Monday, 18 February 2013

The Pen vs. The Sword: An Update



After a month of calligraphy class and six weeks of fencing, the sword is mightier than the pen. I say this because the worst thing I encountered in calligraphy was stained fingertips, whereas I left fencing class to spend most of my Saturday morning in the local ER. The staff were friendly and helpful as usual, but that was probably due to the fact that everyone wanted to come see what a “saber injury” looked like.

I should probably include some backstory. Fencing is one of those sports that attracts people who wouldn’t normally be considered “athletes,” myself included. Granted, there’s a lot of very athletic people, but there’s also an eclectic mix of those who just like swords, for various reasons.

I mentioned LARPers before, but I never really explained that acronym. LARPing (as done by LARPers) is Live Action Role Playing. Basically, you dress up in costumes and reenact scenes. If you think back to being a kid, what’s the one thing that everyone wants to “reenact?” Fighting! If you’re going to take the time to find/create a kick-ass costume, you may as well add a sword.

The sport of fencing also carries over to Renaissance faires, pirate fairs, conventions of all types (Comic Con, Combat Con, etc), and pretty much any other situation where it’s socially acceptable to carry/use a sword.

From the very first day I saw this one particular guy in our class, I recognized a perfect storm of geeky hobbies, physical strength, and social awkwardness that was only going to mean one thing: this guy was going to take a beginner’s fencing class way too seriously.

And so it began that I learned to hate fencing against this guy. We’ll call him “Kyle,” because that’s his name. He’s a very sweet kid, and it’s easy to see that fencing is way more than a recreational sport to him.

Anyway, every time I fence against Kyle, I find myself trying to stay the hell out of the way and praying to whomever might save me. First, he’s a solid foot taller than I am. Second, he has a certain “intensity” when he’s fencing, and by that I mean he looks like he actually believes his life is in danger. This will be an excellent advantage in competition, not so useful in a Saturday morning community college class.

In this particular class, we were using sabers. In saber, you can score points by either “stabbing” the opponent with the tip of your blade, or by “slashing” and hitting with the side of the blade. In either case, you’re using your wrist to move the blade, so although you will feel the attack through your protective jacket, it’s unlikely to leave more than a slight bruise if anything.

I fenced against Kyle as usual, but for some reason I decided to go in for a hit. To do this, you lunge forward with your blade, and hopefully hit the other person’s jacket with the end of your saber.

In a perfect world, Kyle would’ve parried my attack (knocking the blade out of the way and then returning the attack) but instead he went straight for a counter attack, by bringing his blade down directly across my outstretched forearm. His “intensity” caused him to put his back into it instead of using his wrist. As I said before, sometimes I think he believes this shit is real.

I immediately believed in the reality of the situation as well, and discovered the meaning of the phrase “blinding pain.” The worst part is that he made me cry in fencing class. There’s no crying in fencing, dammit! I finished out the final 10 minutes of class but I was pretty sure that something was messed up because I couldn’t hold my blade straight.

At the ER, I didn’t even have to put the Vicodin in my own mouth. The kindly nurse did that for me. The service was impeccable at that place! The good news is that it wasn’t fractured. Seeing as I prefer to use my right arm to teach painting, this is excellent news for my job. The bad news is that I have some beautiful crushing of the deep tissue, and I get to wear this sweet arm brace and sling.

Naturally, I returned to fencing that afternoon sporting my new get-up. Kyle started out by telling me what I did wrong in class and why I got hit, but I think he can also recognize rage and decided to leave me alone for awhile. On the prompting of my adventure partner, he bought me a botanical G&T after class and all was forgiven. Apologies are good, but apologies with liquor are better. The best part about a fencing injury is that everyone wants to know how you hurt yourself, and saying “I got hit with a saber” sounds way cooler than “I slipped on the ice.”

This week I’ll be learning how to fence with my left hand, so that should I encounter this problem again in competition, I’ll be able to finish the fight. I also get to wear these cool black leather arm guards under my jacket, that will look awesome at the Ren faire this spring. I’m looking forward to becoming ambidextrous, and I still think that fencing is the coolest sport in the world. But that could just be the painkillers talking.

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