Q&A: Life Outside Law -- An Interview
• Do you consider fencing more of a physical or mental sport?
There are a number of lawyers, engineers and computer people who participate in fencing. I think the perception is that fencing is a more cerebral sport, but in reality it’s very physical. Every sport is a cerebral sport, if you really think about it, with strategies and tactics. People keep describing fencing as "physical chess" for people who are into logic and problem solving, but that is more perception than reality.
• Any injuries?
Bruising is the worst of it. I was at a medical examination and they asked if I was being abused. I got a bruise that looked like a hand because I had been hit multiple times. One time, someone broke a blade on me and it went through the fabric and there was just a little hole in my arm, but it just needed to be cleaned off and bandaged.
• How did you become interested in fencing?
When I was 14, I started fencing at a big New York City high school. My gym class was intimidating because there were at least 200 people in it. The instructor said the class was overcrowded, so they offered several other classes, including fencing. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved watching swashbuckling movies and made swords out of tinker toys. When the instructor offered fencing I didn’t really have to think about it.
I joined the fencing team my senior year of high school. I then fenced in college for the Queens College fencing team and later transferred to Johns Hopkins University and fenced there. At the time, I thought it was just a high school and college sport.
• What is it about fencing that made you want to stick with it?
It’s a passion, so it was a combination of things. There was a social component because I had friends all over the country. There was the physical and mental challenge of the sport, and I enjoyed the camaraderie from people all over the world.
• When did you begin fencing competitively?
After college, I went to the University of Colorado School of Law. I didn’t start fencing until the spring of my third year, when I could find the time and a club to fit my schedule. I started fencing regularly after law school. Usually, I fenced four or five nights a week and went to tournaments most weekends. Some weeks I’d be fencing six or seven days a week. My first legal job was in Colorado Springs and I’d drive two or three times a week to fence with my coach in Boulder and twice a week to fence with him in Aurora. I put 60,000 miles on my car the first year I had it. I drove all over the country for regional tournaments with the U.S. Fencing Association.
In 1988, I was temporarily unemployed during nationals, so I drove to Chicago to compete. I had about $60 in my pocket and a credit card. I was sleeping in other people’s hotel rooms. Most of my food was in a cooler so I wouldn’t have to buy food. One of my tires blew out in Chicago. … I did do whatever it took to do this stuff and did it on as much of a budget as I could. I still had to travel, buy gas, pay a coach and buy blades when they broke.
• What are the uniforms made out of?
Since the late ’80s or early ’90s, we’ve been required to wear Kevlar in competitions. Kevlar is the same material they use to make bullet-proof vests. Even Kevlar is not puncture-proof. It is very good at reflecting blunt things like bullets, but when you break a weapon, it doesn’t always break evenly. A jagged break can puncture the Kevlar. Usually, this happens less than once each tournament. Fencing is safer than almost any other sport.
• When did you last compete?
I got really good right before I had my son in 1997, but I haven’t competed since then. I earned my C and B a day apart. We have letter ratings; E is the lowest A is the highest. When I started fencing, it was really hard to earn a letter. At the end of the 1996–1997 fencing season, I was 53rd in North America and 43rd in the United States in épée. (The épée is the traditional dueling weapon and the entire body is valid target.) People were starting to recognize me and know who I was. Top fencers asked me to workout and warm up with them. Now, I’m eligible to fence "veterans" (for ages 40 and up). Mentally, I’m getting to the place where I’m ready to go back. In the meantime, I’ve been refereeing regional and national events.
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