Yesterday, I got schooled by an expert sabreuse. I’m still blinking.
I’ve always loved the notion of fencing, but when I was fit I never had the opportunity to learn and since I’ve had the opportunity I’ve also had MS. So, eh, it’s one of those things I’d consigned to the Not in This Lifetime category. But I do occasionally opine online about my affinity for sword-and-pony fiction, and how one day I seriously wouldn’t mind being Sir Nicola.
And it turns out that one of our new friends, Angélique, is, as I say, an expert–she learnt sabre as a child, with a real sabre–actually a collection of them. She pointed out that sabre is a rider’s weapon. That is, it’s designed to be used from a seated position. So I could learn to use a sabre without relying on my legs.
I beamed. Angélique, bless her, lugged a huge collection of gear cross-country, to teach me safely.
First, there’s the chest protector. Then the plastron. Then the thick, padded jacket. (Both the latter made of ballistic material designed to prevent serious injury and, y’know, death.) Then the glove. (We didn’t bother with breeches or shoes.)
By this time, I’m feeling like Zorro:
Angélique, being smart, wanted me to imagine some stuff before actually giving me a pointy thing. So now she’s explaining how one holds the sabre: pinching the hilt between thumb and index finger. (Yep, it’s sunny. Yep, it’s beginning to get warm in all that gear. Yep, that’s a bit of tape from the plastron dangling down from underneath my jacket.)
Then it was time to get really geared up: the mask. Those things are heavy. And hot. And you’re supposed to put them on using only one hand (because you have a sabre in the other). And that’s very heavy mesh. It really limits visibility. And it feels shockingly claustrophobic. But, wow, who cares–because now I get to hold the shiny sabre!
So, En garde! and Allez!
And within ten seconds I’m dead, oof:
Touché. Plus, I’ve also cluelessly pranged my opponent in an illegal target zone, the leg. (Sorry, Angélique!)
We did this for about an hour and a half. It was enormous fun. I’m hoping to do it again. This time I’ll figure out this right of way thing. And remember to riposte instantly.
My biggest problem was that I treated fencing like chi sao. In chi sao, you maintain constant contact, always feeling the intent of your opponent, feeling shifts in their centre of gravity, through their skin. I tried to do the same with the blade–but that’s absolutely the wrong way to approach sabre. When fencing it’s all about the disengage, the fake tell/feint, and then you can’t just swing and stab you have to take turns to attack, parry, riposte. It’s like chess or maybe poker (no pun intended) with swords. I couldn’t get the hang of the rhythm. But, oh, next time…
19 thoughts on “In which I learn sabre”
Very cool! Love the photos. I have sabre envy.
Now I just have to learn how to sabre a champagne bottle…
You're right, that gear & mask is hot. Oh wait. That isn't what you meant at all!
Cool! Actually I agree with Mordicai – Hot!!
Interesting that Angélique is in black and you are in white.
Now all you need is a faithful steed living in the secret garden.
Cool, hot, eh, who can tell?
As for the black/white thing, yep, it was a bit like being in an Errol Flynn/Basil Rathbone film. All that was missing were the muschacios…
Though never athletic, I decided to try out for my high school fencing team. It was a moment of dweeb triumph: the second I picked up the sabre, the coach walked over to my side, smiling hugely. Lefties, you see, have an advantage in fencing, even against other lefties, because everyone is trained to expect attacks from the other side. I was used to being the proverbial last person picked for the team, and now a coach wanted me? Incredible.
Unfortunately, the team practices conflicted with band. While band was kinda sucky, many of my friends belonged, and I was one of only two flutists who could play decently; if I left, Rhonda would be all alone with that mike. Couldn't do that to her. Besides, I'd spent the past year relearning the basics thanks to a mouth full of braces, and was finally rediscovering my tone. Couldn't see wasting all that spit-filled effort.
I wish I'd chosen fencing instead. To have the advantage of handedness after a lifetime of wincing as a tool dug into the skin under my thumb, of trying and failing to visualize directions in the reverse, of stumbling when forced to use my right hand for fine-motor skills.
Aah, now I'm feeling jealous. Hope you continue to have a wonderful time.
Fabulous! And love the pics! I researched fencing while writing my “lesbian vampire script,” and own a couple swords, but never got the opportunity to actually have any lessons. Looks like you had a great time!
Jill, you know it's never too late, right? (I mean, left…)
Dianne, I did.
Woo hoo. Now that is living!
Yep. Take life, shake it, drain it to the last drop.
Right-o. There are just so many delights…
Oh swoon! Swoon swoon swoon swoon! That is all I can say… just… Yeah. WOW. Very cool. You are a dream in that gear.
Nicola, your remark on Chi Sao reminded me of a question I have. Could you do Chi Sao seated?
Realmcovet, Kelley thinks I'm very dashing. Dashing is such a lovely word…
nicolas, by you do you mean me in particular or one in general? Either way, I don't see why not. Though you'd need core muscles of steel and mine are, hmmn, more pot metal right now. I imagine it would take a bit of fussing to get the chair distance right. But, sure–you should give it a go.
I'm joining the chorus of swooners here! And how awesome that your friend found a way for you to experience a dream!
Jill, yes. She went to a lot of trouble. It was a great gift.
Ingrid Bergman. As Joan of Arc. It took a couple of days to figure out what looked so familiar about you in that gear, then it dawned on me. It's the jawline and lower lip, especially. Eh, the image I liked best has a huge url. Google it and see for yourself.
Ingrid Bergman? That's a first for me…
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