I fenced in the Nottingham Open today (a last 32 finish, which is a marginal improvement on last year, and might even net me a few ranking points). Several things occurred to me in the course of the day, and I’d like to put them down here.
Firstly, people will go a long way for things they enjoy. I’m sure those of you who live in larger countries will laugh at the pitiful distances involved, but at the time, going ninety miles for a competition feels like a long way. A couple of hours in a car just to go and hit strangers with a sword. It must be madness. Or enjoyment. We do a lot of strange things when it comes to enjoyment.
We also occasionally take ourselves far too seriously. Just one look at the rows and rows of hyper fit young people warming up made that one obvious (I warmed up a bit, just to get into the spirit of the thing. I generally don’t believe in such things beyond the bare minimum needed to avoid injury). Also listening to some of the shouting as the day progressed, either in celebration or annoyance with decisions.
Fencing’s rules are weird, and probably need tweaking. There is a perfectly sensible rule in sabre about ‘right of way’ which lets you work out who gets the hit if both people hit one another. The idea is that one of them (the one who started his attack second) should probably have been defending, and would have been had it been a sharp sword. The issue with this rule at the moment is the very broad scope it allows for the term ‘attack’. People wandering forward vaguely waving a sword in circles are apparently attacking. People wandering forward not doing anything with the sword are apparently attacking. Likewise people making ‘attacks’ over the course of several steps. A more limited and rigorous approach would, in my opinion, vastly improve sabre.
Of course, I’m not all that good at sabre, by any objective standard. One thing I found today is that does not necessarily matter. I imagine that applies to many things. Having the courage to be bad at them is a vital part of our enjoyment. Also shouting and hitting people with swords, of course, but mostly the first bit.