By January 25, 2007

On the fence

I went to my second fencing lesson on Tuesday. It’s technically the third session, but I missed the first one. No matter, the first session covered stances and footwork, all of which has been repeated in the following classes. The class has about twenty people in it, with students aged from about nine to probably high forties. The instructor, Jeff, seems like a nice fellow. He admitted to someone after the second session that this was the biggest class he has ever taught by himself, and it shows in the large-grain attention he is able to give to the class. I have thus far received about two minutes of time with him. I know he has nineteen other students to look after, and the course is cheap ($110, including gear), but I am a total newb to this stuff.

The class itself is enjoyable. I’ve had fun playing “follow the leader” with coach Jeff. As he backs up, we do a fencer’s advance, when he comes towards us, we retreat. When he drops his arm, we lunge. It’s cute, and it’s fun. A lot more fun than practicing lunges at home.

My favorite class activity is a tie between lunging at a golf ball suspended by a rope and poking the nine year old in a riposte drill. The riposte drill is when your opponent attacks, you parry, and then riposte. When asked, I made the mistake of saying a riposte is a counter-attack. Which, by strict definition, it is, but in foil fencing, scoring only occurs during an attack, and a counter-attack is not awarded a point due to right-of-way rules.

I have a long way to go, obviously. I have a few things to overcome from past sports/martial arts/combat experiences. My stance is the biggest thing. In fencing, you stand with your lead (front) foot pointing forward, with your rear foot’s heel lining up with your front foot. My familiar stance is to stand with the lead foot pointed inward at about a 45 degree angle. I am also used to switching stances, and using a cross-over step to gain ground. In fencing, you must keep your lead arm and foot forward at all times. I am also used to keeping my rear hand at an opposite height from my lead hand and protecting my body. For safety reasons (and in some styles of fencing, competitive reasons), the rear hand should be away from the body. You are probably familiar with seeing a fencer with his rear hand held near his head.

I am most worried about spearing my opponents too hard. One is supposed to elevate the sword-hand upon contact, which causes the foil to bend and lessens the impact. As a fencer becomes more experienced, they learn how to strike more lightly. This is exactly like limited-contact sparring in martial arts (well, except for the raising your attack hand). I am just concerned I’ll forget about that and run some pudgy housewife through.

I’ve enjoyed everything so far, and have been thankful to have Teach and Rangerette there to answer my stupid and silly questions. I still have seven classes to go, and I’m not sure if I will continue with Foil II or try Epee I or Sabre I.

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