One of the first stories published here on the West Coast Fencing Archive was about the how-to-fence series of film clips that Charles Selberg put together with his former employer, Bill Snyder of Bill Snyder Films, based in Fargo, ND, Charlie’s home town. You can see the first entry here:
Let’s move on to Loop #2: “On Guard”
The way Charlie put this together was to have the instructor convey the ideas by following a written syllabus and for the class to watch (as many times as needed) the film loop. The way the projector works, the film was looped in a cartridge with the beginnings and ends connected, so once through a viewing, you could start right up again at the beginning.
Charlie’s ad in American Fencing Magazine, circa 1971
For this second clip, the pre-watch-the-clip section reads:
Purpose: To illustrate the guard position in four parts. It is essential for the beginning fencer to master each position before continuing to more advanced technique. The guard is thought of as the fencer’s individual fortress from which he may carry out the offensive and defensive aspects of his game.
After that introduction, you watch the film. While it’s going on, the instructor intones in a hearty voice-over the following message:
Observe the “ready” position which is assumed before the fencer steps into the guard. An excellent ready position allows the fencer a sound base from which to assume the guard position. The “ready” position should be done perfectly with feet at right angles, back straight, head upright, stomach in and shoulders level. This essential posture can then be carried forward to the guard. Good posture indicates good balance which inevitably creates better technical control.
Observe the guard, taking special note of the foot position, the knee position, the left arm position and the sword arm position. Re-run the film observing the separate aspects of the guard. The proper foot and knee positions afford excellent balance. The left arm position must be held high to aid in good balance and to facilitate a faster lunge. (See loop #4.) The sword arm places the hand in sixte (6) position approximately halfway between the fencer’s high and low-lines. This aids the fencer to form an efficient defense. (See loops #6, 7, and 8.)
It should be kept in mind that errors in the guard position will weaken one’s game. The guard which is the framework and foundation of fencing must be practiced until good balance and posture are ingrained as a habit.
Ok! Got all that? Let’s watch!
And yes, that is Charles Selberg as the demonstrator of proper guard position.
Now, just as an aside, I looked up Bill Snyder Films where Charlie worked as a young man in Fargo, and found a film that gives an idea of what kind of work they were doing. I know that the firm shot a great deal of “nature” footage and even sold some to Disney for use in the “True Life Adventures” series (which included “White Wilderness” where the filmmakers (not Bill Snyder…) purposely drove a herd of lemmings over a cliff to, you know, get a good shot.) None of that appears in the film below, but if you grew up watching 16mm films in school and remember the warbly sound that films could have when weaving through the film gate and past the sound head, this film will look really familiar.