Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fitness File: Fencing

When I lived in Pasadena, my friend Randy was the fencing coach at Caltech. I had watched him and his wife compete at tournaments and had met many of their fencing friends at their house. It looked like lots of fun and they all encouraged me to give it a try, so I finally did. I feel really lucky to have had Randy teach me my first lessons. He was extremely positive and patient, I got a very solid grounding in the basics, . . . and he worked my butt off!

At the end of 2005, when I moved to the Ventura County area, I told myself I'd get back to Pasadena to take more lessons from Randy and fence with my Pasadena friends, but the demands of my new job and the hour distance ended up being bigger deterrents than I'd anticipated. And then Randy and his family moved out of state. :( It was quite a while until I felt I had the time and energy to bring fencing back into my life, but I finally got around to it last year and found a great group of people fencing at the Conejo Club at the Conejo Community Center in Thousand Oaks. I've been fencing there on Saturdays off and on ever since. I'd been pretty busy over the summer and didn't have many opportunities to go, but, earlier this month, I did finally pick up where I left off and I hope to keep it up.

In fencing, there are three different weapons - foil, sabre, and epee (see here to the right) - and the weapon you use dictates what is considered target area on your opponent (see above). You'll notice that the bell that covers the hand is bigger on an epee than it is on a foil. That is because the arm is part of the target area when you fence epee and you need more protection from attacks on that arm. Similarly, the bell on a sabre extends around the hand because the hand is actually considered a valid target when you fence sabre. (Note: the shaded areas on the illustration I copied and pasted here are slightly off because the hand is valid target area for sabre.) . . . The goofy get-up is the same regardless of what weapon you fence though.

Some argue that the smaller target area is more challenging. Others argue the larger target area is more challenging. I think that's nonsense. Each just demands a different style of fencing, a different strategy. I fence foil because that's what I learned and because most people fence foil and it makes it easier to find people with whom to fence. It's lots of fun and a great workout. (The protective gear is hot and you do a lot of lunging.)

To the left here is what the Conejo Fencing Club's badge looks like. As some of you may know, conejo is Spanish for rabbit, which is why we have that darting rabbit on there.

What? You don't think a bunny rabbit will intimidate our opponents?? I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the ferocity of the hare, my friend . . .

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