FENCING. The noblest branch of gymnastics. It is divided into fencing with the broad sword and small sword; the latter being the higher and more perfect, and highly useful in the physical education of the male sex, as it gives strength and flexibility to the limbs, quickness and accuracy to the eye, and coolness and self-possession to the mind. It is denned the art or science of making a proper use of the sword, either for attacking an enemy or defending one's self.
Fencing, whether it be considered as an art, an accomplishment, or merely an amusement, is not practised so much, at present, as it was about a century ago. It has been asserted that the ancients were far superior to the moderns in strength of body, and also surpassed them in feats of agility. We find, in the Third Series of " Tales of my Landlord" (the author of which has so correctly delineated the manners of the respective times of which he writes), that the master of Ravenswood and Bucklaw were secreted from pursuit in the castle of Ravenswood ; and that there, for their amusement, they fenced most part of the day.
The benefits derived from fencing are incalculable. The most celebrated physicians, though they have disputed on many points, agree that fencing is a preventive of consumptions, and other disorders arising from a contracted chest. Diseases of this kind are now very prevalent, in consequence of the sedentary habits of that great portion of our countrymen who are employed in the mechanical arts.
Our nobility and gentry are also very generally affected with those diseases. If they were to fence they would find, in a very short time, the happy results arising from the practice. Anotl'er motive, too, more powerful than the soundest argument, is the grace of person which would ensue from a constant use of the foil. What can be more imposing than a man in the attitude of O'Shaunessy ; his eye keeping pace with his hand, and all his muscular power braced up, as it were, and ready for the attack;
" Foot, and eye, and point opposed '."
The expansion of the breast, the erect posture of the head and neck, the motion of the muscles in the thighs and legs, give to a man, in any of these situations, the most animating and pleasing effect; and, by constant practice, that grace so necessary in the polite circles. Besides, it enables its votaries, by giving them strength of body, to endure almost any fatigue.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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