Biff America: Sport of gentlemen gains a convert
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” I did not mean to stab Louie in the throat.
I was attempting to stab him in the groin and he ducked.
He reacted like many would under a similar circumstance. He grabbed his neck and said, “ouch.”
Of course I apologized profusely; while fencing, only strikes to the heart, lungs and stomach count. But I did feel compelled to point out that if we were in a life or death duel, a stab in the throat goes a long way towards winning the day.
Louie, being a physician, agreed. But he also pointed out that the accidental slash he delivered across my ear would have gotten my attention had we not been wearing helmets.
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For years now Louie and I have been exchanging weapons for Christmas. He has given me “Gil Hibon Pro Throwing Hatchet” and a “Cold Steel, tanto-tip boot knife.” I have returned the favor with a set of three “Ken Onion doubled edged stainless steel throwing daggers with a human silhouette knife target and a 36-inch sighted blowgun with two dozen 3-inch steel-shafted hunting darts.”
I thought we had reached the end of that tradition. From bullwhips, blowguns, telescoping steel night sticks, a ball headed war club and a Damascus-steel tomahawk; between the two of us we had it all.
But then we watched fencing during the last summer Olympics. Fencing is often referred to as “The sport of gentlemen.”
After only a few minutes of spectating I proclaimed, “I think you and I would be really good at that.” Man was I wrong.
Two entry-level swords were surprisingly affordable. The mask and helmet were a little more pricy (about $20). With the current state of this economy Kevlar padded fencing shirts were out of the question so we have been wearing canvas work coats (from Edgewood Feed Mill) over heavy sweaters, which offers ample protection but also can cause you to pass out from overheating.
In real competitive fencing, the shirts are wired and charged so that when a metal sword hits the target zones it makes a connection, a buzzer sounds and judges and spectators know a point has been scored. Our fencing is based on the honor system; which works out very well for me. When either of us stabs the other in a legal spot we are supposed to yell “point.” I sometimes forget.
As I mentioned before, my stabbing of Louis in the neck was actually his fault (for which he has yet to apologize). As I was thrusting for his groin he “parried” (deflected) my stab up and into the neck protector. I think in real life fencing a deliberate stab to the neck or groin is considered a foul. But in back yard fencing it is considered playful.
I should point out: I would never stab my buddy with a real sword. The foils we use have little balls at the tip and produce nothing more than an occasional bruise. And also to be clear in the many times we have fenced both of us are so inept we seldom manage to strike each other let alone injure. Usually we jump around for a few minutes before we succumb to fatigue, laughter and overheating.
Often while we are flailing around with our swords, masks and work coats in the back yard I’ll repeat that assertion I made when we first saw Olympic fencing, “I think you and I would be really good at that.” Usually that brings a new spasm of laughter distracting my opponent to the point increasing his vulnerability to an illegal throat attack. Fencing is a gentleman’s sport but I guess I’m no gentleman.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bergeron’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbook.com.