Arthur Tauber

Critical thinking and leadership development through the sport of fencing.

The Art Of Fencing
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The Art of Fencing
Fencing is a life and death struggle. Being challenged to a duel with swords as the weapon of choice makes one pause to consider the potential consequences. It is hard to imagine. And that is where the arts have helped us to appreciate the aspects of sword fighting that the sport of fencing has allowed us, thankfully in most respects, to avoid experiencing first hand. There is one aspect of not being subject to actual physical wounds in the modern sport of fencing that can be seen as regrettable. Because they can not get stabbed or run through, athletes who fence can tend to be more casual about being “touched” or “hit”; (read: scored upon”). Where striking out in baseball is just that; striking out, a “touch” in fencing should have much more dire consequences. But, today, it does not. When things that should matter do not matter, we may all tend to let our guard down a tad; to allow a learning moment to be lost; to take certain basics for granted.

To prove the point, consider a story from a completely different sport, one where perfection is virtually unattainable yet always being sought and where, if you can imagine it, there is no defense; golf. The tale is of two lifelong golfing “rivals” and how, for years, the one would always allow the other to pick up a short putt and count it as having been holed, which is popularly referred to as a “gimmie”; as in “Aren’t you gonna gimie this one?” And then, one day, when some big money was on the line and the guy who always said, “Yes” to the request for a “gimmie” but never asked for one himself, surprised his soon-to-be former buddy by saying, “No. Finish it out.” And, of course, since his friend had never been faced with actually completing what one might think to be a simple thing as putting in a “gimmie” putt, all the pressure of the reality of the moment, the bend of the grass, the roll of the green, the smallness of the cup at just 4-1/4” in diameter, the up or down slope to or away from the hole started weighing on his decision as to how hard to hit the ball, how to make it run; right or left; with authority or so it just drops over the lip of the cup at the end of its journey. And, sure as guns, the other dueling weapon option, he missed the putt.

So, too, when fencers let touch happen with little concern, they miss a far more important point than that on the end of their opponent’s weapon.

The arts, in particular stage, screen and television performances, have enabled us to appreciate the life and death nuances of sword fighting to where certain scenes get riveted and marked indelibly into our memories. To whatever extent a fencer can assimilate the importance of the moment-by-moment struggle to kill and not be killed; to hit but not get hit; to touch and not get touched, will be how seriously he will approach the game of fencing and elevate it to what it represents; a deep seated call to survive against any and all who would mean one harm. Everything counts. Everything matters. And everything means everything.

The following is a list of plays, movies and television shows that in some way incorporate sword fighting. If anyone has suggestions to help us perfect this list, please contact us.

