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Fencing, en garde!
HIGH FIVES, May 2009, by Karen Demers
FENCING, en garde!
How many of you love solving puzzles? Do you like twisting, jumping and moving your body in new and different ways? Would you like to be a symbol of power and grace? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more!
Brief History: Fencing can be found throughout the evolution of civilization. Fencing, or ‘swordsmanship’, was originally practiced to prepare men for duels and warfare. During ancient Egypt and in Roman times, short, light spears were favoured for fencing. Warriors were taught in schools called “ludi”. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, barbarian invaders used broader, heavy swords for duelling. This no longer required tactic and skill, but relied on brute strength for duelling. It was not until the 15th Century in Spain that modern fencing was developed and the first two fencing manuals were published in 1471 and 1474. From there, fencing developed past the historic “fight to the death” match into a gentleman’s game that required strength of mind and body. The Italians perfected the use of the rapier – a long, light sword that required quick lunges – while the French used a heavier version called the “epee”. During the 17th century the French created a new sword called the "fleuret", or foil. It was a lighter sword used for training. The French also developed a new set of rules outlining when duellists could attack each other. This helped lead to fewer injuries. A fourth type of sword was introduced to the sport – the ‘sabre’. Adapted from the Turkish scimitar, the sabre was a slightly heavier sword with a curve. While types of swordsmanship were brought to North America from French and Italian immigrants, the history of modern fencing in the Americas is attributed a the German family, the Turners, who immigrated to the US in the 1840s. Canadian fencing dates back to 1816 when the first fencing school was opened in Montréal. The first Canadian Championships were held in 1902. Fencing has been involved in the Olympics since the first modern games in Athens in 1896 and is one of only four sports which have participated in every modern Olympic Games.
Commitment Level: You can start as a beginner which requires lessons once or twice a week. Like any sport, if you want to compete, your commitment will be required. That means more practices, tournaments and after hours training to stay sharp and quick!
Starting age: Many clubs offer lessons for youth under the age of 10 and up.
Physical Requirements: Fencing requires strength, cardiovascular endurance and mental skills.
Equipment: Fencing requires a good attitude and a lot of patience! And to get started you need a jacket, mask, glove and a practice weapon – a foil, sabre or épée.
Average Cost: Many clubs will loan you equipment when you are just starting. To buy your own equipment it would cost between $300 to $500. On average, lessons cost $150 for group lessons and $200 for private lessons.
Jargon: Balestra: a short, sharp jump forwards; Beat: sharp tap on the opponent's blade to initiate an attack; En garde: position taken before fencing begins; Fleche: explosive, running attack; Parry: fencer blocks their opponent's blade; Piste: where the actual fencing action takes place.
'She'roes in Fencing: A Canadian and fencing icon for the world is Jujie Luan. In 1984 she competed for China and won a gold medal in fencing at the Olympic Games. In 2008, she returned to the Olympics in Beijing and competed for Canada at the age of 50. Her passion for the sport has not diminished one bit, and after the games, she went on to win the women's foil competition at the Veteran World Fencing Championship in Limoges, France. She is the head coach of the Edmonton Fencing Club.
What do parents think of fencing?: Fencing is an activity that all ages can participate in. The physical activity is complemented by the mental play in fencing as you have to solve the problems presented by your opponent to score points. It is great for the mind and body!
Why should others consider Fencing?: Fencing is an ancient tradition that represents power and grace. It is a discipline that provides a great way to focus your mind while giving your body a good work out!