scar on my outside of my right leg from where a guy (accidentally) cut me with a corn knife (small machete) when I was about 13. And another in my right eyebrow from where my mother dropped me on my head. These are plenty; I don't feel the need to participate in mensur.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Wolfgang
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:02 AM

Wladimir Smirnov, Olympic champion and defending World Champion was killed during the 1982 World Championship in a fight with another Olympic and World Champion. Those accidents are very rare though.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:05 AM

Yes, the hospital kept him "alive" for three days while the Russians took the World Championship in his honor.

Wolfgang, is mensur still practiced?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: mack/misophist
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:57 AM

I hope all you fencers are properly grateful for your speed and agility. I took a semester of fencing in college and was a total loss. The coach asked me not to come back. Other than that, I loved it. Reflexes seem to be something other people have.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: EBarnacle
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 10:35 AM

Not much speed or agility. In large, a matter of reading the opponent and anticipating/creating his/her errors. Play to your strengths and your opponent's weaknesses.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 11:07 AM

Mack/misophist, I suspect that your coach was into the "anything to win" philosophy. Try a classical salle, or even historical fencing. Something that promotes and encourages parries, ripostes, remise and double as well as lunge and fleche.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 01:10 PM

If you're really into "anything to win" you just do the Indiana Jones trick...


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 03:01 PM

The "botta secreta" is (was) the much sought after "secret thrust" that would allow a swordsman to win every time. Some fencing masters centuries ago advertised that they could teach (for a price) a "secret thrust." In fact, one fencing master (sixteenth century, it think), advertised that he could teach someone to "thruft three feet further than any other fwordfman." Turns out that he had invented (along with lots of others about that same time) the lunge.

A botta secreta was almost invariably an unorthodox movement or a movement that simply hadn't been tried much before, and it was hoped by the possessor of a botta secreta that it would catch his adversary by surprise. Whenever a botta secreta actually worked, that was usually the reason. The major problem with the botta secreta was that once someone sees you use it, it isn't secret anymore. And it's the nature of fencing that there are no stunts or tricks that can't be countered or nullified one way or another. Newton applied to swordplay:   every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

However, there are certain approaches to fencing that are as good—or better—than a botta secreta that, even when other fencers see them in action, simply don't see what's really going on.

Since I no longer fence (I most certainly would if I were still physically able), and I am feeling expansive and generous at the moment, I will now reveal my botta secreta:   that which allowed me, bereft of quick footwork, unable to lunge, and having to rely almost exclusively on defensive actions, to do as well as I did, even against fencers who were far more physically able than I was.

Aldo Nadi, who, among other accomplishments was professional fencing champion of Europe for ten years, and who came to the U. S. and taught for many years in Los Angeles, wrote a book entitled On Fencing (a few copies still available here or there, but very pricey. Perhaps your local library has a copy). Many fencers, at least back in the late 1940s and 1950s, owned and read this book. Many studied it rather avidly.

But I was amazed at the number of fencers who practically used this book as their Bible who didn't grasp the import of the concepts that Nadi enunciated in a brief chapter toward the back of the book entitled "Free Will in Defense." [By the way, this book deals with foil fencing only]

In this chapter, Nadi points out that there are only a very limited number of possible attacks: the straight trust (obviously the simplest and most direct), the disengage (dropping your point under your opponent's blade and thrusting on the other side) and the coupé or "cutover" (withdrawing your blade over your opponent's point and thrusting on the other side—disadvantage, this draws you blade way out of line for a split second and leaves you exposed, giving your opponent a reasonable opening to counter-attack with a "stop thrust."). These simple attacks can be combined into compound attacks; two disengages in opposite directions ("one-two"), two disengages in the same direction ("doublé), the coupé-disengage—etc. Usually the first movement (or some subsequent movements) of a compound attack is a "feint," done aggressively enough to convince your opponent that it's the real attack in order to draw a parry, then deceive the parry (usually with a disengage) and end with the real attack. It is, of course, possible to put together a whole string of feints leading up to la finale, but the more complicated the attack, the less chance it has of actually succeeding.

But these compound attacks are designed to deceive certain specific parries or a specific series of parries. And the more complex a compound attack is (the more moves it contains), the more the attacker has to be certain of what parries the defender is apt to use. And unless the attacker is clarivoyant, there is no way he or she can be sure.

The defender, on the other hand, when he sees the attack coming, can execute almost any combination of parries, and his or her blade will sweep up or deflect the incoming blade, except for the specific compound or complex attack designed to evade that particular combination of parries!

Nadi suggest about a half-dozen combinations of parries (e.g., counter-of-quarte, septime, sixte, or it's mirror image, counter-of-sixte, seconde, quarte)—about a half- dozen combinations and their mirror images. And these combination parries, in turn, can be used in combination! He suggests a couple of other very effective defense tactics in the chapter, but combination parries is the meat of it.

I learned these combination parries, and, first in front of a mirror and later with partners, I practiced them assiduously, over and over again, like a musician practicing scales, until, when attacked in a fencing bout, I could turn my hand on like a little electric motor, and as soon as I felt my blade contact and deflect the attacker's blade, fire back a lightning riposte. It became almost like reflex. But not so much that I couldn't pre-plan which combination, or combinations, I would use, depending on the predilections of my opponent of the moment.

Free will in defense. Combinations, combinations, combinations. And practice, practice, practice.

It worked.

What made it work, and what made it a botta secreta was that people thought I simply had blazingly fast reflexes. They rarely, if ever, tumbled to the fact that my defensive tactic was built on pre-planning and assiduous practice.

