Three weeks ago I started fencing again after a four year hiatus. I finally live somewhere with a fencing club. But not just any club; a high powered club taught by Mr. Ho which includes: the current female foil national champion, a contender female epee national champion as well as several junior competitors and the veteran competitor Veronica (Mr. Ho’s wife).
Over the last few years I have desperately wanted to compete in women’s saber. I even took a year of saber in the UK and it was great; violent and only fighting men, but great.
When I came into Victoria’s fencing club Mr. Ho asked me, what have you fenced? I said saber. He grunted in disapproval, looked me over and said: "You take epee. You know epee comes from dueling when people would run to a fencing master. And they would say, ‘I have never fenced and tomorrow I have a duel, what should I do?’ Master says: close your eyes and point at chest. You do epee"
Wow, nice pep talk. He did say later that I could open my eyes if I wanted.
Epee is like foil except....there are no rules and you can hit ANYWHERE - the head, the toe, the groin, anywhere. Nothing matters except hitting the other person before they hit you. If you both hit each other within 1/25th of a second both hits count.
After the first day I was so sore I couldn’t sleep or raise my sword arm above my head. The first day I met and fought William (or Bloody William as his first words were, “I’ve broken 6 foils this year” and he seems to continuously bleed somewhere, often into his mouth. He is 16 and seems to think this is normal). I also met Gerald, a 40 something who started epee a year and a half ago.
They wear double thick pants. I wear cool, trendy and paper thin hip-hugging joggers. Then they started hitting my leg at high speed with a epee foil (Remember the getting hit anywhere?). Now ½ of my body is covered with black, green, yellow and deep ochre bruises.
I am finally starting to get the hang of it and figure: "If I am forced to fence epee then I guess I should start getting serious about epee." So I fence on Mondays and Fridays for three hours. But no one will give me lessons because only Mr. Ho gives epee lessons. And Mr. Ho only trains the top competitors. Still, after asking a few times for lessons, he will now come up behind me while I am in a match and have been fencing for 2.5 hours and start shouting at me what I am doing wrong. He says stuff like, “No no, stop moving your arm and hit him.” or, “Don’t be so stupid.” or just, “No!” with a head shake. I am not sure how much this improves my epee but it has made me stop asking for lessons.
I am determined to practice at home and make my form good enough to take on Amanda (the top epeeist in the club and perhaps the country). On Monday she totally wiped the floor with me in the last bout of the night with Mr. Ho watching - 10-1. Oh well, defeat only makes me sadder.....Uh, I mean stronger!