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Flash of the Blade

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I took a two-credit foil fencing class during my first semester of college. At least half of us, I imagine, were there because we’d listened to too much Iron Maiden in high school. To my surprise, fencing was absolutely the most grueling sport I’ve ever attempted; for someone like myself whose reflexes are substandard, fencing involves a tremendous amount of wild arm-flailing, all of which is supposed to be accomplished from a devastatingly painful semi-crouched position. During the end-of-the-semester tournament, I lost a 45-minute match to a guy who — being even more uncoordinated and violent than I — managed to snap a foil in half against my chest. (Matches, I should mention, typically don’t last more than a few minutes, and blades don’t typically break during routine play. When we approached the instructor to explain that we’d destroyed one, her only response was to ask, “Well, how the fuck did that happen?”)

Anyhow, I earned B for the semester, as the written exam also turned out to be impossibly difficult.

All of this is mere preface to this bit of insanity from Australia:

Bye-bye bingo, so long sewing. The old folk at this seniors’ home have found a new activity to sharpen their wits and tone their bodies – fencing.

The group at Melbourne’s Catholic Homes Corpus Christi, most of them retired priests and nuns, have spent the past nine months studying swordplay and are learning to leave their walking sticks behind and lunge like Zorro. . . .

About 16 residents older than 80, including 93-year-old Sister Delores Kirby, now take part in the Monday sessions.

Kirby, a retired nun from the Faithful Companions of Jesus order, said: “It’s very unusual at our age – it’s a challenge. I’m always a bit afraid I might fall over.”

I’ll bet she does.

(Via.)

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