It's not that I am so bloody brilliant. I just read Nadi's book and paid attention to what he was saying.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 03:32 PM

Somehow, Don, I knew you had a botta secreta. Are you sure that, like Robert Johnston, you didn't sell your soul for it? 8-)

You know, that "practice, practice, practice" bit sounds sorta familiar....


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 03:34 PM

Thank you Don. Even as a very raw beginner, I think I understand what you are saying. It sounds like a very good approach, especially for somebody like me who tends to get himself into trouble when being too aggressive. I'll try to keep your words in mind.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Peterr
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 03:39 PM

A most unexpected thread. I haven't thought for years about the admittedly very amateur fencing I did in my early 20s. I do remeber losing to an opponent who had a left leg prosthesis above the knee. Rather like a ratchet, he could advance pretty well by not retire and had so had developed an amazing technique about 6 inches in front of his mask!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 04:57 PM

Sell my soul to the devil? No, I just shucked out $3.00 for my copy of On Fencing at the University Book Store back around 1947 or so. I was a teen-ager at the time. I read the book sorta bug-eyed and slurped up every word Nadi said. Katherine Modrell, my first fencing teacher, had pointed out the obvious: that since I couldn't carry the attack to my opponent very effectively, I would have to build a strong defense and a fast and accurate riposte. When I hit the chapter "Free Will in Defense" in Nadi's book, it was like tripping over the Holy Grail. "Hot damn!" sez I. That's bloody brilliant! I love it!" I knew all the parries by then, of course, so I went to work learning the combinations Nadi suggested.

I'd really recommend getting the book if at all possible. Nadi explains it much better than I did above (actually giving a bunch of combinations to practice that sweep all lines), and gives several more ideas as well, such as playing it to the very edge, ignoring the feints, and parrying la finale only before riposting—much to the frustration of the attacker.

I wore out a couple of hard-back copies of the book, and managed, luckily, to get a copy of the paperback reprint when it came out a few years ago. Apparently it's no longer available, except at used bookstores, and some of them want the deed to your ranch and your firstborn child for a copy. OBSERVE.

In 1950, while at Halberstadt's in San Francisco, Gerry Biagini (who was on the U. S. Olympic team at the time—tall, skinny, faster than greased lightning, and a very nice guy) gave me a lot of clues about spotting when an attack was a split second away from being launched. "You don't have to watch your opponent's hand or blade. Well, in fact, you do, but you shouldn't really focus on it. Keep your eyes sufficiently wide-focused so you can take in his chest and front foot. No matter what kind of feints and razzle-dazzle he throws at you, his real attack isn't coming until you see his chest and his front foot begin to move forward at the same time." [he's actually launching his lunge—DF]. "Also," Gerry continued, "everybody has little mannerisms that they are not aware of. Keep an eye out for what he does unconsciously. Some guys chew gum or something like that because their mouth gets dry while fencing. When they stop chewing (sometimes while they're chewing, you can see their mask bob a little bit), look out. He's coming. Things like that can telegraph the attack."

I put that to work when I got back to Seattle, and one of the first things I noticed when fencing with Jack Nottingham (who had taken a year's lessons for Aldo Nadi) was that, just a split second before he would lunge, he'd lick his lips! And I could see him do it through the mesh of his mask. Tip off!

Anybody can hurl himself at his opponent and jab away like a mad chef with a shish-kabob skewer. But there's a real art to playing a defensive game.
          Agile as a cat in all his movements and crouching a little as he fought, [Captain Leach] advanced and retreated by little leaps, testing the other's guard at each disengage.
          Erect and easily poised, parrying closely, and making no attempt to break ground, de Bernis mocked his antics, and sent a shiver of laughter through the spectators.
          "Are we fighting, Captain, or are we dancing a fandango?"
                                                                —from The Black Swan, by Raphael Sabatini
Good fencing!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 05:13 PM

Triplette Arms (www.tcafencing.com)and its offshoot, Zen Warrior Armory, carry Aldo Nadi "On Fencing" for $19.95, new. I'm gonna get me one.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 05:37 PM

Great! I think you'll really enjoy it and get a lot out of it.

Nadi was quite the egotist, but he sure knew his fencing, and he writes well about it. He fought an actual duel when he was young, and his account of it in the book is a real gripper!

Barbara works at the library today. I asked her to bring me whatever she can find by Nick Evangelista.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: EBarnacle
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 06:43 PM

There's a copy of Evangelista currently on EBay. Price does not look too bad so far. Just enter "fencing book" in their search engine.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Ebbie
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 07:13 PM

Fencing may be a sport but a sport is, generally speaking, meant to be fun. So my questions kind of glide over the sports aspect and address the deadly serious sport of yore. I would imagine if one were redressing a wrong or punishing an insult there wouldn't be a lot of high-fiving.

When I was a kid - a girl among three brothers about my age - in addition to boxing for fun, we did a lot of physical fighting when we were mad. We had one rule: No hitting in the face. (I suspect that it had more to do with the fact that a telltale black eye or bloody nose would be a tipoff to our parents than it had to do with gentlemanliness or code of honor.)

That is the kind of thing I'm asking about: Was there a code of honor that dictated one's behavior during a fight. I am assuiming so - but then, those movies may have misled me.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 07:40 PM

Ebbie, it depended upon the person. Aaron Burr, for example, in his duel with Alexander Hamilton, shot Hamilton dead while Hamilton fired into the air (deloped, in technical terms). When told of it, Burr is reported to have sniffed, "Contemptible, if true."

On the other hand, Abe Lincoln "fought a duel" by insisting upon dragoon broadswords -- long, heavy weapons used in a chopping manner from horseback -- and making sure that his opponent saw him using one to chop the top off a fencepost little by little. The opponent settled the duel. (Lincoln was not proud of this episode, but had little choice at the time.)

