The Art of the “En Garde”

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I walked into the MHS gym expecting something of a modern day sword-fight, but left with a new appreciation for the art of the en garde. Expectations are often much different than what reality presents.

In the Millburn Boy’s fencing match against MKA on Thursday, January 8, the Miller star Zohaib Mannan defeated his opponent in a shut out, gaining all 5 points without giving room to the MKA fencer. Needless to say, Mannan is nationally ranked at number 27 for the Men’s Foil, Cadet age group. Mannan cleverly compares fencing to “physical chess”, saying how “Everyone has their own technique” making fencing not only a physical game, but a mentally and intellectually demanding one as well.

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However Mannan was only one of the many Millburn standouts. Before walking into my first ever fencing event, I expected all of the fencers to look the same. Each in the same uniform, with the same stance, same tactics, same positioning, and all doing the same thing. I was pleasantly surprised… fencing reality > fencing expectations.

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Each fencer was individualized. Although they may have looked the same from the bench, (because yes, they had the same uniforms) once they took to the floor, it was their show. Each competitor danced up and down the red-carpet of a mat, minding not to overstep their boundaries (both literally and figuratively.) The players would dodge a jab from their opponent, their toes on the mat but their body leaning over it, a balancing act in itself. But also, they knew their limits, and it was apparent in the delicacy of their movements. The fencers could sense the right moments; when to jab, when to dodge, when to be aggressive, when to be defensive. It looked almost choreographed; they maneuvered with such ease and fluidity.

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For those of you who have never attended a fencing match before, it is much different from the ordinary high school game. When you enter the gym before the basketball game the first thing your senses picks up is the noise. Basketballs are bouncing, echoing from wall to wall, there are endless amounts of people in the bleachers each cheering, laughing, talking, or, for some, side-line coaching. However, walking into the fencing match, that ambient noise you expect is simply not there. Instead, you see a much smaller crowd sitting on the much smaller set of bleachers. Of course there are people talking to their surrounding neighbors, but in a way much more sophisticated, no better word to describe the event in itself.

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The people speak words of encouragement, and when the opponent wins everyone claps. Not once did I hear a negative comment or boo from either end of the gym, but only sounds of motivation.

 

Written and Photographed by Julia Newman

Julia Newman
Filmmaker • Writer • Musician • Adventurer • Class of 2017