America’s Sergeant Major visited an Arizona training center to practice the real world application of a weapon and the human combative behaviors which drive it. In this case, it was Western style swordsmanship:
Folks, after yesterday’s admission about Justin Bieber’s music, I confess: I have a second confession. For nearly three years, when I was younger, I fenced.
I had a conversation once on deployment with a fellow O* and he mentioned that he grew up on a farm. His parents punished him (when he screwed up) by making him fence on the weekends. And he hated it.
Naturally, being a suburb and city kid, my mind leapt to fencing, the sport. But the fencing this ranch-hand made reference to was the real-deal, dig-a-hole and plunk a fence post in. And then run barb-wire along it.
The fencing of this blogpost is the sport. Swordmanship.
- Foil—a light thrusting weapon that targets the torso, including the back, but not the arms. Touches are scored only with the tip; hits with the side of the blade do not count, and do not halt the action.
- Sabre—a light cutting and thrusting weapon that targets the entire body above the waist, except for the hands. Hits with the edges of the blade as well as the tip are valid.
- Épée—a heavier thrusting weapon that targets the entire body. All hits must be with the tip and not the sides of the blade. Touches hit by the side of the blade do not halt the action.
Quick aside on how I got into fencing, apart from good zombie protection: I was a student at an international school during this time period and fencing was an elective that I elected to take.
Foil was my blade and attacking was how I’s paid. I had little defense. My Parries (not Perry, Richard J; but Parry, the defense) were all but after-thoughts. There are nine or so Parries and I was fluent in one: the desperate defensive slap-away.
One very hot summer, in the deep midwest, I attended a military academy’s summer school. And they offered fencing.
Into a class I entered, advancing through the end-of-summer tournament with my bravado and bluster and thrusts and lack of parries. I lost in the finals to a kid who tapped me on my kidney. In a wild jab forward, I missed, and he ever so gently put me out. C’est la vie. Second place, it is first loser, right?
Back to our blogstory and to individuals far more renowned than I, than me. Do names impress you? Can I drop them, scatter them like wildflower seed to sprout in your imagination? The two biggest fencers in our popular consciouness: Mark Zuckerberg and President Barack Obama.
Let’s start with Mr. Facebook. Notice in the picture below that Mark is executing the Sicilian Offense (which requires fencers to eat half-a-pound of garlic pre-match, so as to be offensive):
Traditional American sports have been a jock haven for too long to change. The nerd army needs something more cerebral, a contest that combines grace and class with mental fortitude, without needing the frame of a bodybuilder and the height of a giraffe.
A second look to Zuckerberg makes it abundantly clear: The answer is fencing. After all, that was his high school sport of choice, and he won the best-performer award during an inter-school tournament in New York. Perhaps that’s where he got the idea of a Facebook poke.
Could fencing seriously ride the nerd phenomenon and enjoy a surge in popularity during next year’s London Olympics?
So Mark was a fencer, an award winning sword-fighter at that.
Let’s switch gears over to the Commodore-in-Chief, the Lieutenant Commander-in-Chief, the Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.
He too, is a fencer. New fact to you? Let’s explore some White House photography to the right.
Notice his stance. He is new to the sport, so I will offer him this tip. He needs to be less bent over. To stand somewhat more upright. He is the leader of the free world, right? And he needs to hide that left hand behind him. Also, his choice of weapons, a blue Astro-pop, not my first choice. . .
There you have it, famous fencers that you were unaware of.
* From the movie, “An Officer and Gentleman,” starring Richard Tiffany Gere in the role of Zach Mayo-naisse, officer candidate. Let’s review this video again and cite the top-three mistakes (ladies, my apologies):
A) Naval officers do not generally wear their covers inside.
B) HIs uniform does not fit @1:20 mark. His choker whites, you see how they pucker in front?
C) PDA in uniform. When do you ever see naval officers carrying on like that?
Do yourself a favor and watch this one, it will crack you up!