Duels could be fought to first fire (with pistols), first blood, until one of the duelists couldn't fight anymore, or to the death. There are numerous accounts of one of the duelists helping the other off the field, even of the two making up on the field -- and just as many of one butchering the other, who was far less experienced.

Fencing IS fun. Dueling was a well-mannered excuse for potential homicide. Being beset in the street was a brawl to the death, and no, in that situation it was "kill or be killed."


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 09:01 PM

When I first started fencing, the class that Katherine taught at the YMCA met only once a week. That simply wasn't enough for me. So once I got at least a precarious handle on what was going on, I started teaching various friends of mine who were interested so I would have someone to practice with and fence with. [Side note: I learned, with both fencing and the guitar, that one of the best ways to learn something is to have to get it organized in your own mind so you can teach it to someone else.]

I had a fencing buddy named Bruce. Both Bruce and I had girl friends. My girl friend was Claire, who had recently become avidly interested in folk music, was teaching herself to play the guitar, and when she learned a new chord or two, she would teach it to me. She had a beautiful old parlor guitar she had inherited from her grandmother, and I had recently bought a super-cheap, $9.95 guitar made of apple-crate wood, but it was tunable and easy enough to play. We were both learning songs (this was about 1952, and the very beginning of my interest in folk music). Claire was also interested in fencing, and I had just started teaching her.

And Bruce was teaching his girl friend, Sherry, to fence. He had been teaching her for about six months.

For reasons too long to go into, Bruce's folks were going out of town for six months and he had to go with them. He asked me to take over teaching Sherry. I was trustable on that score because, although Sherry was cute and a real sweetie, my affections were solid tied up with Claire. Anyway, Bruce was off to Alabama, so I wound up giving fencing lessons to both girls (we were all in our very early twenties, by the way; although I think Sherry was a tad younger, maybe nineteen).

Bruce fenced French school and that's the way he was teaching Sherry. I fenced Italian school (actually, a sort of hybrid style), and that's the way I was teaching Claire. And I began teaching Sherry the same way. She was agreeable to the slight change in style.

Six months later, when Bruce returned, he watched Sherry fencing for a couple of minutes—noticed that, in the guard position, her legs were bent a bit more, her body was more profiled toward her opponent, her sword arm was a bit more extended, she was using an Italian foil instead of the French foil she had retired to a corner of her closet, and when she lunged, it was long, low, and all-out. And Bruce went up in flames!

"What the hell have you done to her!??" he wanted to know. "You've ruined her! She's fencing all wrong! She'll never be able to fence well now—" and on and on. He continued ranting and raving and throwing things and kicking dogs and such, generally indicating that he was not happy with the way I had taught her and felt that, as a fencing teacher and friend, I had betrayed his trust.

Well now. . . .

Bruce had arrived back in town a week before Sherry, Claire, and I, along with Katherine Modrell, her husband Bill, and several other Seattle fencers were due to go to Vancouver, B. C. and compete in the annual Pacific International Fencing Tournament. Bruce hadn't had a chance to fence with anyone while he was in Alabama, and along with being way rusty, he was so upset with Sherry and me that he decided not to go, even just to watch. Even if this was Sherry's first competition.

There were entrants there from Seattle, Spokane, Pullman, Portland, Vancouver, and Victoria, and maybe a few other places as well. Claire was a real newcomer to competitive fencing, and I had initial apprehensions that she was not really quite ready yet. But I was rather proud that she made the finals in the Women's Junior Foil. And she made it as far as the intermediate pool in the Women's Open.

The startling phenomenon at this tournament was Sherry, this kid who was also putting in her first appearance. Small (maybe 5'2") and quite slender, she didn't look all that impressive—until she came on guard and went into action. She dominated each of the bouts she fought, rolling over her opponents, and proceeded to win the Junior Women's by a wide margin. That surprised a lot of people. Who was this kid, anyway? Where did she come from?

Since Katherine had long since won the Junior Women's, she could no longer fence in it and was limited to the Women's Open. But she won the Women's Open, which she had won a number of times before, by her usual wide margin. A perfectly normal looking woman in her mid-thirties, she was well known by the folks at the Pacific International tournaments to be a powerful fencer. So—no surprises there.

Concurrent with Katherine's win, the little newcomer from Seattle pulled her second surprise. Sherry, figuring "In for a penny, in for a pound," had also entered the Women's Open. And she won the second place medal, losing only to Katherine Modrell!

When we got back to Seattle with Sherry's first place trophy as Pacific International Junior Women's Champion and second place medal for the Women's Open, Bruce's jaw hit the floor. He was most surprised. And pleased, in a gut-wrenching sort of way, that Sherry had done marvelously well. But—other than that, he didn't have a helluva lot to say.

I do love life's little triumphs. I must have a petty little soul, because one of my favorite activities is smirking proudly.

It took him a day or two, but Bruce apologized for his tirade and thanked me profusely for Sherry's victories (I reminded him that Sherry had quite a bit to do with it. She'd turned out to be kind of a natural). All was well again.

Sherry got Bruce to read Nadi's book, and I guess it started making sense to him. He began bending his knees a bit more in the guard position, he held his body more in profile toward his opponents, he held his sword arm a bit more extended, and he began lunging long, low, and all-out. And he retired his French foil in favor of an Italian foil.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 10:41 PM

Fencing as a sport developed as practice in the use of the sword in case one should find oneself involved in an "affair of honor." To a lot of gentlemen, it was both a precaution in the event of such involvement, and a recreational activity and means of keeping fit (making sure one's breeches would still buttoned despite last night's roast pheasant). As dueling faded into history (much more recently than most people suspect), the sport—and art and science—developed.

