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Q&A with fencing master Antone Blair

By: Andrew Butler

Q: Where did you get your start in fencing?

A: I joined a college club at Beloit college in Wisconsin. I started it as a hobby; I had no intention of making a career out of it.

Q: Did you have a major at Beloit? Perhaps a different career plan?

A: I actually double majored in anthropology and classical Mediterranean civilization.

Q: Mediterranean?

A: Yeah, like classical Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt, places like that. I was interested in Greek archeology so both those majors kind of played into that area of study.

Q: Did you do any work with those degrees after college or was it straight into fencing?

A: I went on several site digs. After spending time around professors, I realized I wasn’t necessarily interested in all the extra work that goes into archeology.

Q: Site digs? Where?

A: I did one in Wisconsin and one amidst the high altitude planes in Northern Chile.

Q: How did you make your way to Humboldt State fencing?

A: I moved here in 2000. I started showing up to the club just to stay practiced. It turned out I was one of the most experienced fencers in the club so I became somewhat like the instructors TA and helped teach other students.

Q: When did you start instructing the class?

A: 2001.

Q: What is your favorite fencing weapon to use? Which do you use the most?

A: The foil is the most commonly used weapon. It’s the usual starting sword for a beginner. My personal favorite has to be the Spanish rapier.

Q: Tell us about the different fencing styles. Which is your go to?

A: Fencing schools nowadays teach a somewhat homogenized version of all the classical styles. There used to be more of a distinction throughout the methods. You had German, French, Italian and Spanish styles. For example, the Italian style is very direct and tends to be fairly aggressive. The Spanish style, on the other hand, is more reserved, and involves a lot of analytical thinking. It depends on using your space effectively. My preference is with the Spanish style of fencing, I work with it the most.

Q: Ever pretend to be a pirate?

A: No.

Q: Any competitions?

A: I’ve been in a lot of competitions throughout the years, sure.

Q: Can you live off of fencing competitions?

A: A century ago, the top fencers could tour their countries and make a living. Today it is rare but the top fencers can live off their earnings. Mostly however, you have to be an instructor of some sort to make a living off of fencing.

Q: Where did you do your fencing studies?

A: The Martinez Academy of Arms in New York. I started there a little after being hired at HSU. In 2006 I became an instructor, in 2009 I became a provost and last November I became a master.

Q: A master? How many master’s of fencing are walking around the world?

A: Five including myself. There were only two up until this last November.

Q: What does it take to become a master of fencing?

A: It takes thousands and thousands of hours along with an about 15-year apprenticeship at the school. The final test itself is a week long exam. It lasted about 10 hours a day for the whole seven day week. I had to do everything; from showcasing different fencing styles, to answering fencing questions regarding technique and history, to officiating fencing matches.

Q: Where do you go after achieving master?

A: There’s not much upward movement left. However, the hope is to train more people to become instructors and eventually masters. It’s all about keeping the tradition and history alive, and making sure fencing is passed along the generations. I want to ensure the things I’ve learned are passed on.

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