August 19, 2004

A Toast for Zagunis

I love fencing. I fenced before (I bought my first gear in Singapore when I was a kid sailor), during and after college... but I can't claim any great skills here any more than an ocassional tennis player can fluff up over Wimbledon. But a tip of the hat is in order for this daughter of Olympians who trained for her Gold medal from the crib and came into Athens at the last minute to surge to the top.

Zagunis makes fencing history with sabre gold By Ted Brock,

ATHENS -- American fencer Mariel Zagunis defeated China's Tan Xue 15-9 for the gold medal in women's individual sabre Tuesday evening at the Helliniko Olympic Complex.

Zagunis will go down as the first gold medalist in the history of Olympic women's individual sabre, which made its debut in these Games.

Tuesday marked the first time the U.S. has won a medal in the 80-year history of Olympic women's fencing. Sada Jacobson's 15-7 bronze medal victory over Catalina Gheorghitoaia of Romania preceded Zagunis' gold and made the achievement that much sweeter...

This is posted probably because I found another article online along similar lines. Check this out, pugilism and philosophy:

Boxing and the Cool Halls of Academe

"Know thyself" was the Socratic dictum, but Tyler Durden, the protagonist in the movie Fight Club, asks, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?" Although trainers of the bruising art wince at the notion that boxing equals fighting, there can be no doubt that boxing throws you up against yourself in revealing ways. Take a left hook to the body or a trip to the canvas, and you soon find out whether you are the kind of person who will ever get up.

For a decade, I have been teaching both boxing and philosophy. My academic colleagues have sometimes reacted to my involvement with the sweet science with intellectual jabs and condescension. A few years ago at a philosophy conference, I mentioned that I had to leave early to go back to the campus to work with three of my boxers from the Virginia Military Institute who were competing in the National Collegiate Boxing Association championships. Shocked to learn that there was such a college tournament, one professor scolded, "How can someone committed to developing minds be involved in a sport in which students beat one another's brains out?" I explained that the competitors wore protective headgear and used heavily padded 16-ounce gloves in competition as well as in practice, but she was having none of it. "Headgear or not," she replied, "your brain is still getting rattled. Worse yet, you're teaching violence."

I countered that if violence is defined as purposefully hurting another person, then I had seen enough of that in the philosophical arena to last a lifetime.

There is a thread I'm pulling that leads me to thoughts of how the martial arts has qualities that are resonant with a part of the art world. For example, in foil fencing (which is all I know, I never cultivated sabres or epees because I felt I had to "dominate" the foil -my instructor's words- first) the target area is a quadrant arrayed over the chest area. The sword arm can only attack in one quadrant at a time, leaving the other three vulnerable to counterattack. An attack disables defense. Fencing is based on the legacy of dueling, where an attack into an attack is insane and therefore an attack requires a parry before one unleashes the riposte. These basic principles underlie all action on the piste. There is something of a limited series of interrelations, more of one diminishes the extent of the other. It's kind of like chess. It's kind of like painting.

Why part of the art world? Most of it has been swooning over the open set, the multimediated, the alternative media.... for a long time now.

Posted by Dennis at August 19, 2004 11:29 AM


I'm waitining to see what else. How are you my friend. I have noticed that everything is changing, is it for you? Hope you are well. I miss Tosa.

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