The smallsword (for which the foil was developed as a practice weapon) was the gentleman's sidearm in a world where, walking down the street at night, one might suddenly be set upon by footpads (muggers). The sudden appearance of three feet of cold, slender, sharp, gleaming steel was often enough to send the footpad or cut-purse scuttling off into the dark. Should a robber or other person of ill intent be similarly armed, the well-trained and well-practice gentleman was usually able to protect himself quite well. In such a fight, rules usually did not apply; although principles of good swordsmanship—which sometimes involved a few dirty tricks learned in the salle d'armes for just such an occasion—did.

A street-fight or brawl was one thing. But a formal duel was another.

When there was an offense or an affront to a gentleman's honor (or to the honor of someone under the protection of that gentleman), if the matter couldn't be settled any other way (say, an immediate retraction and an apology), the offended gentleman would send his seconds (a couple of friends) to the offender and issue a challenge. If they couldn't persuade the offender to apologize, or reach some other acceptable accommodation, an affair of honor—a duel—was arranged. The offendee's seconds would meet with the offender's seconds, and if they still couldn't negotiate a peaceful conclusion, they would usually make the arrangements, deciding the time and location, and oftentimes the weapons to be used. If one was an excellent swordsman and the other was not, they would probably opt for pistols. Or vice versa. If either of these options gave one to the combatants an unfair advantage, they may choose a weapon—say, cavalry sabers—that neither of them was very good with.

In the Bois de Boulogne (or some similar relatively isolated location), the small, somewhat sinister group, the two combatants, their seconds, and usually a doctor, would gather at the appointed time, often early in the morning, and if the two principles were still adamant, the combat would begin. It was the duty of the seconds to make sure that decorum was maintained and that neither adversary took unfair advantage of the other. Depending on the nature of the offense and/or the tempers of the combatants, the duel might be for first blood (slight wound, honor satisfied) or to the death (mortal offense). Or until the seconds, or the doctor, or both—or even, possibly, one of the combatants—called a halt.

Movie duels are usually wild and wooly as far as action is concerned, but in relation to real formal duels, they are a travesty. The best fencing I've ever seen in a movie (good form and good, clean technique used by two actors who were also very good fencers) was the duel scene between Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in the alcalde's study in the 1940 movie, The Mark of Zorro. But it's anything but authentic for the period. They are using modern sport-fencing sabers and fencing techniques that didn't exist until maybe a hundred years after the period being portrayed. But there is a minimum of running up and down stairs, no swinging from chandeliers, and only a small amount of tripping over furniture and slipping on rugs. It's a whacking good duel scene for the kind of stuff Hollywood usually does. And, in my opinion, it's still the best Zorro movie ever made.

For a movie with some very realistic duel scenes in it, see The Duellists. It deals with an officer during the Napoleonic Wars who is an obsessive-compulsive duel-freak and who has it in for another officer. The duel scenes are, as I say, very realistic and show what a thoroughly nasty business dueling really is. Most unusual for the movies.

Both, as indicated, are available on DVD and are undoubtedly rentable of "NetFlix-able."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 10:43 PM

Well, I can put off any decision for a bit, as I have some sort of problem with my left ankle and my doctor said, "No fencing until after you've seen the orthopod." So I went and basically sat down and read from "The Secret History of the Sword." I'm intrigued by the wooden swords dug up at the site of the Teutonberger Wold battle.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 01:00 AM

Ouch! My sympathies! Take care.

Is that something like a gastropod or a cephalopod?

####

Two duels of note, recalled from a history of dueling that I read many years ago:

The first duel—or duels—involved an actress named Antoinette de Maupin (if I remember her name correctly). The name has actually appeared in a couple of historical novels, and due to the incident I am about to describe, some regard her as a bit of a feminist icon, in her own somewhat smaller way, not unlike Boadica (or Boadicea) who killed a passel of Romans.

Mademoiselle de Maupin was attending a party, and a number of "gentlemen" began making rude and suggestive remarks about her. And to her. This was during an era when actresses were not regarded very highly. When none of the other "gentlemen" present rose to her defense, she blew her cool and called the mouthy ones out. It took a bit of tongue-lashing and an insult or two of her own before they caught on that she was serious, and realized that if they didn't respond to her challenge, not only was their honor on the line, but their manhood as well. So she borrowed a sword and they went out through the French doors into the garden.

They squared off, and she took them on one at a time. She fought about six bouts altogother and won them all. I don't recall how many of them she killed, but it was at least three and perhaps more. And she left those she didn't kill much the worse for the experience. Having "taken out the garbage," she handed the sword back to its owner with thanks and returned to the party. People tended to be very polite to her from then on.

It seems that one of her lovers had been a fencing master, and he had taught her the art of the sword. She proved to be quite an adept pupil.

####

Two men faced each other at ten paces, raised their pistols, and fired simultaneously. On this occasion at least, they were both crack-shots. They hit each other right between the eyes. And knocked each other cold!

They both awoke some hours later in separate beds, with splitting headaches and bruises on their faces that made them look like a pair of raccoons.

It seems that the two combatants were absolutely resolved to kill each other and would not be dissuaded by their seconds. So the seconds of both, having concluded that the argument was completely trivial and that these two twits had moved the dubious art of nincompoopery to an entirely new level, conspired a bit and loaded the two pistols with minuscule amounts of powder, assuming that neither ball would even make the full ten paces. But they did, and with sufficient impulse left over to deliver a chastising wallop to the two principles. It worked out even better than the seconds had anticipated. The two antagonists decided that honor (or something) had been satisfied, and decided to drop the matter.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 01:34 AM

Wow! Those are the best 2 classic dueling stories I've ever heard and ever hope to. Fantastic.

