Friday, 16 March 2007

A little 'me' time

No moaning about tweaked muscles or not-being-able-to-parry in this post. For I am in a good mood.

On Tuesday, I had a one-on-one lesson with my coach. It was only 20 minutes long, but I learned an almost scary amount of stuff.

Beforehand, I was almost stupidly nervous. What if I couldn't do it? What if he said, 'get outta here, kid - you're no good'?

But there was none of that. I discovered my en-garde position left something to be desired - my right knee tended to point inwards a bit, Betty Boop-style - but he patiently told me where I was going wrong each time I lapsed. It's a good thing I corrected it, really - a strapping chap doing a Boop impression in full fencing kit isn't the most attractive of sights.

The rest of the session was endless repetition - lunges and parries - until I got it right. It wasn't boring, either. Tiring, yes. But not boring.

It was a revelation having someone watch every part of my technique - although there was pressure on me to not make mistakes, it was delivered in a friendly way, and I could ask as many questions as I wanted without annoying the rest of the group.

'When would I do a feint and disengage?'
'If your opponent always does a Quarte parry, spot the pattern, and play up to it - feint the attack to make him parry, then disengage and continue your lunge'.


I'm going to try and do a couple of private sessions a month - as well as ramping up my club sessions to two a week. I'm becoming addicted!

Next post: Tricky business....

Monday, 12 March 2007


I knackered my leg.

A particularly heavy session of footwork turned into a really stiff right leg for a week after the practice. It started to get better, and was 90 per cent there when, two days before last week's club night, I was reaching for something on the floor.


D'oh. Back to square one. I had a nasty evening of it at the club - especially as I just couldn't for the life of me get my circle-sixte parry right. I was close to chucking my mask against the wall, but my partner Mrs The Duelist, bless her, convinced me to carry on.

Turns out I could do the parry just fine, but I kept mucking up the riposte because I was lunging before extending my arm. I went right back to basics for a few minutes, and I got it eventually, but it was my first proper setback. I hope I don't get too many more mental blocks like that....

Still, I've got a club night this evening and a one-on-one session tomorrow night with my fencing master, so at least I've got plenty of time to practice.

Then when Mrs The Duelist and I get our jackets, we can practice at home. Good for marital stress, that.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The club

I've been terribly remiss. I haven't updated this for a month, and now I feel bad! So now you're going to get a week's worth of updates to get you up to speed.

First up, the initial club session.

My word. My legs hurt so much after this bad-boy that I could barely move them. Made certain necessary ablutions rather tricky, I don't mind telling you.

It was all because of the warm-up - a sadistic, knackering military-style beasting. Well, not quite that bad - but certainly sadistic and knackering. My legs had gone back to their normal semi-active state after the six-week course, so putting them back into the en-garde position after 40 minutes of squats, sprinting, stretching, curling and lifting required much effort.

It turned out OK in the end, though, because once I was in the position, my poor pins were so bewildered that they pretty much locked into place - en-garde, all the time!

Parries were the order of the day. Quarte and Sixte, specifically. Lots of drilling and practicing. By the end, I was perfect - it was beautiful. Then on to the free fence at the end, where I promptly messed them all up again in the heat of the moment. Oh well.

After that, it was home, sleep, and up the next morning to find that my legs had been replaced by two non-bending scaffolding poles.

It was like that all week....

Friday, 9 February 2007

The course

I'm scared of the gym.

You know what it's like. You go there for the first time. You look around, but see only the fit, tanned, lycra-clad, muscle-bound regulars. 'God,' you think. 'I'll never look like that.'

You never see the people who are like you - the unfit, the wheezing, the perhaps-getting-on-a-bit; the first-timers.

So, self-conscious, you do a few half-arsed warm-up exercises and ten minutes on a treadmill before slinking out again, never to return - but destined to have £50 taken from your bank account every month for eternity because you're too embarrassed to tender your gym resignation.

'What's that?' the chiselled man behind the counter says, aghast. 'You're quitting? Well, it's your body…'

Sod that. I wanted to get fit my way - I wanted to go somewhere where everyone's rubbish at first! I wanted to be able to get knackered and sweaty without feeling stupid! I wanted to do a six-week introductory fencing course!

So I did.

The basics
First up, footwork. The foundation of fencing - get this wrong, and you won't get very far. Although we were all itching to get our hands on some cold steel, we spent one and a half sessions practicing moving about. Advance, retreat, lunge, advance-lunge. Monotonous, but strangely therapeutic - until you get home and your thighs feel like they've burst into flames.

Then distance work. We learned how important it is to be able to stay out of the way of your opponent's attacks, while still keeping close enough to get him/her yourself.

Finally, at the end of week two, the foils, masks, jackets, gloves and boob-protectors came out. Boob protectors for the girls, you understand. I was only trying it on purely out of curiosity.

The next couple of sessions were spent, again, on foot and distance work - this time in pairs, with lunges thrown in. It started to feel like proper fencing. But that would only really happen when we learned to defend ourselves as well as attacking.

Sitting on defence
Parries. The bit that makes you feel like Errol Flynn! There are eight, but we only learned the two most basic ones - the Quarte and the Sixte. It would seem that most fencers use only three or four parries in normal circumstances, anyway. More drills with footwork and attacks, but now with added 'ting!' sounds - great fun.

The last week was the big one: electric equipment. We were given Epees (less bendy - slightly different rules), boxes that beeped when hits were scored, and set loose on each other in a series of first-to-five-hits competitions, followed by a grand final.

It was fantastic - I'm pretty sure my footwork was the only consistent thing about my performance, though. The action was so fast that I didn't have much time to think about proper parries - it was more reflex than calculation. No matter, though! It was great fun.

After the course
So, bruised and worn out, I resolved to join the club and do it every week.

My course was a great way to get to grips with the sport. People spend years - decades - trying to master fencing, so clearly it only scratched the surface. But by breaking it down into such digestible chunks, we were all up and duelling more-or-less properly at the end of six weeks. And many of us carried on to the club.

More on that in my next post!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007


Hi, and thanks for visiting.

A few words to introduce myself: I'm a early-mid-late twentysomething Londoner who, dissatisfied with his sedentary lifestyle, decided to become a trained swordsman.

OK, so I saw Die Another Day and thought it looked cool. The point is, I decided to take up fencing.

I'm an absolute beginner, save for an introductory course (more on that later), so I'm going to use this blog to document my progress. Other, more experienced fencers will be able to snigger at my feeble attempts to master step-lunges and parries, and hopefully I'll be able to look back in a few years' time and do the same!

So - it's time to get my pallid, bandy-legged frame into gear and turn it into a honed, toned, fencing machine.

Next post: what happened on my six-week introductory course.