Monday, May 01, 2006

Fencing in Popular Culture

Fencing is definitely one of the most prolific sports available today. Here are some examples of fencing conquering language and film in popular culture.
  • Touché - Popularly used to acknowledge a strong argumentative point or defeat, is also used in fencing to acknowledge one is hit. Traditionally, it is the responsiblity of the defending fencer to announce if he has been hit - both in practice or if there is a dispute in competition. In my brief four years of fencing, rarely have I seen someone not acknowledge a fair touch against them.
  • Forte - This term (pronounced fort) is commonly used to describe ones strong suit or skill. In fencing, it is the thickest part of the blade, and the area of the blade used to parry an opponent.
  • Foible - A foible is the opposite of a forte in language, it is your shortcomings in your behavior or character. In fencing, the foible is the part of the blade between the point and the middle area - and it is this area you must hit with your forte to achieve a legal parry.
  • Darth Vader - Scenes of Darth Vader, the baddest and blackest man in the galaxy, slicing up mofos all over the place are burned into the minds of a generation. Few know however that a guy named Bob Anderson, swordmaster and British sabre champion, is the one under the black suit in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The bladework in Star Wars is actual sabre fencing, and has inspired thousands of people to actually give the sport a try. Anderson has also either doubled or consulted on films for Errol Flynn, The Three Musketeers, The Princess Bride, and Highlander. So even while actual fencers poo-poo these movies as fake - the actors were taught to fence by Anderson before the director even shouts "action!"
  • Bruce Lee - While many remember Bruce Lee's moves in Enter the Dragon and his teachings on the two-inch punch, not many know that Lee was an avid fencer and most of the footwork from his Jeet Kune Do style is taken directly from Western-style fencing (as distinguished from kendo). Additionally, Bruce's brother Peter was a high-level competitive fencer.
  • Sunshine - This poignant movie is a story partially based on the lives of two Jewish champion sabreurs, Attila Petschauer and Endre Kabos, who tragically died in the Holocaust. Not only do you see some great fencing, it is tells a brilliant anti-state tale.
  • Die Another Day - This James Bond movie not only prominently displays fencing (although no fencer ever says "let's do this the old-fashioned way"); you can even purchase the Leon Paul uniforms and equipment used in the film.
So there you have it, a quick guide to fencing's influence on contemporary culture. And I wrote this entire post without even mentioning Zorro! See you on the strip!

No comments: