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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"What sport do you do?"

"What sport do you do?" asked the lady in the corner shop.

I'd rushed there straight from fencing. We were almost out of milk, orange juice and mineral water and there was no way to get home and change before the shop closed. So I slung my swords over my shoulder, threw the kit bag in a trolley and selected my purchases. I suppose the white socks and breeches were a bit unusual, especially worn under my big, padded, winter jacket. At least they know me there.

The woman at the check-out was incredulous. "Fencing?" she asked ... "Fencing ...?"

I eased the pommel of one of the epees out of its case to show her. Her eyes widened. "Like this?" she asked, making a few slashing gestures with her arm. I'm not a sabreur but I didn't want to be dismissive. "Yes," I said, and took the epee out to show her. It wasn't the best lunge in the world, but it gave her an idea. And at least it was a proper epee move. Then I paid, packed my goods and headed home.

On the way back, I remembered the badge. I'd left it on the jacket after my last anti-war demo. Not a Quaker one, fortunately - that would have been hard to explain - but the ever-hopeful "only justice brings peace". At least no-one asked me to justify the incongruity between my fencing and my pacifism - I was a little too tired for that.

It was good tiredness, however. The packed hall didn't look promising and I wasn't sure I'd get onto a piste. There's a local tournament at the weekend so several fencers were determined to get as much practice and coaching as they could. University students arrived wanting to stab people and break the tedium of revision.

I wasn't even sure I should be fencing. My son was running a temperature. I'd dosed him with paracetemol and settled him in front of the TV but he was flushed and aching. Sometimes even 15-year-olds need looking after. But he told me to go several time and in the end I went. (I phoned him several times. I think this interrupted the TV.)

The first part of the warm-up was just finishing as I arrived. It looked very energetic - some sort of race with lots of bending to tthe ground. I was glad to miss it. The ordinary limbering up and co-ordination exercises, followed by footwork practice - changes of step- length, changes of speed (kept simple for the beginners) - was quite enough.

Kitted up, I thought it would be a session of converations with occasional bouts. But I was invited to fence almost immediately and had a succession of opponents. For the first time I managed hits to the knee with some consistency. I even achieved a few hits to the foot. In one I somehow slid my epee down my opponent's ankle, then inside his loosely-laced trainer - so I pushed it harder against the sock to attach the blade. "Ow," he said.

I had a coaching session too. I had tips on how to draw an opponent's attack (by leaving the body open, appearing to attack the foot) only to respond to the blade with a quick circular parry on an explosive lunge with a hit straight to body or fore-arm. I was getting the hang of it in practice though it didn't work so well against a tall, experienced opponent.

Mind you, I was tired in that last practice of the evening. Five minutes lasted at least an hour so that the twenty minutes of rapid practice left me drained and mis-hitting worse than usual. Towards the end of the time I couldn't lunge at all.

Then to the shop, and home.

I told my son about the discussion with the lady at the check-out and my neat demonstration of epee. "Oh Mum," he responded in ill and exhausted horror. "You didn't ..." But he knew I did. Sometimes parents can be so embarrassing.


Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

The shop lady is probably related to someone in his class, and by the end of the week there will be a story how his mother leaps around waving swords in the street - After your account of knee attacks and in-sock fighting all I can say is "brava!" for pressing on and "Keep away from me" as my right leg is bruised enough already (this week). how frustrating it is when our body gives out, as the point skitters around, far before the mind does - on the other hand, I am not sure I would want to be stumbling in a mental haze with perfect form.

12:11 am  
Blogger kathz said...

One of his best friends has been hanging round the fencing class for a while and has just joined the beginners, so all my son's friends know about his mother's strange hobby. I think it's quite brave of my son to encourage me to fence.

I'm nowhere near as injured as you but this morning I've got sabre-type bruises all down my arm and a pain by my collar-bone as well as the usual circular purple dots. The fencer whose trainer I invaded so neatly is a teenage sabreur. Given the propensity of sabre blades to snap and fly off, I had a moment of panic when I realises I'd lent him my spare epee, which he was using sabre-style at times. Fortunately the sword survived the bout. I bet he ties his trainers more tightly next time. (But although he said "Ow," I don't think I hurt him; he likes the joke of claiming that I'm a scary and dangerous fencer. We often end up giggling at the end of a bout.)

2:10 pm  

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