Adult Fencing Diary // Day 1
After a weird rush of excitement of watching fencing bouts during the Olympic Tokyo 2020 (and partially learning that I have around free 700eur to waste for any sport & cultural activities), I enrolled in a beginner course for adult fencing. The timing and training location suits my situation very well so all were good.
Yesterday was the first training session. The class is a small group of 8–9 students, mixed gender. I was glad to see most of them are in their late 20s, 30s and even one guy is probably in his 40s; I joined ballet & jazz lessons before and got overwhelming with the youngster's energy and skills, I would have been so discouraging if being one of the oldest in the class again.
In the first lesson, we are walked through the basic information about fencing and introduced to some fencing terminologies.
- En garde: This is the basic stance of a fencer
- Lunge: This is the term for an attack
- Parry: This is the defense to the attack
In order to score, at least in Epee, you need to touch the opponent with the pointed end of your sword. Since the sword blade is flexible, it can bend when it touches the opponent. Controlling the blade is one of the training I saw another fencer was doing at his own time.
We got to try out the sword ourselves of course; it was not as heavy as I thought it would be but the hand grid was rather abnormal. The sword we got to try has a pistol grip, which looks something like the image below.
Apparently, there are two grip types for the Epee sword: the pistol grip and the French grip. The pistol grip is molded to the hand, with fingers fitting in tightly around the curves of the grip. On the other hand, the structure of a french grip is a straight piece that ends in an enlarged piece, known as the pommel. It is the oldest style of fencing grip, the most straightforward, and it’s one that many fencers continue to stand by as the best. The pistol grip offers more strength and dexterity; whereas the French grip gives you reach.
As someone whose last time at the gym was 2 years ago, the strength of my arm equals a cooked spaghetti and it shows clearly after roughly 20m of holding the sword — I could barely feel my figures or forearm. It surprisingly requires a significant of strength to control the sword properly. My arm got sore badly after the first training day.
After playing with the sword, we moved to try out the fencing uniform, which includes: a weapon mask, a glove, a jacket, and as being a girl I also got a chest protector. The mask was surprisingly comfortable to wear and it didn’t block my vision at all; I was afraid that my vision will be affected — I got a similar problem with the mask in Airsoft.
Once we had the uniform on, it is “combat time”. We were divided into groups of two, hooked into wired, and explained how to notice the score once it is registered from the electric board. I got paired with a left-handed guy (I am right-handed) and he already had one course of fencing 4 years ago, so he knew better than I did. He scored most of the time and I couldn’t figure out how to approach him. I was being in the defensive position, trying to avoid his attack. It surely didn’t help as he kept scoring and I didn’t get to earn any point.
I made two mistakes on this first day of learning: I looked at his sword all the time and I was afraid to counterattack.
Firstly, the movement of the sword is not a good signal for guessing when the opponent will attack. You will either fall into a false attack or notice a real one too late for a defense move. Most of the time, the opponent's body signals better his attention and direction of movement. So, zooming out and looking at the whole body of the opponent, do not fix your eyes to one spot because it will “blind” you.
Secondly, you win the game by scoring. Defending helps prevent the opponent to score but it doesn’t bring you victory, you need to score to win. Don’t be afraid to attack even when you are being attacked. Remember that you get a point if you manage to touch the opponent with your sword at the same time as the opponent. Defending yourself actually much harder for beginners than you might think, so just strengthen out your aim and shoot for a point whenever you have the chance. Once someone attacks, they also bring themselves closer to you and that is the golden time for getting yourself another point.
The coach pointed out the second mistake while observing my clumsy and rather cowardly combat style. I changed my tactic and really just went for it. I didn’t win the bout but at least I brought home 2 points (during two tie situations, both scored).
The lesson ended and we returned the uniform to notice ourselves soaked in sweat. It was truly the hardest two hours that I have experienced for the past two years; I got quite much fun I admit regardless. It was a good decision that I went for the training and I am, indeed, very eager to come back for the next training.