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, March 28, 2007

it must be the football

I hear England beat Andorra 3 - 0. This isn't a great achievement. Given England's recent form, there was a certain amount of anxiety. I fear some epeeists might have been watching.

I was the only epeeist for most of the evening. I fenced foil - very unsuccessfully. How does anyone cope with those little, light fencers with their tiny target areas? I lost my first bout 10-1, after which my opponent helpfully pointed out that she had found it very easy to hit me because I was using an epee en garde position. I corrected this in my next bout and did quite a bit better, losing only 10-6.

I hadn't expected to do well at fencing since the tiredness is getting worse - it's that stage of term. I started to ache half-way through footwork practice and wondered whether fencing at all was wise. But even foil is better than nothing. (Meanwhile, the number of sabreurs is increasing - but I'm really not a sabreuse.)

Luckily the evening ended with an opportunity for epee against one of the newest foil coaches, who was happy to get some epee practice in after his pupils had departed. The coach started fencing when I did, didn't really enjoy competitions, but he's become an excellent coach and is on the way to being a good epeeist too).

Switching from foil to epee was terrific. Suddenly I could manage the occasional wrist hit and my point control was improved. For a little burst, I was landing hits with ease ... before the tiredness hit again. Still, it's left me with little achievements to remember - and some preparation for next week. We're having another one-hit epee competition - there's an Easter egg for the winner. Given my previous form in one-hit epee, I think my best hope is one hit. One hit in the whole competition, that is. It's amazing how well other people fence when ownership of a chocolate egg is at stake.

Meanwhile, I'm relaxing with half a glass of wine (Gewurtztammer, from the Alsace). I'm drinking to Jim's new job and to wish Beth a stunning and deserved victory over B.C. Victoria Transit . It's time Victoria Transit realised that their passengers include human beings who use wheelchairs, who have the right to be treated as human beings. I'm very cross. I want Victoria Transit to know that this story has reached Europe and at least one British woman with a sword is very angry indeed.. On a happier note, I'm also celebrating because a friend has just got out of hospital earlier than expected. That half glass of wine is doing a lot of work ... Cheers!

P.S. I've added the blog my friend Kate has started to the side bar. It's called "Kate's blog".
It's worth reading, even though Kate doesn't fence. She sails and does archery, as well as blogging on a wide range of subjects and taking pictures, mostly in Wales. I hope that one day Kate and I will be companions in non-violent, radical piracy.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

fencers on ice?

It's cold, I was tired and didn't fence much or well today. But I enjoyed what I did though I frequently hit short or failed to attach the point. I knew it wouldn't be a good fencing day so enjoyed the warm-up and decided to look on every hit as an achievement. But it was embarrassing to find that I was so tired that, when we tested blades before fencing on the electric piste, I'd forgotten to plug in my body-wire. (And it took me a minute or two to work out what was wrong!)

A woman foilist had missed club night last week to go skating at the ice rink. And I suddenly realised there was an unexplored sporting and filmic opportunity. Imagine the aggressive and enthusiastic opponent trying to fleche while skating - or the difficulty of the ballestra on ice.

I can see that it would be a minority sport but it's hard to see why it hasn't been used in film - at least, not so far as I know. Just imagine the scene: Robin Hood, pursued by the Sherrif of Nottingham, runs onto a frozen lake in the middle of Sherwood Forest. He draws his sword and fences the Sherrif on ice. Or, better still, The Three Musketeers could include an additional scene in which the Cardinal and his men visit an ice fair on a wide, frozen river. Naturally, d'Artagnan, Aramis, Porthos and Aramis don skates and prepare to fight ...

And now I hope that someone will enlighten me about a series of fencing on ice films - or a salle at which fencers train simulatneously in skating and epee. It could come in handy .. (you never know)

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

fencer poet?

As part of my job, I was required to attend a poetry workshop run by Peter and Ann Sansom. (I was wearing that hoodie again.) One of the many treats was sitting next to veteran peace protestor and Quaker Alice Beer, who brought an excellent poem about making frogs. We had a morning doing quick exercises and amazing ourselves with the results, and an afternoon looking at poems in process by all participants.

This isn't going to turn into a poetry blog. However, one of the exercises, once we were all warmed up, was to write a poem, in just a few minutes, about any group of people we chose. I chose fencers so feel duty bound to incude the result on this blog, even though it could do with more polishing.

Regular readers of this blog will have no problems in picking up the final references but I'll include a link at the end for anyone who's puzzled.

Preparation for Attack

You’re in an office, see the corridor.
You’re on the train. You see an aisle.
You can’t resist. You say it.
“It’s a piste.”

and you see yourself
in white, with an opponent.
You’re moving up and down
(clatter of blades).
You catch the lunge-attack, parry, riposte … and it’s all over.
Point for you.

For Christmas you want blades,
a glove, a bag,
a new French grip.
You search the internet, look for “escrime”
(fed up with garden fences)
and you take the test
that tells you epee is the sword for you.
You go to talks on “how to mend a foil”
and keep spare buttons in your purse.

All night you dream of new attacks.
You’re Cyrano
and interrupt ballades
to strike with each refrain.
Fighting battalions, you whisper love
and when the brick falls and you stagger, late
to Roxane’s convent,
you’ll say farewell, accept her tears
but stand alone for death
and meet him, sword in hand.

