An Interview with
Lady Elysabeth (Lissa) Underhill
How and when did you start fencing in the SCA?
About a year after I graduated from college. I would have loved to fence in college, but my school didn't have a fencing team at the time (it came a year or two after I graduated), and the only local SCA practice was far away. I think that people who come to SCA fencing with a mundane fencing background have a distinct advantage. I wish I was so lucky!
Do you have other combat arts experience?
During high school I practiced Aikido and I also did gymnastics in grade school. I think gymnastics helped me a lot throughout the years because it gave me a better sense of balance, and more flexibility that comes in very handy (and not just in fencing!).
Do you consider yourself more of an offensive or defensive fighter?
In general I think I tend to be less aggressive and more defensive, but I would like to learn how to be both. Being able to change your style in reaction to your opponent gives you an advantage. I would love to get comfortable being an aggressive "in your shorts" fighter... I don't think people would expect that of me.
What's your best form?
You mean there is more than single? Someone tell my Dona!
Why are you fighting only with single?
Because my Dona is a mean, mean person who likes to torture me. :) No... Really itís so I can become a better fencer and I am totally on board with the idea! All other forms are based off of single. If I canít fight with single, I'm not going to be able to fight with dagger or case.
What do you enjoy about being in a Dona/cadet relationship?
I like having someone who sets aside time to work with me every time they are at practice, someone who knows exactly what I am working on, and who can help guide my progress. I like doing drills (I know I'm weird) and itís nice to have someone I can do them with. I like knowing that there is someone who is making a special effort to watch me when I fence and tell me what I am doing wrong and doing right. I like that I have someone who will give me homework and who can help me keep motivated to try and become a better fencer!

I also love the fact that I have had the opportunity to develop a relationship with a wonderful person who looks out for me, both in the SCA and in the mundane world. I hope one day to be able to do these same things for someone else.
Any thoughts on being in a relationship where both partners fence?
I like being in a relationship where we both fence because it means that we know a lot of the same people and usually go to the same events. While we don't hang all over each other at practice or at events, itís nice knowing he is there. It also means I have someone to carry my fencing gear!
What do you enjoy most about fencing?
The feeling I have when I do something absolutely right when I'm fencing. It feels noticeably different and much better than the other 98% of the time I am fencing. I don't get that feeling often. I wish I did.
What's going on in your head while you fight?
Not what is supposed to be going through it I'm sure. I have been told the basic theory on what I am supposed to think of... but it doesn't really work that way yet. I've been told these things come with time and practice. At the moment, itís just theory.
Whatís the theory?
To think strategically (how am I going to beat this person?) and then to think tactically (I am going to beat this person by doing a, b and c—but basing what I do on my opponent's reactions). Right now I can maybe come up with a tactical plan, but nothing very complex. Strategy is totally beyond me right now, though I've been trying to practice by watching people fence. It helps if I have someone more experienced watch with me and comment on what they see.
Describe an outfit youíd love to fight in that you havenít yet made.
I have actually hit upon a style of fencing garb that I like. I was looking for something different from the traditional doublet and skirt thing (I've decided for some reason that I must fence in skirts). My outfits now are all based off of dresses worn by the lower class in late period. They are simple, not restrictive, colorful, easy to make, and just a little bit different from what most people wear. There is an online resource I've used when making my dresses.
What would you change about your fencing or about the fencing community?
I wish there was a lot more of a focus on period fencing. From what I have seen, very little is being done with period fencing on a group or kingdom level... and itís a shame. I really think that this is where the future of SCA fencing should be. I hope one day I can help to bring that about, and I am trying to do a little research on my own for now.
What do you wish you knew when you started?
This is not something I would have thought about when I started, but I wish I knew now when I would finally "get it." People keep telling me that there will come a magical moment when I will finally understand what I am doing. Everything people have been telling me will suddenly click and make sense. If I just knew when this would happen, I think it would make things a little easier.
Do you prefer fencing lessons or free-bouting?
Lessons! I feel that I learn more when I am doing drills or getting feedback from someone on my fighting. Free-bouting can be fun, but to actually make progress I feel that I need more.
Melees or single combat?
Single combat! At this point I feel that I am really ineffectual in melees. I get wrapped up in what is going on and forget how to fence!
Your virtue or a mug of Irish cream?
Yes, I would sell my virtue for a mug of Irish cream... are you offering?
How can you be bribed?
See above.
How can you be defeated?
Too easily, but with practice I hope to change that one day.
How did you become involved in MoLing?
It was an attempt to be useful. :) In reality it does not work very well, because at events I am always fencing. I can MoL if I am sick and can't fence, but that is really the only time I MoL anymore.
Whom are you most grateful for in the rapier community?
For everyone in the Tadcaster Millitia. I am lucky to belong to a group with such wonderful (and often strange and disturbing) people.
What advice do you offer new fencers?
Practice your basics and find someone who can teach you how to do them well. Don't rush into free-bouting too fast, and do homework!


Interview from November 2007.