This photo was taken soon after I resumed fencing. After competing as a high school and college fencer, I had been away from the sport for nearly three decades, and within a month after getting back, I wondered why I had ever left.
Here is a more recent image, from the time I began practicing as a left-handed fencer. It has been a difficult experiment, as I’ve had to convince my legs that yes, I really do want the left to take the lead, and the right simply must provide the power.
Yesterday, I had a little fun with my transition.
My club conducts two week-long summer camps for student fencers, and this past week I helped our coach run the show (one benefit of my recent career change is the ability to say yes to myself more often). I enjoyed working with the youths — people who believe the coming generation is a collection of smartphone-addicted zombies need to spend time in the places young people want to go — and found that explaining and demonstrating our drills made me appreciate the importance of proper technique.
The final day of camp consisted of an in-house tournament, an opportunity to test the skills worked on during the week. Due to lack of lames for saber, we decided to forgo electronic scoring equipment for that weapon. I was suddenly inspired, and couldn’t resist making a proposal — “Why don’t I fence saber as both a lefty and a righty, to see which is my better hand?”
(Momentary aside for any Inigo Montoya fans who might be reading this — no, fencing rules do not allow you to switch hands in the middle of a bout. If you’re injured during a tournament and the on-site medical staff certifies you cannot continue competing with the hand you’ve been using, it is possible you could continue with the other, although it’s hard to imagine that same staff agreeing to let an injured fencer compete.)
Perhaps sensing a wavering of my transition, our coach was completely against my proposition. But after seeing the overwhelming enthusiasm of our campers to the idea, she had little choice but to acquiesce.
Two entries were made on the tournament whiteboard, and I volunteered my names be entered as Ken R and and Ken L. (Perhaps, in keeping with the tradition of this blog, it should have been Keigh Ahr and Keigh El.) But another coach then suggested that Kenny — only members of my fencing club call me Kenny, and they will always call me Kenny — should compete as Renny and Lenny. The suggestion was too brilliantly adorkable to do otherwise than win the day.
The results were not surprising. Renny and Lenny were closely matched, both winning two bouts and losing two others. However, Lenny was able to score one more touch in his losing bouts than did Renny, and surrendered one less touch in the bouts he won, giving Lenny a +3 indicator that bested Renny’s +1. “It’s time for Renny to retire,” our coach proclaimed at the end of the tournament, and I’m fine with that, because I’m getting used to the idea of being a little sinister when I fence.