Antoinette de Maupin sounds like a more than worthy predecessor to the formidable Penelope Rutledge and her one-time deadly adversary, Angelique Forget of Paris, who are rumoured to have dueled with foils at a villa in Spain after a series of sharp disagreements over men and general protocol. They were both wounded, Mademoiselle Forget quite seriously, but both recovered, fortunately. Ms Rutledge carried a visible scar on her cheek for a year or so afterwards, then had it fixed with expensive plastic surgery.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:36 AM

They fought with foils?? With blunted weapons? And there were wounds otherthan bruises? They must have been awfully mad at each other to use that much force.

Zen Warrior is out of Naldi's book, much to their disgust. I'll check Triplette this morning. Now I really want a copy!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:15 AM

Could have sworn I posted here yesterday but maybe I got distracted.
I used to fence in my University days though I much preferred sabre over foil. Like Rapaire we used the four judges and a director and the electronic stuff was rarely used. stop-hitting was very much discouraged and we spent a lot of time working on parries and remises before we progressed to anything more than the basic lunge.

In latter years I have done some LARP sessions using rapier and dagger, (proper nerf swords weighted and balanced can be obtained custom-made from Eldritch.co.uk) and was delighed to find that balestra lunges and the semicircular sabre parry were still excellent forms of attack and defence.

I moved on to archery about 5 years back as its a more gentle demand on my aging bones.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:17 AM

Oops that should have been www.eldritch.com in the above post


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 02:51 PM

I've used the foam rapiers and similar things, but I don't think that they have the same "feel" or responsiveness as steel. If I were to carry a rapier because I had to I think I'd invest in a second blade for practice.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 04:19 PM

Lotsa folks confuse the word "foil" with the word "sword.'"

Check out THIS photo.

The one on the left is an older French foil. You can't really see the hand-guard at this angle, but I've seen a few of these things and the guard had a sort of figure 8 shape, similar to the French smallsword, for which it was the practice weapon. The point is blunted ("foiled"—that's where the word comes from) and it looks a bit like a nail head. Modern fencers often wrap a strip of medical adhesive tape about six inches long and a quarter of an inch wide around this "nail head" to pad it a bit (at least we did 50 years ago). I'm sure fencers back in the late 1700s did something similar. At least they word padded jackets, or "plastrons" (a padded chest protector) to protect themselves. And the blade of the foil is fairly flexible, but not so flexible as to be "whippy." When a touch is made, the blade bends.

On the right is the hilt of a French smallsword, the kind gentlemen wore around the time of the French Revolution, and for decades before and after. The blade was tempered, but it was much stiffer than a foil blade, and of course, the point was sharp. The edges, however, were not. When you see a couple of movie actors going at it with smallswords as if they are trying to cut or slash each other, this is pure Hollywood hokum.

Older French foils. All modern French foils have cup-shaped guards like the one on the left.

Italian foil. There wasn't really an Italian smallsword. The Italian equivalent during the era was more like the cup-hilted rapier from a previous era, but not quite as hefty.

French and Italian épées. ("épée" is a popular word in crossword puzzles. Clue: "fencing sword"). The épée came into existence as a more modern replacement for the smallsword and the only difference between a dueling épée and a fencing épée is that the first has a sharp point and the second has a blunt point. In sport fencing, the épée was the first to be hooked up with electrical scoring equipment. The épée is a strictly point weapon. No cutting edge.

Saber. In contrast to the foil and the épée, the saber has a "knucklebow" on the guard (the part of the guard that curves back and attaches to the back of the hilt. Modern fencing sabers are much lighter than cavalry sabers, only a few ounces heavier that a foil. Although blunt as all these "weapons" are, it is assumed that the point is sharp, and a sharp edge runs the full length of the front of the blade and it third of the back of the blade nearest the point.

16th century rapier.

Cup-hilted rapier with a "main gauche" (left-hand) dagger.

Tyrone Power (Diego Vega, aka "Zorro") skewers Basil Rathbone (Captain Esteban Pasquale) in the 1940 movie The Mark of Zorro. They are both armed with modern fencing sabers (actually blunt, of course, despite special effects in this photo) that you can purchase from a fencing equipment catalog currently. Touché!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 04:33 PM

Ah. My mistake. I think it must have been sabers or something along that line. At any rate, they were using swords with a sharp edge and a sharp point as well, and I believe they were quite intent on killing one another. Penelope, however, changed her mind after doing Angelique nearly fatal damage, and is said to have nursed her back to health in some unknown location in France. Since then they have been quite friendly, having developed a mutual respect, despite the class differences (Angelique hates the rich).


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 04:42 PM

Don, I have here two of what appear to be the French Epee, if I can go by your photos. My father used them when he was fencing in University in the late 40's, early 50's. What would they be worth now, and how would you suggest selling them?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 05:18 PM

Perhaps, LH, something like this?   A bit Gothic perhaps, but so is Penelope.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:27 PM

Little Hawk, as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy said, "Hmmm. . . . Tricky."

I'm afraid I don't have a good answer. Rapaire, being currently involved in the sport, could undoubtedly give you a more accurate idea than I can. I did a google search for fencing equipment and came up with some figures that were a bit of a jolt. Prices have really gone up since I was actively fencing!

Standard (non-electrical) épées seem to run from $35 to $50 American. Épées set up for electrical scoring run about $50 to $80.
Non-electric foils run $25 to $40
Sabers, $35 to 50
Masks from $50 to over $200

When I was fencing (1945 to maybe 1957), you could pick up a good French or Italian foil for $6.00 to $8.00. Spare blades (you'd break a blade from time to time) for $1.75. An épée or saber would run about $10.00 to $12.00 (including the ones that Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone were using in the movie). I had a good, solid mask that stood up to many a jab from foils and épées and whacks from saber-blades for about $12.00. Basic masks run for about $50.00 now, and you can pay up to $200.00 for one (other than a little extra padding, I wonder what this one has over one for a quarter of the price).

