Here is an excerpt from my fencing Out There column. Check out the entire thing at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com.
Mom raised me right. In our house, we were taught the universal rules of sharp objects: Don’t run with scissors, don’t angle the point of a steak knife up when shuttling it to the dinner table and don’t hit people with sticks. We did not want to poke somebody’s eye out.
Over years of reinforcement, these rules embedded themselves in my psyche. I obeyed them without question…
Until I tried fencing.
Halfway through my first lesson with instructor Robin Phillips, in one corner of the downtrodden gym inside Garfield Park Christian Church, he asked me to take the long, thin, triangular blade of my sword and whack him on the head.
He was wearing a protective fencing mask, of course, but it didn’t make much difference. He could have been wearing a full coat of armor. My arm wouldn’t budge.
He took a step forward and bowed his head a bit, beckoning me to attack. Nope. Nothing.
Another step. Another bow. Another reassurance that it wouldn’t hurt me or him.
I finally convinced my arm to extend, landing a blow to Phillips’ head. I wielded it so forcefully that had I hit a flower, it might not have even shed a petal.
I about soiled my “whites,” as the fencing jumpsuit is called. Phillips, a gentle and jovial man, had countered with a hit of his own atop my mask, this one with force of a lumberjack hacking off a tree limb. The blow rattled my nerves as much as my mask, which with its meshed face and lack of peripheral vision, already had me feeling like a claustrophobic beekeeper about to get stung.