Ink & Bourbon
Tilting at windmills. Because those windmills think they're better than us.

Fencing, Fighting and Fucking Around

by Patrick LeClerc

I know that Fencing is a sport. It's not a swordfight. I know this.

I know about fighting and violence. I was trained by professionals to actually use steel, elbows, feet, knees and teeth to actually hurt my fellow man and keep him from doing the same to me. I also know a bit about history, having majored in it and read a good deal on my own outside of school. I also learned about battles understanding the mentality of the combatants, who were, despite years or centuries of distance, much like me at one time. Hormonal, testosterone addled young men, full of the heady cocktail of fear and adrenaline and ready to follow orders and risk their lives, to a point. I know quite a bit about bodily harm, having worked on an ambulance long enough to see the effect of stabs, slashes, bludgeoning and gunshot wound to the human body.

I think I know what is fight and what isn't, and what is "historical" or "accurate" and what isn't.

Now when I went back to fence with a group of mixed old "sport fencers" and SCA members, I was excited to learn some new stuff, and play around with new techniques. I even learned the term "Sport Fencing" which is apparently what I did for years without realizing it, obtaining a national rating in the process. I readily accepted that what I did on the strip wasn't fighting, and learned the rules for SCA rapier fencing so I could play with them as well.

It was fun, after a fashion. I thought all was well. Like them I was interested in history, fantasy, and hitting people with sticks for fun. I was overweight enough to get along. Maybe not heavy enough to be a noble, but certainly enough to blend in with the smaller end of the rank and file.

Then I started listening to them talk.

The "Heavy List" guys sneer at the rapier style, and rapier fencers sneer at us "sport fencers." I grew sick of hearing how we "didn't know how to melee." There's a good reason for that. Fencing is derived from rapier training, and the rapier is probably the worst possible weapon to carry into a battle. Fine for a duel, fine to protect yourself and your honor on the streets of Florence, but of no use at all when surrounded at close quarters by angry Highlanders, Mongols, Samurai, Normans or what have you. The rapier is a bad melee weapon the same way a Browning Automatic Rifle is a bad melee weapon. It was designed for a totally different purpose. Give me a bayoneted M14 and turn me loose in their midst and we'll see who doesn't know melee.

I started out by politely saying this, then by pummeling rapier fencers at rapier style. This is not difficult, because I fought bouts against fit, trained, college aged athletes, (including a few Olympians) to get my rating, so a bunch of overweight, long haired Trekkies weren't much challenge, even if they use a slightly different style, and claim that "right of way" is tough to understand.

Newsflash. It's not hard. Pretend the other guy's sword is sharp. Don't lunge onto an extended blade.

Right of way is just a training aid to reward good habits (parrying) and punish bad ones (countering into the attack so you both get hit). Foil fencing was to train you to survive a rapier duel. Not trade lives or wounds, but survive. Defense is where "fence" comes from.

I even tried not to roll my eyes at their preference for homemade fencing gear, to make rapier "safer."

Guys, fencing gear is safe. It's regulated by a huge international governing body, and subjected to actual scientific tests. It's designed so that a broken blade in the hands of a nineteen year old Hungarian who has trained his whole life for the Gold, lunging at you with the adrenaline that only having your entire nation watching can produce, will not kill you.

None of us who fence rapier between reciting passages from Monty Python and the Holy Grail while demolishing stacks of Oreos will ever achieve a lunge half that dangerous.

So. I tried to get along. Really, I did. I even coughed up an extra five bucks at the restaurant when a "Marshall" tried to stiff the waitress on the tip. Chivalry that apparently doesn't extend to pretty young women who bring you beer is chivalry I can do without.

But now, all liquored up in the wee hours and filled with indignation after reading the rules for "Heavy List" I have to vent.

I'll forgo the obvious joke about how the "heavy list" is the names of those fat enough to be allowed to compete, and plunge on to the meat of my gripe. What they do is not fighting either. Nor is it accurate. Any more than fencing, or boxing or chess or the WWE is. That's fine, war is war and play is play, and I'm cool with that. I would be happy to dress up and play with toy swords regardless of the rules and just have fun. If they were cool with that, all would be well, but they seem to feel that what they do is more "authentic" or something.

Well, it's slow. And you don't get to hit anybody below the thigh, for fear of knee injuries, again, fine for playing, but a pair of fat guys who wouldn't last three seconds against somebody who cut at their legs, making them dance back and pick up their feet to avoid having them cut off can last a long time lumbering about with a board in front of them and a hunk of rattan on the other shoulder, aiming every shot at one another's middle three chins. And you can claim a shot was "too brutal" and not count it.

Fine. It has rules to keep you safe. Like a sport. That's great.

But that probably isn't how the Black Prince did it.

So I will begin calling what they do "sport fighting"

I expect to be challenged, but so long as I don't dress like a Ding Dong, I feel safe.

Books by Patrick LeClerc

Immortal Vagabond Healer Series

Book 1

Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc

Sean Danet is immortal—a fact he has cloaked for centuries, behind enemy lines and now a paramedic’s uniform. Having forgotten most of his distant past, he has finally found peace. But there are some things you cannot escape, however much distance you put behind you.

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Book 2

Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc

Immortal Sean Danet can heal others with a touch. Finally, after too long as a rootless vagabond, he has found a place he feels he belongs, with friends he can trust and the love of an intelligent, beautiful woman. The life he dreamed of but never expected to attain.

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Short Historical Adventures

Advancing on Paris by Patrick LeClerc

One of the problems with being immortal is you get to live through all of history's most famous blunders. Like Napoleon's inspired idea for a land war in Asia. If you love historical military fiction, action and adventure, or just one of the sexiest urban fantasy heroes of all, Advancing on Paris is a must.

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More Great Fiction from Patrick LeClerc

in Every Clime and Place by Patric LeClerc

Semper Fidelis. The motto of the United States Marine Corps. On the ragged edges of civilization, Corporal Michael Collins has lived those words, taking on riots and evacuations, rebels and terrorists. Asteroid belt patrol is just another deployment. Ninety nine percent boredom, one percent terror.

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Broken Crossroads by Patrick LeClerc

The city of Laimrig, once a mighty hub of commerce and a seat of power sinks into corruption and decay. Slavers, crime lords and corrupt officials hold sway while the ruling nobility wallow in decadence. War rages beyond the borders, while within rebellion simmers and sinister plots unfold.

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