I have no idea what used fencing equipment would go for. To be salable at all, they would have to be in generally good condition and rust-free. The best I can suggest (unless Rapaire comes in with some good, current info) is, if you have a fencing club or salle d"armes near where you live, check with them and see if anyone would be interested, and if so, what might they offer.

I've got a regular armory of equipment, but even though I'm not able to use it anymore, I can't bring myself to part with it. Too many good memories.

A good alternative would be to cross them and hang them on a wall. If you also have a mask, hang that where the two blades intersect. Good conversation piece.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:48 PM

Ever since Smirnof was killed in 1982 the FIE has cracked down on safety -- and rightly so. Jackets must withstand a test of 800 newtons, applied with a device approximately the size of a foil button. Masks, if I remember aright, must withstand 1,200 newtons. This drives up the cost!

I had a pair of epees I bought in 1968 and thought I could use them. I could -- but only until I replaced the blades with modern metal. Apparently steel can weaken with age and as I sure Don knows, nicks in the blade WILL cause the blade to break at that point. Basically the instructors don't trust the old blades because they don't know what they have been through, how many times they've been straightened or bent, etc.

Unless you want to use the foils for fencing (which would mean replacing the blades) I suggest what Don did: hang 'em crossed on a wall and make up lies about how you used them when you were in a mensur club Augsburg and how you scarred everyone you fought without be scarred in return and how you saved that poor old nun from a gang of drug-crazed bikers and/or hippies one night when returning from fencing practice in Toronto.

Or sand the blades down, rub some cooking oil on 'em, and use them to cook shishkabob.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:58 PM

Oh, I see. Yes, I wondered if their age might have reduced their value. Well, I would hang them on the wall if I could find a good place. We'll see.

Those Gothic swords look perfect for Penelope. The woman is utterly deadly when her temper is aroused, and it's a good thing, because otherwise she might have had a very tough time coping with Winston Wellington-Jones.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:36 PM

LH, that sword is five feet six inches long, with a blade that's 46.5 inches. It weighs 13 pounds -- a load for a strong man to swing, but of course, once ol' Penny's got her temper up....


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:45 PM

Fencing on YouTube.

The way it's usually done now:   A very recent fencing match.

Notice how they run at each other and both jab at the same time. It's just a matter of whoever can hit the other first (and someone registers a touch with almost every rush, logged by the fellow at the table on the right who's monitoring the electronic scoring equipment). There is no attempt to parry an attacking thrust and there is no exchange of thrusts, parries, and ripostes. In fact, there is almost no contact between blades at all! This is not fencing! But that's what's passing for fencing these days.

Olympic saber fencing, 1936. (Starts out with dramatic "shadow play," but stick with it).

Notice that the action is fast, but they are parrying each other's cuts and thrusts. Also, note how long the action continues before one of them scores a touch (when the bell rings). This is real fencing.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Don Last
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:51 PM

Great sport all around. I loved it all until I moved up to sabres and found that the protective gear did not prevent nasty pressure gashes to the body. My gallant falcon bravado became the mighty cluck of a chicken.



btw What is the name of that great fencing mystery movie about a fancing master and his academy that came out in the 90's?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Rapaire on his wife's computer
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 08:55 PM

Don, I couldn't finish the first because boredom set in. The second was sabre as I knew and know it.

For the first I can only paraphrase from Hamlet: "They'd bleed on both sides." But in truth I do think that both of the atheletes WOULD make good fences -- perhaps barbed wire fencers.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 10:01 PM

I know what you mean. I had to force myself to watch the whole thing, hoping that they might actually do something. The best part was when the picture started to break up at the end.

####

Could that have been "El Maestro de Esgrima" (The Fencing Master), 1992?

I read Arturo Perez-Reverte's novel, but I didn't know until I looked it up on IMdB just a minute ago that it had been made into a movie. Apparently made in Spain, complete with Spanish actors. That's hopeful (as opposed to the usual Hollywood treatment).

Thanks for the heads-up Mr. Last. I'll see what I can find out about it.

Don Firth (no lithp—er—lithp. . . .   Ptui! Lithp. Ah, hell! Forget it!)


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 12:15 AM

That first video was the worst display of fencing I've ever seen. Pathetic. Errol Flynn would curl his lip in contempt.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 08:28 AM

Just looking at the guy nearest the camera in the first film: His stance is out, his feet aren't in line, his sword arm is too close to the body and his back is not straight. His guard is therefore essentially useless. All he is doing is running at the other guy and stop-hitting. The object used to be to PREVENT your opponent from hitting you. If he stood straight, turned in line to narrow his profile, and learned to parry in line and remise he'd win every single pass.

If that's modern fencing I'll stick to my bow thanks.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 09:04 AM

What you see in that video is not what they're teaching at the club I go to. We are learning footwork, lunge, footwork, parry, footwork, riposte, more footwork, and footwork. Thank God.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 09:16 AM

And yet that's what "sport fencing" has become: just make the light go on.

We had an Olympic-ranked epee instructor yell at his son the other night at the Club because the son (Junior Olympic ranking) was acting "...inappropriately and YOUR NOT FENCING!!!!" Junior was acting like the guys in the first film.

If you can't be polite and respectful while (virtually) impaling your opponent then civility, I say, is dead! Of course, rushing to be virtually impaled seems at least to me to be pretty darned stupid.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 01:16 PM

But not quite as stupid as double simultaneous impalement, a procedure guaranteed to bring a duel to an abrupt end and satisfy honour completely, while precluding any need for a subsequent duel on the part of the opponents.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Ebbie
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 01:30 PM

The second video was lovely to watch.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 03:15 PM

In that first clip, I keep thinking of the sheer simplicity of executing a quick, simple parry in quarte and a direct riposte. Such a simple, basic defensive move would be devastating in that bout. But it never seems to occur to either of them. One wonders if they even know how!

