The Gentle Tiger
With dreams of d'Artagnon in their heads, freshmen arrive at the I. A.B. fencing room to learn the precise art of swashbuckling. And though they find no duelists stripped to the waist preparing for a dawn's death, they still meet all the romance of the ancient sport in the person for fencing coach Edo Marion. Tall, with dark complexion and graying hair, he is poised and energetic, and as enthusiastic during instructions as in a championship bout.
Because he knows the beginner's discouragement in these tedious practice sessions when correction is so necessary, Marion is devoted to retaining their interest. In overtones of Yugoslav he encourage the fumbling novice, "Ya, good! Good!", then pause and adds in a confidential voice, "but next time you must ..." To the clumsy he urges, "be smooth like the violinist--zipp, zipp, zipp!," and compares the unrelaxed fencer to a "medieval knight." His sterner nature emerges with the repeated mistakes of more experienced pupils. Those who become careless may get a sharp rap from his blade.
Marion knows well the value of rigorous training and careful discipline. During the mid-thirties he was Yugoslav Senior Foil Champion four consecutive years, and led the Yugoslav team in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin. With the same aggressive energy that marks his fencing style, he attacked the details of design and earned a Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering at Tome in 1942. Caught by the war, he served a seven month prison sentence for refusing to aid the Axis machine.
At the war's end, he came to America to offer the services of his engineering skill, and, as it happened, his fencing ability too. When the automatic retirement policy left, the University without a fencing instructor last fall, Marion filled the position vacated by Rene Peroy. The transition period was difficult since each instructor has his own particular teaching methods. But new pupils were soon responding with eagerness as the master revealed the intricacies of successful blade work.
With experience in instruction at European fencing clubs, his duties here are not new. But be regards them as more than mere exercise. As every practice begins, he performs the age old courtesy of holding his eyes and blade in a steady salute to his opponent, a rite recalling the time when a man was judged by his conduct on the fencing strip. Marion would rather have a gentlemanly loser than an ungracious winner.
His enthusiasm is easily catching. At a dinner for teams and coaches after last year's Pentagonals in New York, the master of ceremonies called on the various instructors to say a few words. The usual "nice to be here" varied little until Marion rose to speak. In the same sincere, animated manner that marks his every action, he expressed his feelings toward fencing and good sportsmanship to win a stirring ovation from the audience.
For Edo Marion, fencing is not only a sport, but a way of living. Watching him a bout, one sees a brief summary of his personality. Whether fencing or walking, he is fast and confident. He combines aggressiveness and determination with patience and consideration. At times explosive, he is always imaginative.
Knowing the problems new coaches often encounter, a former Yale fencing master visited practice recently to bolster any low spirits. But after watching a few minutes he exclaimed to the group, "Excellent, excellent, no worry here," and strode from the room. But perhaps the starry-eyed freshmen drawn to fencing by Hollywood pirate movies paid a greater compliment to Marion when he confided in a fellow swordsman, "He's better than Errol Flynn."