Monday, December 14, 2009

The rendezvous was at the famous Milan race track of San Siro. We were to fight in the paddock. Arriving there shortly after dawn with my seconds, I remembered that only a few weeks before the place had cost me money. This time something else was involved.

The first thing you forget "on the ground" is your fencing superiority. Your sensibilities increase tremendously. As soon as you are stripped to the waist, the chilly morning makes you think: "Even if I come out of this in good shape, it wouldn't be a bit funny to die of pneumonia."

A few yards away, you notice that your adversary talks leisurely with his seconds.
Aldo Nadi, On Fencing, here recounting his (only) duel, in 1923. A worthwhile read, particularly for his willingness to both support tradition: "It would be utterly ridiculous for anyone to ignore or change traditions which are centuries old" and to break with it: "If you hear tell of eight foil parry positions, from prime to octave, just say it isn't so. Do not lose your time: the overwhelming majority of the world's fencers, including the best, have never used more than six."

UPDATE: I should mention that while reading On Fencing, I came across mention of a fencing treatise by Descartes, and immediately thought, "Why haven't I read this?!" Oh--it's lost. Even with my suspicion that it wasn't very good (Descartes soldiering never struck me as wholehearted): melancholia.

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