quaker fencer

kathz isn't quite my name. I may be a Quaker. If I'm a fencer I'm a bad one and I don't do sabre. If I'm a Quaker I'm a bad one - but you've worked that out already. Read on. Comment if you like. Don't expect a reply.

Location: United Kingdom

Sunday, October 29, 2006

hitting the air

It didn't go well this week. Some weeks are like that - or so I tell myself.

The omens were good. I was feeling a bit better. (The doctor reckoned four weeks to recovery and I was waiting for the magic cure. It didn't happen. I'm still unwell. Not fair!)

There was plenty of space as schools were on half-term. In the warm-up - a game of "masketball" - I kept going throughout. And while most epeeists were away, there were still a few eager for a bout.

It should have been great.

I couldn't do anything right. I hit the air, hit flat, or hit without sufficient strength or angulation to attach the blade. The more I thought about what I was doing wrong, the worse I was.

My opponents offered me openings but I couldn't take advantage.

Every so often I got cross with myself, forgot what I was doing and scored. (The coach said that thinking too much can lead to failure.) But then I'd try to repeat the hit - only to land the point neatly in the air. I was about half an inch above my opponent's sleeve every time

In the intervals of missing, I walked (or even ran) onto my opponent's blade.

The bruises have turned from purple to yellow but they still hurt - not so much as my failure.

I'm still not better. I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday in bed.

Back to the doctor tomorrow - but I don't suppose she has a prescription that will ensures neat wrist hits, accuracy and elegant parries. I might ask, just in case.

P.S. My son is still crowing because he won all his bouts in the recent (un)friendly against a neighbouring club. Luckily no-one objected to the "cool" torn jeans which he's somehow got away with wearing as part of his fencing gear, but he's been advised that breeches (just arrived from Duellist) will be compulsory for the re-match (away).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

cheap shoes and zombie walks

Sometimes there's a reason why shoes are cheap.

I'm not talking about trainers. Those I use for fencing aren't ideal, but good enough. The problem was cheap shoes I wore with a cheap outfit for a meeting at work. Of course, I didn't want the economy drive to show; members of the senior executive were meant to be stunned by my casual elegance: blouse with lacy collar, long full skirt with muted check and ornamental belt, lightweight cardigan and delicate brown shoes with high heels and buttons at the toes. When I set out, I reckoned I'd done well from a combination of charity shops and cheapest chainstores.

If the senior executive were stunned, it was probably by my occasional winces and unsteady gait. My toes hurt; although I'd slipped plasters into my bag as a precaution, the day didn't yield time to inspect the damage.

By the time I'd staggered on and off the train and back home, I wanted a stiff drink - not allowed on fencing nights. Instead, I slipped the shoes off to see stockinged toes caked in blood. In a hurry as always, I'd no time for careful bathing and antiseptic. Plasters and bandages would impede a fencing run. So I simply stripped my feet bare and, after the comfort of cool air, pulled on Leon Paul padded socks and familiar trainers.

How wonderful to wear shoes that didn't hurt. Struggling with exhaustion, I was slow but moved comfortably. Not that there was much moving. The younger fencers were playing a home friendly, and teams filled all the electric pistes. The rest of us fenced steam in pistes a third the normal length and half the width. Elbow jabs were more perilous than blades.

A small epee class focussed on how to look for errors and gain a quick hit. We guarded tiny pistes and practised in slow motion, taking turns to play "coach". When my turn came, I moved forward, arm outstretched as if unwisely aiming for the head, inviting a hit to the wrist from below.

I don't know what made me think of zombies - the pose? the deliberate clumsiness? I was tired and my toes hurt but I moved forward in a zombie walk, dragging my feet and swaying slightly till my partner collapsed in giggles. "I thought if I hit you your hand would drop off," she said, and giggled again.

It's not a recognized epee techinque but it worked - and could work again. Do you think it might catch on? For the painless collapse of fierce opponents, try THE QUAKER FENCER ZOMBIE WALK..

Friday, October 13, 2006

I feel like a fencer!

Being a real fencer - whatever that is - often seems impossible. There's the swords, the costume - I've even seemed the movies - but I can't take myself seriously, which is probably just as well.

But after a session of epee last night, for all the continuing tiredness, I began to believe in myself as a fencer. Just for a little while - but it was wonderful.

