Like most martial arts, fencing is a mano a mano contest — the sport does have team events, but they are composed of a series of individual bouts. Group competitions are rare, but every few months at the club, we have a good game of Castle.

It’s kind of like dodge ball, with weapons. Two teams gather at opposite ends of the floor, each behind a line designating their castle boundary. Fencers can stay inside the safety of their castle, or go outside to battle their foe, but can’t cross the other team’s boundary. Foil target area is in effect, with a catch — if your arm or leg is struck, that off-target blow renders that limb useless. If your weapon arm’s hit, you fence with the other arm; if a leg is hit, you can’t move it. An on-target hit, or losing both arms or both legs, knocks you out. It’s a game of timing, awareness, and teamwork; too much aggression can leave you open to a blindside attack, while an overly cautious approach can imperil your teammates and leave you the sole survivor against three opponents.

The holidays, when schools are on break and workplaces have all but shut down, are a good time to break from the routine of drills and practice at the fencing club. This past Monday we played a half-dozen or so games of Castle, and I felt like a kid in recess. Highlight of the evening for me came when I was left with one teammate, with two remaining on the other side. My teammate traded parries with one of our foes, as I eased into position on her flank. As the other opponent closed in, I reacted instinctively, striking the first and then pivoting to parry the attack of the second, and landing the riposte to end the battle. Bada-bing, baby!

A lot of men my age take up golf to challenge themselves. I choose to get my kicks by stabbing people. I’d be worried, if I weren’t having such a good time.


A Thought on the Way to the Cineplex

As I prepare to see the latest Star Wars film with my family, I’m wondering how much longer this phenomenon from my childhood can sustain its popularity. After one more film in a couple years, to complete the third trilogy — more spinoff movies? A fourth trilogy? Or will the appeal of this space opera (please don’t call it science fiction) finally expire?

Writing on Cinematic Slant, Chris Thilk doesn’t see an end to the series of sequels and reboots coming out of Hollywood, and laments the lack of attention to fresher stories. So long as the upteenth episodes of these old standbys continue to generate profits, I don’t see the major studios changing their strategy. At some point the well will run dry, but until tat happens it’s best to enjoy what we have.

Which I am fully intent on doing.

Learning to Climb

As I contemplate plan for a major career change for 2018, I’m finding both inspiration and admonition in personal stories of those who have climbed the hill that’s in my sights. Michael Ruiz made some mistakes early in his freelancing career, but used his experiences to create a personal definition of success. I may not ascend Hurricane Ridge next year, but I think I’ll enjoy the view when I reach my destination.