Swashbuckler
Hamlet (1990)
The Princess Bride
Zorro~The Gay Blade
Young Sherlock Holmes
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Adventures of Robin Hood
The Legend of Zorro (2005)
Adventures of Don Juan (1948)
Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy
Duel of the Century aka Liu Xiao Feng zhi jue zhan qian hou (1981)
The Court Jester~Danny Kaye duels with Basil Rathbone, considered to be one of the finest at this craft
The Mark of Zorro (1974)~I recall this being very entertaining, and any Zorro movie tends to have lots of fight scenes.
By the Sword (1991) A mysterious man, Suba (F. Murray Abraham), gets himself a job at a fencing academy, and as he learns the way of the students, the school, and its maestro (Eric Roberts), they learn that there's more to him than meets the eye. He regains his fencing skills, but his philosophy of teaching clashes with the maestro's. As they are thrown into conflict, Suba and the maestro's pasts appear to be linked. And the resolution of their mysterious relationship may be a duel to the death.
Basil Rathbone is noted as one of the greatest fencers on and off the screen. The man who worked with Rathbone also taught the man who, in turn, taught Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Ray Park for the three-way battle in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"~or so it was said on a TV special I watched. I can't recall the names at this time.
Cyrano Dr Bergerac - French
(One of the most famous romances of all times comes to brilliant life in this dazzling film based on the world famous play by Edmond Rostand. Gerard Depardieu, France's most celebrated actor gives the performance of his life as Cyrano, the 17th Century poet, soldier and adventurer known to everyone in Paris - and everyone knows never to mention Cyrano's enormous nose - not unless they want to duel with the most famous swordsman in France. Great sword scenes. Anne Brochet stars as the the beautiful Roxane and Roland Bertin completes the love triangle as Christian. Jacques Weber and Vincent Perez also stars. D - Jean-Claude Petit.)
Dead End - Cantonese
(A Hongkong TVB telemovie tragic love story between a Chinese national woman fencer and an aerobic male dancer. The fencing scenes are like chinese swordfighting!)
Diane - English
(Roger Moore as King Henri of France and also in leotards throughout. A love triangle between the king, his Italian wife Catherine and his tutor Diane played by Lana Turner. The movie has one good fencing scene where Roger learns some fencing from Lana Turner. Story is based on the novel 'Diane de Poitiers' by John Erskine. It also stars Pedro Armendariz, Marisa Pavan and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. D - David Miller)
Die Another Day - English
(After 19 official assignments James Bond 007 finally reveal another great talent of his. He's also a master fencer. Some nice fighting scenes by Pierce Brosnan. Madonna's mtv of the title song has some pretty colourful fencing scenes. Other than that they should have kept her out of the movie. Rosamund Pike shows some pretty moves too with a sword.)
Don Juan - English
(A love story with some pretty good fencing scenes. Stars Talisa Soto. D - Jeremy Leven.)
Engarde - English
(A silly spy story with adults fencing like kids. Watch only when you have absolutely nothing else to watch. By the way this is an adult XXX movie so not for kiddies!)
Hearts of Fencing - Cantonese
(A Hongkong TVB mini-series revolving around four high school students who took up fencing. Lots of fencing scenes especially in team fencing competition, philosophy of mental fencing, pretty girlfriends and cameo appearances by many famous Hongkong stars. There are 11 episodes in total.)
Homecoming II - Cantonese
(A Malaysian TV series. One of the episode has a classic confrontation between two men fighting for, as usual a lady. One is a classic Tai Chi Sword practitioner and the other a sabre fencer.)
Hongkong Sports Institute Special - Cantonese
(A Hongkong TVB one tape special with celebrities pitting against the sportspeople in various sports including fencing. Also highlights the Hongkong national fencers in training.)
Morgan the Pirate - English
(Another pirate yarn starring Steve Reeves. He's no fencer. Should stay as Hercules. Valerie Lagrange stars as Steve's love interest. Set in 17th century where Spain and England were at war. Steeve plays an englishman forced to be a pirate and caught in between his loyalty to England and his love interest whose father is a Spaniard mayor. D - Andre De Toth.)
Olympic Buff Championship 1996 - Cantonese
(A Hongkong TVB telematches show in conjunction with the Atlanta Olympics. Fencing is also featured represented by petite Ms.Ho Kar Lai, epee silver medallist at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships '94.)
Pentathlon - English
(A good political story with some fencing stuff but Dolph Lundgren is not suitable for the role as a pentathlon athelete who defects from East Germany to USA. He looks more like a weight-lifter, boxer or wrestler. Other stars includes David Soul, Roger E.Mosley and Renee Coleman. D - Bruce Malmuth.)
Queen Margot - French
(Winner of 5 Cesar Awards and the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, this story is based on the little known novel by Alexandre Dumas. A classic tale of intrigue, forbidden love and some savage sword fighting scenes. It stars Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Vincent Perez and Virna Lisi. D - Patrice Chereau.)
Ring of Steel - English
(A simple story where swordsmen fights to the death in an arena as a betting sport. Lots of great fencing scenes. Stars Robert Chapin, Joe Don Baker, Carol Alt, Darlene Vogel and Gary Kasper. D - David Frost.)
Ring of the Musketeers - English
(Despite having the infamous word 'musketeers' in the title, there is only one fencing scene at the start of the movie. Blazing guns took over the rest of the movie. D - John Paragon.)
Rob Roy - English
(Great historical Scottish story and great fencing scenes. Starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz and Andrew Keir. D - Michael Caton-Jones.)
Rushmore - English
(Chronicles a year in the life of Max Fischer, a student at Rushmore Academy. An ambitious student, Fisher excels at school activities, including fencing, and falls in love with his teacher - only to find his older and richer friend also in love with her. A bit of some fencing training scene. Starring Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble and Bill Murray. D - Wes Anderson.)
Scaramouche - English
(A great classic sword fighting movie with Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer delivering some great fencing stuff. But the story is a bit choppy. Other stars are Eleanor Parker, Janet leigh, Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, Richard Anderson, Robert Coote, Lewis Stone and Elizabeth Risdon. The film is based on Rafael Sabatini's swashbuckling classic. D - George Sidney.)
Spirit of the Dragon - Cantonese
(A Hongkong ATV series about the life of Bruce Lee. Bruce's elder brother, Peter Lee, used to be a national fencer thus it includes scenes of him fencing. Bruce Lee was known to have incorporated fencing moves into his own Jeet Kune Do.)
Sorrowful Heart - Japanese
(A modern Japanese love triangle story with a fencing theme. Two very good high school friends who are talented fencers falls in love with the same girl. One became crippled in an accident partly due to the fault of the other. Feeling remorse he gave up fencing and tried to push the girl to his crippled friend. Trouble is the girl likes him more so noone ends up with her. After knowing what has happened the crippled friend took up wheelchair fencing and reunites the girl with her true love. Lots of fencing action scenes with authentic movements.)
The Art of Being Together - Cantonese
(A Hongkong TVB love comedy series with two scenes on fencing.)

The Count of Monte Cristo - English
(Some good fencing scenes with Richard Chamberlain and Tony Curtis from the famous novel by Alexander Dumas. Also stars Trevor Howard, Louise Jourdan, Donald Pleasence and Kate Nelligan. D - David Greene.)
The Duellist - English
(Some good sword fighting scenes as two egoistic men kept duelling each other for years. The settings and costumes are quite authentic. Stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel from the novel by Joseph Conrad basing on a true story. Also stars Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Cristina Raines, Tom Conti and Diana Quick. D - Ridley Scott.)
The Mark of Zorro - English
(Very solid performance by Tyrone Power as Zorro. Based on the original story 'The Curse of Capistrano' by Johnston McCulley, this 1940 Zorro movie was nominated for an oscar for best music. It has some of the best classical fencing scenes on screen. Also stars Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone and Gale Sondergaard. D - Rouben Mamoulian.)
The Mask of Zorro - English
(Fast and furious moving pace with lots of sword fights. Starring Antonio Banderas as the new Zorro and Anthony Hopkins as the old one. Also stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stuart Wilson. D - Martin Campbell.)
The Legend of Zorro - English
(Sequel to 'The Mask Of Zorro', the main characters return for another round of sword fights but not as intense as the first one. This time Zorro and wife is joined by their son Joaquin. Starring Antonio Banderas as Zorro again with Catherine Zeta-Jones as his wife Elena and 10 year old Adrian Alonso as Joaquin. D - Martin Campbell.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Dr. Arthur Tauber, center, wearing his special protective sleeve and padded vest, weighs in during a practice bout in the old gym in the basement of the main building of Yeshiva University to clarify a defensive technique and to help an emerging "Tauberman" make the most of the learning moment .
If anyone is able to identify the fencers in the above photograph, please contact us.
Sabre is theatre.
Foil is art.
Epee is truth.
-attributed to Al Peters