It stemmed from the encouragement of the coach. "Good," "brilliant" and "excellent" are his favourite words - though he does contribute "don't worry about it" when it's not going well. The tricks and moves he teaches all work. .

After coaching and a break, fencing good epeeinsts, I seemed faster than was possible for me (which means, not quite so slow) - and at times respondes without thinking or analysing. IThe tricks I'd been shown fitted in: I tried taking the blade to turn it and sliding down it to attach, or slithering over the guard before angling the blade to the wrist. I even landed three hits in a row. That stunned me so much I slowed down and missed every time.

A really good fencer asked - after a knock-about in which I barely landed a hit - if I was entering the next Open. I'm not in that league, and still tiring fast in the wake of the virus (carefully resting between bouts and taking breaks in training). Nor have I enough swords and body-wires - just one foil and one epee (both French grip - the best!) and a wire for each. But I wandered round in a daze of delight that a good fencer suggested competing outside the club. Me - a once-a-week fencer!

And that's a triumph of sorts.

Friday, October 06, 2006

fighting a virus, epee in hand

At the end of Cyrano de Bergerac - it gets me every time - the wounded Cyrano rises from his chair in the convent garden and takes his sword in hand for the last time. Death closes in; he brandishes his epee at all he saw as his enemies in life: lies, compromise, prejudice, cowardice, stupidity. Finally he collapses and, as Roxane kisses him (on the forehead) for the first time, his final words celebrate his "panache", the white plume in his hat that he takes as his symbol.

Fencing while suffering the after-effects of a virus doesn't have the same glamour, although Cyrano with a cold and hacking cough is an alarming thought. I couldn't do all the warm-up; running backwards and sit-ups defeated me. In footwork I fluffed a simple sequence ending with a balestra lunge.

I'd planned a little light foil at most, but the lure of epee training was too much. I recall it in a blur (my temperature's up again) but it was good to practise a lunge to the body which, with a quick turn of the wrist, hit neatly behind the opponent's pommel. In the end I got it working quite well in practice (I think) but I'm not so about a real bout.

I felt good about the training. Nonetheless, i had to sit out when it was over and chatted to resting fencers. Towards the end of the evening, I managed a short knock-about.

Now, with as the slight fever returns, it's hard to believe I fenced at all. Only the little purple circles on my wrist and right arm offer evidence that I did.

I must get better for next week.

Monday, October 02, 2006

fighting a virus

There are nasty little viruses that arrive in the autumn and unsettle people with sniffles and sneezes. Doctors can't prescribe anything but recommend paracetemol and an unlikely amount of rest.

I should have realised I was succumbing last Wednesday when I had to stop part-way through the warm-up, though I got back into it again. Being tired in fencing or missing hits in practice isn't unkown, but attempting to shift balance made me feel faint and I couldn't concentrate quite well enough.

After that, through two long days of work, I began to sense something was wrong although paracetemol and aspirin seemed to keep symptoms under control.

I didn't take my temperature till the weekend. I don't usually bother, but there did seem to be something strange about temperatures altogether. 101.5 - higher than I've experienced in some time - wasn't good, particularly as I had lots to do. My throat hurt and my legs turned to jelly if I tried to walk more than a couple of yards. Time for the doctor, I decided.

It's this year's autumn virus, the doctor said. (For once I've gone with the trend.) My throat with heal but I will start to talk huskily and then develop a "wet cough", which sounds alarming. After that I'll have two weeks of feeling very tired. I half expected her to add that my face would turn purple, my limbs would drop off and I'd mutate into a tadpole - but nothing so exciting was predicted. She suggested resting and taking time off work, though she knew as she said it I wouldn't.

I didn't get round to asking about fencing. She was busy and the doctors themselves are succumbing to the virus.

But I found myself thinking: a little footwork practice - more work on angulations - perhaps a bout or two. If I'm too tired I can sit out for a while ... I could fence foil all evening, if I had to - and it's much lighter than epee.

Meanwhile, my children have taken over cooking and I'm eating very well. There are advantages to being ill - so long as I get well soon.


Jim has gained his E ranking in epee as described in his blog, The Gray Epee. I have to admit I don't understand the US ranking system but he did it by winning a tournament. It all sounds pretty good to me and I hope there was a HUGE trophy.