It was in the winter of the year 2000 that, as president of Auroville International Canada, I made my first six-week stay in Auroville. My objective then, as in later visits, was to observe how the community of Auroville functioned. But already during this first visit, seeing the wide variety of activities available and having been a fencing trainer in Montreal for several years, i said to myself that fencing could also have its place in Auroville.
A few years later, more familiar with local procedures, I submitted a request to the PCG for funds to buy equipment in order to start the activity. It wasn’t that the project did not interest them, but there were many other projects also being considered and my request stayed on the shelf. An Aurovilian friend then suggested, “Claude, you should start small.” I concluded that I could try in a more modest way. It was after the contact with a young Aurovilian from the Ukraine that the project took shape. Arseny had tried several combat sports and was curious to try fencing. Feeling a certain affinity, we agreed that the following winter I would bring two sets of fencing equipment and that I would initiate him in swordplay.
Winter, 2012. At our meeting, Arseny told me that one of his friends was interested in participating in the class. And to the first class he also brought his sister and her friend. I had two sets of equipment and we were five! Over the week that followed, I managed to put together three extra weapons in bamboo with protection made of laminated wood and I bought three pairs of security glasses to protect our eyes. They would serve only for the exercises but not for combat, which is done only with protective masks. This first class was intensive: three times a week for 12 weeks. Our practice “area” was a small, unused piece of land in the community of Vikas.
Arseny would have the right to private lessons to perfect his training. Because of the interest shown, Arseny succeeded in getting a small grant from SAIIER, which allowed him to buy three sets of equipment that he would receive later in spring. At the end of my stay, I left Arseny, satisfied with his commitment. he had received enough instruction to start fencing correctly on a recreational level.
In the autumn of 2012, I confirmed that I would be coming back for three months. At the annual meeting of the Fencing Federation of Quebec, I informed the clubs that were present that I had a fencing project in India and that I would take all the used materials that could send my way. The response was something I had not even hoped for: I left for Auroville with 30 masks, 30 weapons, 60 out of date vests, 1- defective electric breastplates and two electric machines, which totalled 100 kg in extra weight. AVI Canada, who supported my project, paid for the excess baggage. So overloaded as I was, I breezed through Canadian and Indian customs and could only conclude that the Divine approved of the undertaking.
Two days after my arrival in Auroville, I was presented with a welcome-back cake and a surprise reception at my guesthouse, organized by Arseny and his young students, so happy that I had brought equipment for them. I was delighted to see that some twenty young people were interested in fencing under his leadership and all that with only five sets of fencing equipment, a few more in bamboo, and two practice sessions per week in a place that the community of Arka had put at their disposal. I gave four classes a week throughout my stay, and in March 2012 Auroville saw its first fencing competition with electric foils and eight young participants!
It took some ten years from my first visit until this project took shape. I am happy to have contributed in starting a small fencing club in Auroville, with some young people who come regularly. The activity took place at the end of the afternoon, after school and also attracted a few adults.
I don’t know what the future holds for it, but I dare to believe or hope that it will grow. In the future, I dream that the club will succeed in creating some young trainers who will establish the activity on a regular basis, within the school schedule on the playground, and why not? – in village schools around Auroville as well; and that the funds will be there to modernize the equipment.
Courtesy: Auroville International, the worldwide network of Auroville Friends.