I Fence the Marx Brothers

I Fence the Marx Brothers

After our move from Seattle to the Vancouver/Portland area in 1980, I was looking for a place to continue my interest in the sport of fencing. It so happened that the club at which I fenced in Seattle – Salle Auriol, also had an affiliated club in Portland by the same name. (Portland’s club was coached by Yves Auriol; and Seattle’s by his brother Leon).

The one downside was the location, Vancouver-wise, that is. The studio was on the west side of Portland. I drove into my job in the heart of downtown Portland. So I was commuting mainly on the I-5 corridor – to and fro. No big deal. But on the days I fenced, it meant an extended trip further away from home – up the hill on the Sunset Hwy, past the Zoo, past the exits to Beaverton, and off on the exit to NW Cornell Road, where the meetings were held in an athletic club.

But it was worth it. Not only was it good exercise, something of great value for an office-bound cubicle dweller, but also the challenges of fencing there improved my form and fencing abilities.

Among the major factors for this were two of its main members, the Marx brothers, Robert and Michael. Robert was the older of the two, by a couple of years, taller than six feet and skilled in the use of the epee, a heavier weapon than the foil. Michael, an inch under six foot was a master with the foil. At the time he was the current US National foil champion, and had been since 1977. And he was also on the 1980 US Olympic fencing team.

(You may or may not remember, but the US teams did not compete in those Olympics set for Moscow because President Carter called for a boycott that year after Russia invaded Afghanistan in late 1979. So Mike did not compete until the LA games in 1984. His brother Robert was also a member of the team in ’84, competing in the epee events).

Anyway, I did get to fence the Marx brothers in 1980. And in a tournament.

It wasn’t for any national standings that I can recall. Purely local, and perhaps just an exhibition. It was held on the campus of the Lewis & Clark Law school.

I faced off a dozen or so fencers on that Saturday morning, including the Marx brothers. They beat me of course. But I beat all the other contenders, placing third for the tournament. (Bronze?)

It was exhilirating.

My interest in fencing faded away shortly after that. I had been challenged and began to train in the use of another sword.

But more about that later – so stay tuned and Watch This Space.

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