If one plans to become a middle-aged female teacher of high school English, there is no better preparation than the study of the sword. Seriously.
Yesterday, as I was packing up my materials to leave school for the weekend--an enterprise which, since my back problems flared up, has required a lot of student assistance--one of the small tribe of students who had been staying after in my room, playing online games and discussing zombies with one another, asked me a question.
"Ms. Bishop," Randy asked. "Is it true you hurt your back sword-fighting?" He looked at Josh and Jake, his friends and (presumably) the source of this rumor which Randy hardly dared to credit.
"Yep," I was able to answer. "Yep, it's true."
Although this recent flare-up (worse than the original injury, by far) seems to have been due to nothing more exotic than the H1N1 flu, it is true that I got my original injury sparring, kendo-style, with boff swords: foam-rubber padded swords often used in LARP games, because they allow for realistic athleticism, without realistic injuries.
I have never been in any LARP societies, nor have I ever, like the friends who taught me to wield a sword, ever been active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Indeed, the only SCA event I ever attended struck me as monumentally boring--other than the clothes, which were, I'll admit, drop-dead gorgeous. But I was fascinated with the grace and (I might as well admit it) romanticism of learning how to use a sword, and in my thirties, back in the days when I had time for such things, I loved sparring with a boffer. I was never very good, but I did get to the point where I was good enough to injure myself: a little too much energy and enthusiasm in an explosive, twisting action, combined with a little to little grace and flexibility, and the result has been that I'll never fence again--or take up golf, I suppose.
But I did hurt myself originally while swinging a sword, and I do know people who have earned a living making suits of armor (plate armor, in fragile-but-comfortable aluminum, available enameled in your choice of fashion colors).
And I think zombies, orcs, and medieval weaponry are all kind of neat.
In a wholly fictional sort of way, mind you.
I admitted all this.
"Cool!" said Randy.
And then he, Josh, Jake, and I proceeded to discuss medieval armor and weaponry--the original arms race--all the way out to my car.
I stopped halfway across the parking lot, midway through an earnest discussion of the effects of a crossbow bolt on a suit of plate armor.
"You know, this is an odd sort of a conversation for a Quaker English teacher to have with her students on a Friday afternoon," I remarked.
We all grinned.
And, you know, it's really much, much easier to teach students who think you're the last word in cool than students who think otherwise.
I owe a lot to my dueling scars.