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Since fencing is the most exciting participant game in which two persons may indulge, it would seem to me that a small fortune might await someone who could devise a method of teaching it that would be less tedious than the existing curriculum and would take a year or two off the time it takes to learn how to skewer your opponent properly while yourself remaining unharmed.
For the art has everything to recommend it to the passionate competitor or the tired businessman in need of exercise and relaxation. It is cheap; it is convenient in that it may be conducted in any fair-sized room or hallway, on a terrace, lawn or in a cellar. Salles devoted to it are conveniently located in big cities. It is not time consuming; an hour and a half between five-thirty in the afternoon and seven is sufficient, including shower and changing. Three times a week is enough to keep a man fit, entertained and happy.
And it is enthrallingly exciting" and absorbing. In the entire field of sport there is no more dramatic way in which a man may master another?if you exclude boxing, which is, of course, only a game for hopeless adolescents willing to have their brains addled and features warped to prove not very much.
LEARNING TAKES PATIENCE
Unfortunately, it takes time to learn fencing's unnatural posture and simplest maneuvers, to train the legs, the eyes and, above all, the hand. It takes even more time to become sufficiently experienced in combat to enjoy to the full the delights of making a monkey out of a fellow citizen?or citizeness, since one of the three weapons, the foil, may be practiced in mixed company.
The fencer never stops taking lessons to the end of his days. And those days are long for, unlike other sportsmen, the fencer may continue to compete and enjoy himself through the sixties and into the seventies. One of the toughest old boys in the Epee Club of London, who still fights and places regularly in club fixtures, is 74.
Unfortunately, the American is all-out impatient for play. It won't work with fencing. It takes the beginner six months before he gets his legs sorted out and another month before his hand responds automatically to stimuli. After two years he can begin to fight in earnest. But all the time he is learning he is getting exercise employing limb and wind, doing hard, sweat-producing work, disciplining himself and acquiring the rudiments of a fascinating skill which will never leave him.
To begin with a few definitions, there are three standard international weapons available: the foil, the epee and the saber. They are different in size, shape and weight and each has its own set of rules.
The foil is a light, whippy, four-sided blade with a button on the end. Its target is the torso only.
The epee is a stiff, three-sided dueling sword, an adaptation of the rapier, with a large bell, or guard. Its target encompasses the entire body from mask to shoe tip, including hands and arms, its pseudo intent is simple and direct: to disable or kill swiftly. In many tournaments one touch settles the issue, for it is assumed that if one were hit anywhere by this weapon, one would be unable to continue. It is symbolically deadly and hence most interesting.