I am glad to see that a long-standing US friend of mine, Russell E. Whitaker, is back posting to his blog, which has had a bit of a haitus due to the man’s shift from California to New York and his being incredibly busy with work. Russell writes a lot and has a lot of knowledge of martial arts. Thanks to him, I started to go to Bujinkan classes in London’s Hammersmith. It is great fun and an extremely useful set of skills about self-defence, although physically tough as well to learn. Unfortunately, due to work reasons – I had to work late in the evenings last year – I was not able to attend as much as I liked last year but that has changed and I intend to resume. In the meantime, I have started to fence. Fencing, I find, is even more physically demanding than Bujinkan (yes, really). Initially, I am learning to use the foil, a very light sword where you score if you hit the opponent on certain parts of the body. Depending on which type of sword one uses, you score differently by hitting certain body parts. Of course fencers wear lots of protection these days so there is little chance of getting injured although you cannot afford to be reckless. I find it incredibly good for eye-hand co-ordination. I have also learned that one needs to do lots of stretching exercises since fencing requires people to be flexlible. My knee joints felt pretty sore the following morning after a class. It is a good incentive to get really fit.
Our lead instructor is a Frenchman – French seems to be the language of fencing – and another instructor is a Hungarian. More than half of the class are women, who are often much better than the men.
On the subject of fencing, we all have our favourite films. There are some great sword fighting scenes in Cyrano de Bergerac, Le Bossu, and in the excellent Ridley Scott film, The Duellists (starring Harvey Keitel).
For those interested in fencing as a sport, here’s a book worth looking at. But in the end, if you want to have a go, you have to go to a class. One word of warning: the kit can be expensive, so it is best to go to a few classes, use the class stuff to see if you like it first.