Book Review (part 2)

Book Review (part 2)

Post by Jessie Mical » Sat, 13 Aug 1994 04:31:36

To continue my review of Nadi's book:

As I mentioned before, I liked portions of Nadi's book but some of it
is very dated.  His attitude about women and fencing is antediluvian!  He
thinks that all women (especially American women) should fence because it is
good for their figure, the way they walk, and because it will tone their
*** muscles!  Under no circumstances should they compete,
however, because they (i.e. we) don't have the psychological stamina for
it!  Granted, this was written 50 years ago at a time when women didn't do
a lot of sports, but I don't know any modern women that will tolerate this
type of thinking.  If you tried to use this book in a college classroom,
you would probably be sued and/or lose your job!!!  This would certainly be
a major turn-off to any woman interested in fencing - especially when the
book is so highly touted in the official USFA magazine.

Another depressing aspect was the advice he had for fencing masters.  In his
view, the fencing master is an outright dictator who demands total
submission from his student.  The student is not to ask any questions, and
there is absolutely no fraternization or familiarity between master and
student.  The fencing master should criticize any (and all) moves
that the student does, because no move is ever perfect, even one done by a
world champion.  Praise does not seem to be a technique that Nadi used.  
This may have worked in Europe 50 years ago, but it is not going to carry
too much weight with Americans of today (especially those who just want
to fence for recreation and exercise).  Taking a lesson from him didn't
sound like any fun.  There are much more subtle (and effective) ways of
instructing a student rather than by outright intimidation.  He certainly
would have chased me right out of the sport.

My final recommendation is to read the book, but take some of the advice
with a grain of salt.  Much of the information is excellent, but it has to
be extracted from some antiquated opinions.  An experienced fencer can do
this, but a beginner could not.

The reviewer who wrote the article was one of Nadi's former students (I seem
to recall).  I think the USFA should have found a more impartial reviewer.

Jessie A. Micales

U.S. Forest Products Laboratory
Durendal Fencing Club