It was a chance-meeting. I was sitting at a café with a bag with swords and gear, reading a book on fencing when an elderly gentleman sat down by the table next to me. I had to ask his forgiveness for encroaching on his space, since my bag was somewhat big. He smiled and said it was no problem and asked if I had golfing gear in it. I said no, fencing gear and his eyes lit up.
“Oh, I used to fence sabre!”
I showed him what I had in the bag, a dussack, a longsword, a sidesword and a dagger. He was hooked and we went through the usual questions of weight and if we really trained in earnest with those weapons. I asked him how he got into fencing and he said he started in the military and competed for a while. He had some weapons still, somewhere, plus a small collection of antiques. I was intrigued of course and asked what it was. A Karoliner rapier he said, some military sabres and a police sabre. Mostly he had collected art and pistols.
His wife had passed away 20 years ago. I guess he went to the café just to get out of his flat. Now, I didn’t want to pry too much into his private life, but from what I could gather he was a bit lonely. He said: “If I was younger we could fence!”
What struck me with this conversation was what a great source of pride and identity the sword is and how it can bring people together across generations. This gentleman was too old to practice the art, but I wish I had asked him to just come to the salle to watch and drink coffee and talk. What would he have thought of our historical fencing and the camaraderie?
A lot of athletic activities are naturally focused on young people. At some point in time we decide we are too old to continue. What great knowledge is lost when that happens? What memory of how things used to be is missed for the fencing community? If I were to have a vision for the future, it would be a fencing community where we can travel through our entire lives. Where there’s made room for the young, and where the old are kept in high regard for their knowledge and contributions.
On July 17, 2018, The Historical Fencer was launched. Since then we’ve published about 30 articles, images and videos and they will keep coming! I hope that over the years, we will be able to attract a readership across generations, and that we will see more senior people share their stories and take an interest in the fencing arts again, even if they are too old to actively train. Are you involved in any outreach programs to the elderly? Do you have any similar stories? Are you a former practitioner yourself? Please get in touch and share your story!
Fence well and carry yourself with pride,