Tonight I went to a beginner fencing class! I always thought fencing looked awesome so when I saw a Groupon for a studio somewhat near me (Brooklyn stereotypes save time!) I jumped on it.
Before we even picked up the foils (type of swords) we practiced the stances of advancing and retreating as well as lunging to score points on your opponent (by touching her or him with your foil). Then we practiced with the foils and padded patches on the walls. Finally, we put on gear and practiced sparring, although at ridiculously slow speeds compared to what you’re probably imagining (actors in Shakespeare, Olympic athletes… not quite).
I loved how much of the sport is focused on form and having the ‘right’ positioning — in that sense it’s closer to yoga than, say, football. Posture and balance are critical to help you make your points because then you’re free to deflect your opponents’ advances. We learned how to salute our opponents before and after bouts and shake with our left hands to keep our sword hands free. Having access to real fencing gear made it feel extra serious. In my white jacket with the crotch strap, chest plate (imagine having a Barbie chest strapped over yours) and helmet I felt like an astronaut and it was really hard to manage all that and focus on my opponent advancing.
We didn’t do a lot of cardiovascular work but it was a nice rest-day still-jet-lagged-from-weekend activity. And yes, you do feel it when other people ‘hit’ you with the foils, but it doesn’t hurt.