"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Preprare to die!"

In other words, En Garde!

I've recently picked up fencing, and I'm really enjoying learning this complex, exciting, and wonderful sport! There are many reasons why I enjoy fencing, but I think that it appeals to many of the same pars of my brain that science happens to as well.

First things first - I like to fence épée, and a bit of foil as well. They are both weapons with which you score points by "poking somebody with the pointy end". For the sake of brevity, I will limit this to my favourite weapon, épée.

Fencing is one of the few sports where one must be 100% focused - before, during, and after a bout. There's very little else you can think about when somebody is trying to hit you with a long piece of metal. It's a very nice change from the monotony of a treadmill, spin bike, or rowing machine. I normally consider and visualise the technical parries, feints, and attacks I plan to use, but most of the time, I try to study and analyse my opponents. I quite enjoy the mental exercise of breaking down their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, and coming up with creative solutions to work around their approaches.

It's been said that fencing is a form of "physical chess". I understand that it's a sport of trying to out-think and out-feint your opponent, but I'd argue that it's a lot more difficult as well - simply due to the inherent speed of the bouts and the technical difficulty in executing the motions.

It'a also immensely satisfying to try something you've imagined in fight, and have it work exactly the way you want it to. Or, when you come up with a successful parry-riposte simply by reacting instinctively and creatively - watching top foilists and épéeists compete is like enjoying a symphony of self-expression.

Finally, this is a sport steeped in history, tradition, and respect. I like being a part of that a lot.

All that being said, there's nothing more cathartic at the end of a long day in the lab than poking your friends with pointy sticks.