My fencing career was short and sweet!

For reasons best known only to myself, I didn’t take up fencing until I was 56 years old and as a result my family thought I’d gone absolutely mad.  I’d never done any kind of sport before (I always hated gym in school) and this was so utterly unlike anything I’d ever attempted in the past that even I wondered, sometimes, if I hadn’t taken leave of my senses.

I signed up for classes at the local park district and bought all the gear. I had no idea how expensive fencing equipment would be until I started writing checks for mask, uniform, chest protectors, electric  body cords, gloves, shoes, equipment bag and, last but not least, several weapons. Once I’d paid for all that lot I was determined to get my money’s worth, come hell or high water!

Then I found out just how out-of-shape I was!

The classes were for adults but I was easily the oldest there. After limbering up and stretching out, our instructor had us doing footwork for most of the class time and did I ache the next day!  It wasn’t until some weeks later that we actually got to do bladework by which time I was really starting to enjoy the exercise without feeling like a beached whale.

I re-took the beginners class several times until I felt fairly confident that I could hold my own and after a while I joined the local fencing club. My goal was to enter a tournament, so I took as much practice as I could and finally got up the nerve to try my luck.

OMG! I had never realized just how grueling the real thing is! I remember thinking “Please God let me live till the end of this bout!” Of course, I soon got knocked out in the elimination round but I was rather pleased with myself that I hadn’t actually passed out on the floor. After that I entered more tournaments and gradually went through a succession of “Please let me score a point. Please let me win this bout. How about letting me win this event,” until I ended up with one or two medals, more by luck than skill. That’s me on the left, in action.

I even qualified for Nationals one year but by that time my health was starting to let me down and because of that and some other reasons I didn’t make the trip.  Treatment for blood clots in both lungs and leg meant I couldn’t do anything that involved cuts or contusions and, take my word for it, my fencing career was heavily marked by a series of welts and bruises! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a ‘gentleman’s sport.’ It’s not!  There were times when I got home from an evening of fencing when my body looked like I’d been hit by an express train.  But at least I hope I gave as good as I got on the odd occasion.

I must say, the other, more experienced, club members were very tolerant of my ineptitude and during the few years that I was there, tried to teach me some skills that would help me to avoid taking so many hits but I guess that saying about  ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is partially true.  As much as I tried, I knew I would never be able to reach their standards.

After I left it I did miss fencing; what better way of releasing all that pent-up tension than legitimately stabbing someone with a pointy stick! I did return for a brief stint when I was 60, just to prove to myself that I was still up for it but the reprise was short-lived. There have been times since when I’ve been tempted to go back, but foot surgery, elbow tendinitis and finally a flood that ruined almost all my fencing equipment left me feeling like someone was trying to tell me something.

Still, I sometimes like to imagine that I could, even now, go through the motions; en garde, parry, lunge, riposte, balestra, fleche and touche! Olympics here I come!!


18 thoughts on “Fencing”

  1. I admire your courage. A friend and I talked about doing this, but the expense and time element was intimidating.

  2. I did a fencing class after leaving university. I rather fancied myself elegantly posing around. The experts were extremely fast and I disliked being a beginner. You did well to do so much and go so far. I dropped out after mere months.

    • There were times when I wondered what on earth I was doing there, but the moments of exhilaration and the occasional sense of achievement far outweighed any negative feelings.

  3. I can feel a lot of sympathy! I fenced a bit in my 20’s but never too seriously. Then when I was in my mid-40’s my son decided he wanted to try it so he and I joined our local club. The warm up exercises left me gasping for breath! I did enjoy the fencing though and progressed to epee which I really enjoyed. Never made it to sabre, which I would still like to try some time.
    Great blog by the way – love it! And thanks for visiting mine yesterday.

    • Thank you and thanks for visiting too! I never got to try sabre either. I started out with foil but could never grasp all the technicalities of scoring etc so eventually changed over to epee which suited my scatterbrained style much more!

  4. Wow! What an inspiration! Good on you for doing something you wanted to do, despite people thinking you were mad! What a great feeling to do so well with it too. I’ve just taken up a martial art and I love it but I’m clearly the oldest and most uncoordinated in the class. It feels good to just be there though as I’ve wanted to do it forever. Thanks for the inspiration, I’ll keep at it.

  5. Don’t give up on fencing! It sounds like your mind is still on the strip. We knew a fencer who competed in his 80s and walked away with many medals from the Nike World Masters Games. (he would check his wrist mounted pulse meter between touches. 🙂 )

  6. I am a late comer in the fencing sport, picking it up (my only sport ever) only 7 months ago at age 62 and am passionate about it. Your starting at 56, telling us your experience at the first bout and later, and subsequently making accomplishments is something that inspires me not to give fencing up. I had such thought after getting REALLY creamed at a foil open competition just this morning, the first open competition I ever joined and one for which I have practiced every weekday for the last two months. It was a grave setback emotionally.

    So don’t give up fencing!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Dennis! I wish you lots of luck with your fencing. It’s a great sport and if I was a bit younger and a lot healthier now, I would definitely get back into it. I think the thing that’s really holding me back, truthfully, is the expense of purchasing a whole new set of gear after losing everything when the basement flooded. Good luck with your next tournament!

  7. You know, I’m 19 and I started fencing last year when I was 18, I had been wondering if maybe I was a little bit too much late to start my life in this sport, but reading your post gave all the courage I needed, thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment, Loren. I wish you every success with your fencing. It’s such a wonderful sport and I’m sure you will never regret taking it up. Enjoy!

  8. My son went to Maine West High School, one of the few in the area that offered fencing as a sport. He joined the team and really enjoyed it, even though he wasn’t very good. He didn’t care – he just wanted to keep doing it, but alas! He had to choose between fencing and drama, because they met at the same times after school. He chose drama, in the end, because he had real talent for acting, but he was disappointed that he had to drop fencing. I did attend some of the competitions he participated in, in the Chicago suburbs and Milwaukee. It was interesting and sort of fun. I think it was very adventurous of you to try it as a middle-aged adult! I know I would never even have thought of doing such a thing!

  9. If I was even ten years younger I would have another go at it, if it wasn’t for the meds I’m taking now. I did most of my fencing at the Illinois Fencers Club in Mount Prospect but went to tournaments around the local suburbs.

  10. I took up sailing at that age.
    Life is a feast!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.