A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Friday, November 25, 2005

Curses! Foiled again!

Young Avengers #9

I have really been enjoying Young Avengers despite the downright silly archery portrayals; the character work is interesting, realistic and multi-layered, and on the whole the book is a great approach to the concept of a team of teen sidekicks for the Avengers, sort of a Marvel version of the Teen Titans. Great book, and one I highly recommend.

Just please don't follow any of their advice as involves what we call "martial sports," which is to say, sports derived from combat skills. In this instance, it's fencing, not archery.

Here's the page in question:
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The dialogue probably isn't visible at this size, so here's a transcript:

KATE: (reading paper) "Young Avengers no more"?
TEACHER: (offstage) Put the paper down and turn around. Slowly.

TEACHER: (offstage) When you're distracted, you leave yourself open to attack.

TEACHER: And lately you're distracted all the time, Ms. Bishop. I'm concerned.

KATE: And you're showing your concern...

KATE: ...by trying to embarrass me in front of the other students?

KATE: Good thing I don't embarrass easily.

Okay, so now we're all on the same page. What's wrong with this scene?

First off, where are the fencing masks? No competent instructor would ever allow students to bout without masks, let alone engaging in such dangerous behavior himself.

Far more serious, however, is the entire portrayal of fencing in this scene. Fencing is a "martial sport" as I said earlier, but it is not in the same category as other martial arts; it is taught as a sport, not as a form of self-defense or combat. There are a lot of rules involved in fencing, and failure to follow them results in penalties and possible disqualification in a tournament setting. The instructor in this scene appears to be teaching swordsmanship as self-defense, which would appear to be a fairly useless skill unless one is planning to hang a rapier from one's hip while strolling down Eighth Avenue. I rather supsect New York's Finest would take a dim view of such shenanigans. With that in mind, why is our fencing master here prattling on about defense against attacks?

In fencing, one knows when one is about to be attacked; it is usually preceded by the combatants saluting one another on the strip. Beginning an attack without the requisite salute is a violation; it shows disrespect for the opponent, the judges and the sport.

Once a bout has begun, knocking one's opponent to the ground is also a violation. In fact, if a fencer disarms an opponent, the bout is stopped and the fencer usually picks up the opponent's weapon and returns it to him/her. Pressing the advantage and continuing the attack is, again, a rule violation.

The goal of fencing is to touch one's opponent with the tip of the foil (I assume these are meant to be foils based on the bell guards and body language; the weapons themselves are wildly inaccurate here). Pointing the foil at the opponent's throat is nice as dramatic gestures go, but it doesn't really accomplish anything, what with the rubber tip on the end and all.

So what we have here is a dangerously incompetent instructor given to dramatic posturing, and a dangerously irresponsible student disregarding all the rules of the sport in an instructional setting. I wonder which of the other students will report them both to the Headmaster.

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