While American college students get honors in the form of large chenille letters for their sweaters, their West German counterparts are increasingly turning to an old Teutonic mark of sporting ability, the dueling scar. University dueling societies, once outlawed, now claim 18,000 members. Long camera-shy, they now seem, on rare occasions, willing to be photographed.
Object of the duels, like this one between members of two Bonn University societies, is not to win but to show courage. Competitors are padded like hockey goalies, with only areas of the head and face exposed, making severe injuries rare. Divided into rounds of four thrusts each, a duel may last 30 minutes. Boys train for months but need fight just once, hoping this will earn a Schmiss, the face scar that shows their bravery to all.
Moment of ceremony marks duel's start as intern readies instruments on table. He will turn to watch, and armed seconds lean away, as swordplay begins.
Duelist is impassive while wound is stitched. Customs demands that he must not flinch during duel or surgery.