There were other competitions I participated in, but the three big annual tournaments in this area were the Pacific International in Vancouver, B. C., the Inland Empire in Spokane, and the Pacific Northwest Invitational in Seattle, along with an annual team event in Portland. They usually started on Friday evenings, then went all day Saturday (9:00 or 9:30 a.m. until however long it took, sometimes as late as midnight), and later on, when more people started entering, it extended on into Sunday.

Some fencers entered all the events they could, and that could be as many as four events. In each of those, you might fence five or six bouts in the preliminary pools, five or six in intermediate, five or six in the semi-finals, and five or six in the finals. If you lasted that long, that would amount to as many as maybe eighty or ninety bouts, some for five touches (foil and saber) and some for three (épée). And often, when you not waiting to be called to the strip fairly soon for your next bout or event, you'd be pressed into service to judge or otherwise officiate in other events. So even if you weren't fencing, you were still on your feet and trying to stay alert. At the end of one of these tournaments, there would be one helluva party. But everybody was really beat!

Considering the energy and endurance that one of these tournament weekends demanded, can you imagine the asininity of wasting energy the way these guys are? The vertical activity gets a bit less as the clip goes on, but I think it's because they're wearing out. Or the energy wasters are getting eliminated early on. Anyway:

Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce. . . .

Fencing in one of the marathon tournaments I was used to, they wouldn't last out the day. By the time they got to the finals (IF they got to the finals), they wouldn't have any poop left. One wonders why they don't just trade in their fencing equipment on a couple of pogo sticks.

Or see the quote from Sabatini's The Black Swan that I posted above.

Notice that in the second link I posted above (1936 Olympic saber) that almost all the movement is back and forth. They're too busy fencing to do jumping-jacks. Gerry Biagini, Sal Giambra, Pierre Paret, and the other world-class fencers I met when I was at Halberstadt's in San Francisco, and all of the best fencers I've met, were very economy-of-motion.

####

By the way, for a slight diversion, while I was checking out the fencing clips on YouTube, I ran into this little gem. Can you believe THIS?

I smell a Darwin Award. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST,Blind DRunk in Blind River
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 03:32 PM

Holy FLIP!!! Talk about yer girl on the rebound, eh? I hope she won the flippin' bet.

- Shane


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 03:33 PM

Regarding my comment about a simple parry in quarte, for those not all that familiar with fencing, it would involve simply moving one's blade quickly to that position, deflecting the incoming blade. That done, the riposte (return thrust) would simply involve extending the sword arm and letting the attacker run onto the point (which he is already doing, but you would not be hit).

Here are four of the eight basic parry positions:   Clicky.

I can think of several other defensive moves that would totally screw up the attack.

What do they teach these guys, anyway?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: jeffp
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 04:03 PM

It's interesting Don. They taught us the parry in quarte and riposte on the third night. You would think college fencers would know this.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Ebbie
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 05:06 PM

sheeminy! What a ride! She must be tied on, right? Bet she couldn't walk for a half hour.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 05:20 PM

I've been taught parry in octave, sixte, quarte, prime, septime, etc. As for the bouncing tiggers -- well, it's okay to bounce if bouncing is needed, but I don't think I'm going to bounce much. Way too much energy expended.

Gad! a simple parry and you too can be a champion fencer!

We're back to the "botta secrete."


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Donuel
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 06:30 PM

I lungewd at my female instructor. She parried defensively with a # 2 position and my foil went down to her crotch and stuck momentarily on the snap when it suddenly sprung (boing) between her legs.

It was kind of an embarrasing moment.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: EBarnacle
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 10:51 PM

No concept of defense at all. This is the so-called fencing I persuaded Gabriel to abandon. There is no need of footwork against this sort of attack--just let your opponent destroy himself. Some coach(es) need to be replaced or, maybe euthanized. I have real problems with the fact that my son was taught this bastardization of a really great sport in one of the most prestigious salles in America, one which is run by an Olympic champion and which has turned out Olympic champions. [My dudgeon runneth over.]


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 10:58 PM

Regarding the girl on the giant slingshot...didn't it ever occur to them to be concerned about whiplash? Apparently not. Sheesh.

Ebbie, if she had not been tied on they could have picked up her body afterward somewhere over in the next concession... ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 11:25 PM

Yeah, I really wondered about the whiplash thing!

####

One of the coolest fencers I ever met and had the pleasure and privilege of fencing with many times, both in competition and free-play, was Dan Drumheller from Spokane.

His form was excellent (looked like the pictures in the book) and his actions were clean, precise, and well thought out. He was an avid reader of books on fencing, as I was. He had read Nadi's On Fencing, of course, plus others that also went well beyond the basics. He recommended Fencing Tactics by Percy Nobbs to me (long out of print; I lucked out and found a copy at Shorey's, Seattle's—and one of the country's—biggest used bookstores back in the late 40s), which I read with great profit. We had also both read and poured through Schools and Masters of Fence from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century by Edgerton Castle, which was lavishly illustrated with plates from many old fencing treatises and manuals. I just checked "bookfinder" for that and found one copy:   over $200.00!).

