I've recently begun working again on a project that I had set aside just before I took classes at Harvard Extension, and which got further postponed because of my deux années du feu.
So, in reality, this thing was abandoned at least five years ago. This is staggering to me.
At any rate, back in the day, my housemate picked up an historical fencing manual dating from the early 1800's... in French. Not being a French-speaker and not being terribly inclined to change that, he asked if I could put together something resembling a translation of the text. I agreed, promising only a rough translation because my acumen of both the French language and dueling techniques are sketchy at best. I figured I could use the practice, and I tend to be one of those people who believe that books should be read.
As I slogged through the preface and introduction to the text, a few things came to light very quickly. The author was an officer in Napoleon's armies who was rather pleased by his own exploits. Better, he was a very short man (4'11"). The manual is, in effect, instructions for the short French duelist. His biggest innovation? To drop some of the low wards (which are largely forgotten in modern sport fencing, anyways) because they are unnecessary for someone of his diminuitive size and superb agility.
I couldn't stop laughing when I first brought this to Joe. He seemed slightly crestfallen as I suggested that the text might be most useful to him if he ever planned on starting a salle d'armes for "little people" or if he needed to fight from his knees. I remember I kept picturing this tiny man leaping about, trying unsuccessfully to engage a circle of very tall Prussian cavalry officers who simply laughed and toasted him with brandy as they sidestepped his thrusts.
It made me smile.