A Brief History of Fencing Gloves

A Brief History of Fencing Gloves

Post by Dick Ki » Sat, 05 Dec 1992 06:12:50

Some of you have seen this before.  

Too bad (##)) .

I wrote this a few months after taking up the sport.



  [or...   Why Duelists Slap Each Other In The Face With Gauntlets]

In the beginning, swordfighting duelists fought without ever touching a
glove.  The loser died with a big blister on his index finger, and the
winner lived with a big blister on his index finger; this made for ugly
corpses and set a fundamental limit as to how many people a duelist could
kill per month [the accepted number was six]*.

So they started going down to the hardware store and buying an ordinary pair
of leather work gloves.  This cut down on the blistering -- some of the
better duelists could then kill as many as a dozen people per month -- but
then, as now, few were truly ambidextrous, and the glove was rather
pointless on the left [or, less commonly, the right] hand.

For a while, they threw them out.  When you wanted to challange someone you
shouted "You're about as useful as a left-hand glove**.  I challange you to a
duel to the DEATH at dawn tomorrow!".  But fathers, having just bought their
sons a $300 dueling foil when they came of age, were loathe to also go out and
buy them a pair of gloves and, on top of that, to throw away half their
investment***.  So they grumpily told them "find some use for this".  These
sons did; they abbreviated a shout of "You're about as useful as a left-hand
glove." to a slap with a left-hand glove****.

Well, the eons passed.  Now there's a store in San Francisco that'll sell a
single glove, made for swordfighting.  So I don't feel I'm wasting anything
to not slap the other guy in the face with the non-existant other glove when
I want to arrange some fencing*****.

But that's 'cause I'm a wimp.  Everyone knows that San Francisco is mostly
full of fruits, and real men would certainly never shop there, especially in
a store that also sells tights.  Real men make their own weapons with
blacksmith's tools, they shun *** tips******, and they certainly don't
need masks and jackets.  So they use gloves from the hardware store,
shunning shops in Shan Franshishco.  So they probably still slap each other
in the face with otherwise unused gloves.  But I don't know for sure. I
live too close to San Francisco to have ever seen a Real Man.


* it also set the same limit on the number of times you could BE killed per
  month.  This was less of a problem, because most people gave up after two
  or three losses.

** left-handed duelists shouted "You're about as useful as a right-hand
   glove.", confusing their right-handed enemies greatly

*** except for those lucky fathers of twins, one of each handedness

**** Some historians attribute this shorthand to a deaf-mute duelist
     who was trying to develop a sign language sign for "You're about as
     useful as a left-hand glove" .

***** It's a good thing.  Usually I use the phone or computer mail.

****** And they plug electric weapons into 220-volt lines


A Brief History of Fencing Gloves

Post by Mark Allen Kam » Sat, 05 Dec 1992 11:20:35

Well, in my experience in challenging people to a duel, an unused left
glove just wouldn't do at all.

You need to slap them in the face with your sweaty drill glove (not
the clean tight one you keep for epee tournements).

My drill glove has been in the bottom of my bag for five years, it
has never dried out and never been washed.  When I slap someone in
the face with it, there is no ambiguity what so ever about the regard
I hold for that person - and his grounds for wanting to fight me are
well established.

Only a little more practically, in Salle Gascon (where I fenced for
many years) people made an art of challenging people to a duel.  There
were two important elements to the challenge:

        a long, elaborate, colorful, imaginative and provocative
        series of insults, and collection of offenses that demanded
        an answer of honor.

        a flamboyant and extremely loud slap on the face with a
        fencing glove, followed by the flinging of that glove to
        the ground.

The key to the latter is to make an elaborate wind up and flourish
with the glove in the right hand while your left hand (relatively
unnoticed) moves up towards your opponents face.  The slap with
the right hand just misses your opponents face and hits your left
hand, which is cupped to make a gratifyingly loud noise.

All this showmanship usually gave the m***high ground to the challenger.
Occasionally, however, the challengee made an equally dramatic response.
I was once outdone by Peter Schiffrin, who picked up my glove, pretended
to blow his nose into it, and then handed it back to me with great aplomb.

Needless to say, it was a great bout and a good time was had by all.