Archive for the 'Fencing' Category


Japan and Fencing

No, this is not some post talking about the relationship between the East Asian nation and my sport of choice. It’s just a link to some photos from my recent trip to Japan, and a notice that there’s a relatively long stretch of Sabre fencing in a recent commercial for the GMC Denali. As I recall, they talk about grace and performance, which I suppose fencing and SUVs have in common, or something. In recent years it seems that there’s been more fencing in commercials, though I could just be ignorant of prior incidents. I can remember off the top of my head fencing in commercials for Target, Silk soy milk, some financial company, Food Network…and at least a couple of others. The Denali commercial features Sabre fencing, the flavor closest in appearance to stage fencing, with lots of slashes and dramatic cuts. Interestingly, the next-to-last shot shows the fencer on the right doing a sort of jumping lunge (perhaps with the help of a cable, I didn’t catch it with enough attention to see how realistic it looked) while the other fencer ducks and presents the tip of his (or her) blade: the final shot shows that tip contacting the right side of the lunging fencer’s upper torso. However, if I have my sabre rules correct (and I might not), if the lunging fencer manages a successful cut to the mask, then they should have priority, and thus the point.

Oh, you wanted something linguistic? Well, it seems that denali is the (west-central) Athabaskan name for Mt. McKinley, translating (according to most web sources) as `the high one.’ Don’t know anything about the morphology of the language, so at the moment I’m assuming it’s an adjective with person/number/etc morphology on it.

In French, they wait for the hand signal

This past Saturday I was fencing for the second time in several weeks, and our instructor decided that it might be nice for us to watch a women’s foil semifinal match from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The two fencers were Giovanna Trillini (who ended up with bronze) and Rita Koenig (silver). It was actually quite an interesting match to watch, particularly the constrast between a very athletic, agile Trillini and the more persistent Koenig. What was indeed surprising was the incredible small number of off-target hits. As any fencer knows, if you’re consistently getting off-target hits, your technique could use a once-over. So these people are obviously quite skilled.

But to get to the point, all international fencing competitions are judged in French. That is, the director, who instructs the fencers to go “en garde,” start and stop fencing, and who calls out the action and assigns points, speaks in French only when officiating. Now, in English, it’s customary when instructing the competitors to fence to first say “en garde,” i.e., go to the en garde position, then ask “ready?” (to which you may or may not get a verbal response), and then yell, “Fence!” which starts the action. Along with each of these commands/requests are gestures. First the hands are held to either side of the body (slightly in front), palms down. Then, for “ready?” the palms are turned inward and slighly up. Then the hands are brought together (soundlessly), iconic of two fencers approaching each other.

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