Fencing, a weapon against cancer and sexual assault



Four years after the entry into force of the decree relating to adapted physical activity prescribed by doctors to chronically ill patients, “prescription sport” is only developing timidly. To the astonishment of Didier Leménagé, long director of development and innovation at the French fencing federation, who has worked a lot in this field.

“Since 2012, we have been training our fencing masters in the supervision of patients in the reconstruction phase, in particular women operated on after breast cancer”, explains this framework, estimating at a hundred the number of fencing clubs offering this type of service.

The fencer gesture is excellent for rehabilitation after a mastectomy. “Especially the saber (one of the three weapons of the discipline with the foil and the épée) which requires a wider movement and a higher position of the arm which corresponds perfectly to the gestures of rehabilitation”, continues Didier Leménagé, who welcomes this marriage between sport and hospital.

“We met between bald women”

Many oncology departments have formed partnerships with gun rooms, where they send their patients after the operation. Some have chosen to offer the full range of the discipline, with mask, breastplate and real weapon. Others adopt a kind of simulated fencing with plastic weapons and a simple classic jogging outfit.

→ PORTRAIT. Arlette Pommeyrol, sport to overcome cancer

“After the operation, it was a real good time. We found ourselves among bald women because of chemotherapy, we had fun and that allowed us to move without apprehension ”, tells Sylvaine Fanon who followed these sales organized by the Saint-Louis hospital in Paris.

The medical benefit is obvious, but it goes far beyond the gesture. “ It is a combat sport which involves responding to an attack, comparable to that of the disease ”, completes Doctor Dominique Hornus-Dragne, anesthesiologist and fencer from Toulouse who initiated this medical fencing.

“The practice does not only make it possible to regain mobility in the shoulder, it makes it possible to combat sleep disorders, concentration difficulties, specifies the doctor. There is also the benefit of image, because this sport requires complete clothing, without nudity, which is important for women who have just had an operation. “

In 2014, she created an association intended to reassure patients, to train fencing masters and to obtain from the Federation and the Ministry of Sports that the first year of practice be free for medical benefit. This association “RIPOSTE” (Reconstruction Image of oneself, posture, oncology, health, therapy, fencing) issues a sort of label to partner clubs that exist throughout France.

The impact of the blade, a metaphor for rape

Attack / defense, self-esteem, code of honor… Like most combat sports, fencing is also an excellent way of rebuilding for women victims of sexual violence. Since 2012, the Federation has invested in this area as complaints have multiplied. “We are now at more than 700 people welcomed and that is only increasing”, notes Didier Leménagé.

→ REPORT. Sexual violence: fencing, a tailor-made therapy

The Fencing Federation has forged a partnership with the Stop aux Violences Sexual (SVS) association founded by Dr Violaine Guérin, endocrinologist and gynecologist. In association with Boris Sanson, Olympic team saber champion in 2008 who became a physiotherapist, the association offers workshops in several places in France for small groups of women, men or children, assaulted and even perpetrators of aggression. .

Female fencers find sex again

SVS also favors the saber, more instinctive and immediate than the other fencing disciplines. “Rape is first of all a bodily attack before being a psychological attack, explains Doctor Guérin. There is crime, debauchery of deadly energy on the part of the aggressor and impact, in the form of penetration. Our job is to transform this negative energy suffered through fencing which allows the impact to be turned against the opponent. “

There is nothing theoretical about this posture: during SVS sessions, patients face a masked opponent, the fencing master, who symbolically takes the place of the aggressor. “It’s a long process that spans ten sessions. The goal being to release the deadly energy, this often results in assaults of great violence against the fencing master ”.

The results ? They are “Spectacular”, assures Doctor Guérin: “We are at about 80% of professional repositioning, we also have definitive discharges from a psychiatric hospital”, says the gynecologist who also points to a clue that delights her: “We had babies in our patients who had given up all sex life. “

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Sexual abusers are also followed

Of the 700 patients treated by SVS since 2012, nearly 10% are aggressors, most often detained in two partner penitentiaries, in Osny (Val-d’Oise) and on Reunion Island. “Many abusers were themselves assaulted in their childhood, explains Dr Violaine Guérin, it is on this condition that we follow them. For them, we set up different mechanisms: we start by assaulting them, so that they bring up the memory of their own rape and become aware of what they have inflicted on someone else. Only then can labor begin. “

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