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The noble art of fencing came to Surval

Posted on: 11th February 2014 | Category: Sport

The noble art of fencing came to Surval on Sunday. Originating in the Renaissance as an exercise of lethal skill, Fencing acquired its manuals of methodology in the eighteenth century, finding an aristocratic niche among duelists in England and France, and university students in Germany. This is a contact sport of sophistication that calls for a mélange of precision and power, delicate athleticism and acute psychology, and is therefore a mystery to most people. Aside from outings in the Olympic Games events (including the Modern Pentathlon), Fencing rarely comes into public view. Scoring encounters are too quick for the inexpert eye. But with us, after preliminary exercises, and the donning of protective gear, the girls were wired up and engaged with epée and foil in the cut and thrust, lunge and parry, of the sport.

Thanks to our helpful instructor, the girls learned fast the basics and stepped into action with advance and appel, practising movements offensive (attack, feint, lunge) and defensive (parry and riposte). After an hour of rehearsal (and shedding of anxieties) it was En Garde, Prêt, and Allez. It takes confidence to engage so raidly and the girls were marvelous in their eagerness to deploy flick and flunge, attack and attaque du fer. Because the face and eyes are hidden, you need to assess your opponent’s intentions through a reading of their body language and subtle ‘tells.’ In the last session, the swords and jackets were connected to each other and the electronic scoring-equipment) and the duels began.

The three-minute bout is, however, taxing on energy and very hot because the fencer is wrapped in plastron, jacket, (one) glove, and mask. Evelina and Sofya were patient learners, and both thought it ‘interesting and fun’. Farida took to the activities involved with superb promise. Alejandra and Elisa shone immediately with impressive displays of play, technically known as a ‘conversation’ (though with a shade too much aggression, perhaps.) Alejandra specialised in a retreating, defensive technique which caught her opponent in the superb counter-attack. We learned quickly (we had to!) that timing and accuracy are the keys to scoring. So you appreciate the importance of the body-protection against a merciless, faceless attacker coming at you in the shape of Alejandra and Elisa. But what pleasure from each ‘hit, very palpable hit’, as Osric says of Hamlet striking Laertes in their deadly match.

Having despatched their respective opponents comprehensively, Elisa took on Alejandra in the final bout, and it was a close-run thing. Both scored well in a see-saw match, Elisa catching up rapidly, but Alejandra winning by a small margin of points. Alejandra celebrated by saying:’ It was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed Fencing because I’d never done anything like it before. It’s a truly interesting sport.’ Farida thought it was thrilling and ‘something I always wanted to learn about. I hope we shall have Fencing again at Surval.’ Elisa lamented that ‘we don’t have this in Brazil. I really, really want to start learning Fencing.’

For photographs, please click here. You can also watch a video from the lesson below.


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