Dan picked up a few things from books like Castle's. Old moves that were rarely used anymore. For example, he would rarely "stop thrust" (which seems to be the prefered method of meeting an attack these days), but when he did, he would couple it with a body move, such as the inquartata, a sort of "reverse lunge," in which the fencer steps to the right with his left foot, turning his whole body to the right and replacing the parry by displacing his target. In THIS PHOTO, the fencer doing the inquartata is left-handed, so it's a mirror-image of the move Dan did. He also did the passata sotto ("low blow?"), which is similar, but also operates on the idea of not being quite where you're opponent expects you to be whenever you attempt a stop-thrust.

Dan had a half-a-dozen little manouvers like that, including one he called the "Dirty Pierre," which involved parrying an attack while simultaneously standing upright (instead of the usual bent kneed position), stepping forward with his left foot and turning his left side toward his opponent before he had a chance to recover from his lunge. Dan would be practically sitting in his lap if he weren't standing, too close for him to parry a riposte; and with this little pirouhette, Dan's riposte resembled a matador going over the horns with his sword.

But Dan didn't do any of this stuff very often. And you never knew when it was coming. If at all.

But mainly, Dan was just a good, precise, skillful, and intelligent fencer. With him, it was a brain game. He was a lot of fun to fence with, even when he was thoroughly cleaning your clock.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 09:00 AM

I'm currently reading (and trying to understand) Capo Ferro's "Gran Simulacran" (in English, I don't read 17th century Italian well). I keep thinking, over and over, that just a few of these old moves, coupled with modern technique, could disconcert opponents...and now Don says someone beat me to the idea!

Well, it's still a good one. And being an American I'm not wedded to either the French or Italian schools -- "E Pluribus Unum" is our motto! (For me, this translates to "Whatever works....")

Don, I have both Italian and French grip epees -- but no pistol grips (except on pistols, where they belong).

One of the club's 13 year olds dropped into my office yesterday afternoon and I showed him both the "auto crash" and "tigger bouncing" videos. His comments were that a) "If that's all it takes to get a fencing scholarship I'm going to have an easy time of it" and b) "Don't they run out of energy awful fast?"

When I took foil, lo those years ago, one of the guys in the other section had a disconcerting way of screaming while he jumped into the air and rotated himself (on the long axis!) 180 degrees. When he landed he make the touch. This worked okay until he fenced the instructor. He did his favorite more, and when he was in the air and his back to the instructor the instructor whapped him across the seat of the pants with his foil. The chap added about four feet to his jump height without even touching the floor and never did that little maneuver again.

About the young lady in the slingshot: I think that everyone involved was already brain damaged. Gad, when I think of the concussion and contracoup injuries that's the only conclusion I can come up with!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 09:11 PM

My copy of Nick Evangelista's "The Art and Science of Fencing" came today. Too bad I can't take the weekend off and read it straight through.

I've decided that even if the orthopod says on Monday that I'm not to fence for a while I'm going to bring a roll of masking tape and a small posterboard with tierce, prime, seconde, quarte, etc. on it, tape it to the wall, and practice the conventionals. It might not be flashy, but it'll win bouts. I'm also going to do this at home -- my wife bought me a 67" high mirror recently as well.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 05:23 PM

Damn. There are odd occasions when I drop in & find something that makes me wish I dropped in more often. :)

I know what sport fencing means (it's fun, but it's also rubbish), but what exactly do you guys think you mean by "Classical" or "Historical"? 'Cos Fencing, as a term, goes back to something like the 12-13thC at least. They definitly were not after Heidelburg scars, nor using the lightweight blades you guys are obviously discussing.

What exactly do you think you're after, Rap?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Raedwulf
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 05:48 PM

Drat! Last post was me, sorry...


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 06:17 PM

To me, it's this way:

Sport Fencing: What's done today -- make the light light regardless of style, art, science, or anything else. Fleche, fleche, fleche! It's a blunt steel rod, after all, and winning is what we're here for. My arm was out first so I had right-of-way!

Classical Fencing: Winning is fine, but let's also parry, salute, counterparry, riposte, remise, lunge, double, counter sixte, redouble, and remember that it was once a very pointy (and possibly sharp) steel rod. Right-of-way changes with the situation.   

Historical Fencing: The Way They Did It back in, oh, say, 1400 to 1820. Or at least as close as we can come without real blood & guts on the ground/floor/pavement/street. Right-of-way?


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 06:21 PM

Oh, R? I'm not cutting out the use of falchions, dusaks, scimitars, baselards, hoplos, viking, sax, gladius, or anything else from before 1400. That was just a very arbitrary date I picked out of nowhere in particular. And I also understant that the gladius was as much a thrusting weapon as the rapier...things never are nicely put into neat historical periods.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 11:39 PM

Good info HERE.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 04 Feb 07 - 10:28 AM

I read that the other day, Don, and of course couldn't find it when I wanted it.


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Wolfgang
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 12:39 PM

Rapaire,

I had to look it up whether mensur is still alive. That's a world of which I am no part. Mensur is usually associated in Germany with the political right, even the far right. They still do it.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 01:38 PM

I'm not either, Wolfgang. I've been cut by accident too often to want to do it deliberately!


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Subject: RE: BS: Sport v. Classical v. Historical Fencing
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 02:51 PM

Here's an interesting quote from the current FIE rules:

3. Before the beginning of each bout, the two fencers must perform a
fencing salute to their opponent, to the Referee and to the spectators.
Equally, when the final hit has been scored, the bout has not ended until the two fencers have saluted each other, the Referee and the spectators: to this end, they must remain still while the Referee is making his decision; when he has given his decision, they must again perform a fencing salute and must shake hands with their opponent, with the unarmed hand. If either or both of the two fencers refuse to comply with these rules, the Referee will suspend him/them for the remainder of the competition taking place and from the following two FIE competitions in the weapon concerned (cf. t.114, t.119, t.120). The points or titles obtained at the moment of the offence remain acquired.


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