Sydney Sabre has gone into hibernation.

We started preparing for this a month or so ago, when the first reports of COVID-19 escaping Wuhan hit the news. Initially, we hoped to be lucky – Australia is the lucky country – and catch the incoming cases as they were detected, like Taiwan or Singapore or Hong Kong. We put hand sanitisers around the club, alcohol sprays near the hire masks, banned handshakes and … hoped for the best.

But no.

The federal government gave us a bit over 16 hours to shut down on Sunday 22 March 2020. We formally shut at noon on Monday.

We’d already prepped staff – and set aside funds to pay them out for the cycle – a few days prior to the announcement. My armourer and I have been doing home deliveries of people’s stranded gear for a few days now. F and P have been busy contacting clients and suppliers. We’re locked down now.

An aside, and an analogy: waratahs!

Waratahs are great. They are these starbursts of a flowering plant, their taxonomical name a derivation of one of those Greek words for beacon, the light-on-a-hill-afar type. The genus is the flower of New South Wales, the Australian state in which Sydney (and thus, us) resides, and a stylised version the emblem for the New South Wales government – an … institution?… that I had the privilege of serving in my other life for some years.

Waratahs also have a neat feature that they share with pretty much all the plants left alive in Australia. You see, we get these massive raging bushfires every so often. True continent-engulfing stuff. Had our biggest one ever just the other month actually, which seems oh-so-long ago. And with all due apologies to F’s famous bushfire-researcher uncle for mucking this one up, waratahs are adapted to survive bushfires. Maybe not what’s there now, but something. By having this massive armoured lump at the base of the plant which insulates a food store and a bud which can re-sprout once the apocalypse passes.

(This is unlike their more plebian Banksia contemporaries, who as ‘reseeders’ are resigned to dying in the flame but have armoured seedpods that only release when the temperature gets above 500C. Or the truly horrifying Eucalypts, which do a bit of both and also ooze volatile toxic oils that kill every other plant in the vicinity during the good times, drop branches in the bad times, and explode during bushfires to… help them along? Look up the Blue Mountains outside Sydney and work out why they are that colour, because the answer is explosive vapour deliberately secreted into the air by trees which hate everybody.)

Anyway, we’re pulling a waratah. Sydney Sabre is shut. We’re locking up the fortress.

What we’re doing: chilling out.

Making bread is the new version of the tamagotchi stress-relief for the 30-something. Growing plants. Wrangling our children.

We’ll do some stuff – occasionally – to keep Sydney Sabre alive while we’re in quarantine so we can reopen again, like writing up manuals, doing some leather-working to repair coach jackets and bags, some light reforging work on masks and blades, maybe some sewing, etc. We might jump on the online learning bandwagon – partially – and maybe finally record the entire 51-week syllabus. And some drills. And clean up the massive archive of videos we have from such luminaries as have graced our doors, all the secret sauce that we never got around to video editing. Maybe. Give that DSLR and those fancy LED lights and various smartphones a go.

What you should do: chill out.

Goes double for my students.

Read a book. Read all the books. Write a book. Spend time with your family. Learn to cook – not chef, cook – with the random ingredients your grandmother/mom/spouse/resident manly man salvaged from the local wasteland supermarket. Like a particularly mad episode of Iron Chef. Clean your home. Like really clean it. Tend to plants. Paint…anything. Everything.

Study something fun, and new, and interesting and without regard for how useful or marketable it might be. Because who knows what the world and its economy will be like in a couple years’ time. But whatever it is, it won’t be the same. Especially economically. Even if a vaccine was discovered today, there are entire industries whose fundamental assumptions have already been irrevocably damaged, like global supply chains without local manufacturing capability reserves, and inventory levels, and online education; all these things and more will need a rethinking in the new few years. Correction – are being rethought now. The longer this goes on for, the deeper the changes are likely to be.

Come up with your Mad Max name. Just in case. There’s no downside!

If you insist on fencing…maybe the sport will come back. Pros: social distancing by default, cons: so much sweat being thrown around. I jest. We’re probably somewhere in the middle between golf and F1 racing on the one side, and things like jiu jitsu and tennis and basketball on the other.

In the meantime, for fencing, well.

Solo? Don’t. Go for a run on your balcony. Do some yoga. Even German Yoga. Pullups, pushups, vanity weights. Some people – masochists – like stationary bikes and ergometers (rowing machines for us common folk).

If you are fortunate enough to have a partner who will indulge you in your madness for fencing – fine. I shall write some stuff up and do some videos and things to help in the next few weeks or so. Because I am also that kind of tragic. In the meantime, for folks who can decipher Sydney Sabre nomenclature and by order of available length of balcony:

2m: Engagement hit drill, stationary and with lunge.

3m: Korean “wheelchair sabre”, back foot on the 3m separation lines, no foot movement.

4m: Advance lunge drill, advanced version with valid parries and counter-attacks. Requires either honesty, or a wireless kit.

5m: Advance lunge drill, basic version with no parries or counterattacks.

6m: Priority drill in 4m zone AND wall drill. Suggest putting barriers up on the balcony railings, because falling off is an embarrassing way to die. Or if you have a wall on one end, put the defender on that end.

…14m: Look. If you have a private fencing salle, you don’t need to read this. Go away.

On that note, stay safe and ride this one out.

This too shall pass.

Waratah image from paulineconolly.com

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