Friday, 14 October 2011

Why I am a fencer

There's a piece in today's Guardian calling for the return of swashbuckling movies
Swords are sexier than guns, and not just because they're longer phallic symbols. Any idiot can fire a gun, but it takes training to wield a rapier. The best duels are like games of chess with extra sadism – why dispatch opponents quickly when you can humiliate them with your footwork, or inflict death by a thousand cuts? Duelling can be a substitute for sex – and not just the seductive fence-off between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro; check out Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, smiling at each other during their duel on the beach in Captain Blood. It's enough to make you sorry for Olivia de Havilland.
To be honest, I've never got a sexual thrill from fencing, but the rest of it stands up. There's something immensely satisfying about pulling off a complicated, deceptive, fast action culminating in plunging the point into your opponent's chest while s/he wonders what just happened.

The humiliation's good too, though we're all friends after the match. I'm not a good fencer - my repertoire is too limited and my stomach too capacious, but I can beat much more gifted opponents because my footwork's good enough to spoil their flashy moves, which frustrates them into wildly slashing rather than calmly picking me off.

The older and slower I get, the less I move, relying on good timing and precision rather than force - which is why a top-level bout is over quickly and silently: anyone who tried swashbuckling in a fencing match would lose immediately. But I do still adore a bit of Errol Flynn.


intelliwench said...

I love, too, that swordfights allow for snippets of witty banter between combatants. With guns, it's "Bam" and done.

ed said...

"To be honest, I've never got a sexual thrill from fencing, but the rest of it stands up".

Not a fan of Freud, but you've slipped here I think.

The Plashing Vole said...


Anonymous said...

Ah - now that takes me back to my Kendo and Iaido days, your biggest competitor is yourself.

I do feel slightly sullied by the insinuation that we have been hitting each other with phalic symbols!