Saturday, October 14, 2017


     One of our essential training elements is the “bout,” a contest between two fencers, each of whom attempts to touch the opponent without being touched by the opponent. 
     Bouting is “flashy” and exciting and can be a lot of “fun,” too.  It puts your skills and spirit to the test. In some part of us it represents the obligatory show-down between the hero and the villain, the “moment of truth,” the climax of our favorite swashbuckling novels, films and TV shows.
     It is, in this sense, the pinnacle of our practice, like a musician stepping up to play a solo. 
     Here are the things you must do in order to participate in bouting.
1) You must demonstrate that you will be a courteous opponent.  Your conduct must be impeccable at all time, under all circumstances. You must be composed and gallant, allowing no expressions of emotion to sully the bout, whether positive or negative, neither elation or disappointment.

2) You must demonstrate that you will be a safe opponent.  Injuries are not an inherent part of fencing. They are always a result of fencer error. You must be able to avoid such errors. You must control yourself, executing actions in a safe manner, at the correct distance without excessive force.

3) You must demonstrate that you will be a competent opponent. You must have some hope of being able to defend yourself, so that you will be a worthy opponent for your adversary.  You don’t get to play in the band if you don’t know how to play your instrument!  You MUST master these techniques, at an absolute MINIMUM:
1.     Straight attack, disengage attack executed on a perfect lunge
2.     Parries of 6te, 4te, 7me and 8ve
3.     Direct ripostes and disengage ripostes from each of the 4 parries
4.     Parries of 6te and 4te in the lunge
5.     Direct counter-ripostes and indirect counter-ripostes from 6te and 4te, while in the lunge.

     There’s more, of course.
     MUCH more: compound attacks, counter-attacks, contre-temps, parry combinations, preparations of the attack, prises du fer, yielding parries, the remise, reprise, redoublement…
     But these 5 kinds of actions are enough to enable you to BEGIN bouting. You won’t be terribly interesting. You won’t be dashing or brilliant. But at least you won’t be completely lost, standing there with that deer-in-the-headlights look, hopelessly unable to get out of your own way.

     We typically don’t keep score in bouting, because it inhibits the student. But periodically we do hold a “recital” in which, for more advanced students, we do keep score, and we present awards for the best performance.

     There are significant irreconcilable difference between classical fencing and the sport called “fencing,” of which technique is only the least important.
     The sport is simply about winning a contest. And apparently, it doesn’t matter how you win. You can fence poorly, you can behave obnoxiously. You can score by accident or you can score by cheating. They don’t care. It’s only the final tally that matters. We disdain this approach because we believe that it rewards the worst in people: mediocrity dishonesty, and narcissism. In the sport venue, it doesn’t matter at all what kind of person you are, only whether you “win.” Winning is the “be all” and “end all” of what they do.

     Classical fencing is the exact opposite.
     You must fence properly and you must conduct yourself courteously. If you fail to do either of these things, you will be disqualified.
     You cannot score by accident or by cheating because we enforce the rules strictly, impartially and without exception. But, more than that, the classical fencer has no desire to "win" by fluke or by cheating, would renounce any doubtful touch, refusing any unfair advantage. A victory, to be celebrated, must be unblemished. It's not enough for your performance to be better than you opponent's; it must be the best performance of which you are capable.
     We reward only the best in people: excellence, honesty and gallantry.
     In classical fencing, it doesn’t matter at all whether you win or lose, only what kind of person you are.  In a contest between two people, one of them is going to win and one of them is going to lose, but BOTH of them can display excellence, honesty and gallantry, win OR lose, and we accept nothing less.
     In classical fencing, winning is not the end, itself.
     It’s only the means to an end.
    That end, our goal, is to cultivate in every individual a strong healthy body, an acute and agile mind, a gallant and gracious manner, and a joyful and dauntless spirit.   The classical fencer must be gracious and dignified in defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
     We hope that by populating our planet with more such individuals, we will create a little bit better world.

- aac