If you don't know about Cyrano de Bergerac (in the play by Edmond Rostand), you can find an outline here.

There's an English version here.

And here is the French text.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

blogging birthday

A year ago today, I started this blog. I didn't know what direction it would take and very much doubted that anyone would read it. I'd been at a seminar where somebody worried that blogs were ephemeral and open to breach of copyright. That sounded fine to me. Someone else mentioned blogger.com as a way in which anyone could blog - implying, I thought, that sophisticated bloggers understood computers and wrote their own programs. I jotted down "blogger.com" and, that evening, went to my computer to find out what blogging was all about. I didn't even know the subject of my blog but the phrase "quaker fencer" came to mind, and that gave me a subject.

I started looking at other people's blogs, and they started reading mine. Soon we were posting comments. Hello in particular to early blog-friends: Beth on Screw Bronze; Jim, The Gray Epee; Brian, whose Big Book of Epee I still miss; and Dave, The Quaker Agitator. I value your friendship. Please keep blogging.

And hello too, to more recent readers and to anyone whose just dropping by. If you're new to blogging enjoy it.

If you like this blog, you may enjoy the blogs I link to in the sidebar, though I need to update the lists and add more. One is a more personal blog that I started on Boxing Day last year and there's another, which addresses politics, to which I contribute.

For the moment blogging seems the nearest there is to a democratic literary space where people can exchange views freely and form friendship. It's anarchic, which can cause problems, upsets and dangers - but it also offers bloggers the freedom to set their own rules. I don't know how long this will last; companies are moving in and governments are doubtless watching anxiously and, at times, intervening. For the moment it's a form in which I as a Quaker - and a fencer - feel very happy.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

return of the epeeists

This evening, there was a shortage of foilists. Two of the three electric pistes were taken over by sabreurs while the third was epee territory.

I felt slightly out of practice. My wrist ached more from the weight of the weapon - or perhaps that was the effect of the first few minutes in which my opponent took control of my blade pretty thoroughly, even spinning it out of my hand on one occasion. (That's the penalty for using a French grip, but I still prefer it.) But then, something happened.

I remembered a friend fencing sabre telling me of useful advice she'd had - "Don't imitate your opponent - play your own game." I realised it applied to me. I'd been imitating my opponent and it was never going to work because he was using strength I didn't have. So I risked a few tricks a coach had shown me some weeks ago - tricks which had never worked for me in the past. And when I provided an opening to invite an attack, it worked. My opponent came straight at me and I was able to catch him quickly before he could attach my blade. I was thinking much more and working out tactics. I was also staying still at times, watching for openings, or threatening one attack and changing course to do something different. I still lost more points than I won (it wasn't a proper bout) but something had clicked and I was winning points I would have lost a week or two ago. I was fencing tactically and I knew what I was doing.

Against other opponents it was harder, but I still kept my head and surprised myself with some of the hits I managed - to the wrist and forearm as well as down to the knee, despite some wobbly blade control. I'm aching now - and I've a fine supply of bruises for tomorrow - but it was one of those occasions when I felt I'd progressed. (Of course, the unofficial bout at work helped boost my confidence.)

And now I need - (if only I had time!) - to work on arm and wrist strength, speed and point control. An early night might help too.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

foiled again!

Perhaps I shouldn't have worn the club hoodie to work. I was short on sleep - writing administrative documents after midnight and before 7.00 is a bad idea - and not feeling too well. I didn't want to be cold and .... well, I like my hoodie.

What's more, I wanted to fence. I'd been watching friends compete at a tournament on Saturday. I shouldn't have been there as I'd so much to do but I took a little detour on the way to the supermarket. It was a big detour really - it involved a bus journey. But it was great to see so much fencing even if Saturday was devoted to foil and women's sabre. One of the young fencers at the club was doing his first adult (men's) competition - and getting on quite well.

I tried to watch everyone I knew but spent most of my time at women's sabre. I don't do sabre so had to ask about the rules. But there were two women from my club competing, and one started fencing when I did. She's rather good now and, once she'd got used to the competition, won a few bouts.

The sabreuses looked a great bunch, ranging from teenagers to women in their sixties. Lots of GBR and England lames too. I was particularly taken with the older women, who looked well able to defend themselves against attack. I wondered what people who met them casually would think, if they found out about the swordplay. My fantasy about Miss Marple with a sword is true.

After the tournament, club night was sadly empty - and I was the only epeeist. I'd been feeling ill enough to think I might stay home but once surrounded by fencers I wanted to join in. I even thought of trying sabre - but there wasn't a coach available. In the end I had a couple of bouts at foil. What a strange weapon it is - so small and light (like foilists) and these days I can't think my way through rules about right of way.

Then the foilists fenced me at epee. This was much easier than fencing the regular epeeists as it was the foilists' turn to think through the rules and they sometimes forgot to hit epee targets. I managed hits to the knee and jarred one opponent with a firm hit to her mask. (We were fencing steam so I had to be extra sure of landing the hits.) While it was still obvious that they were more experienced fencers, I was evidently the epeeist. But I missed my fellow epeeists (one, I hear, is injured - not by me) and the usual bouts.

So perhaps wearing the club hoodie to work came from a wish to dream about epee. The students noticed, of course.

Then a colleague (a fellow epeeist!) came in to pick up some papers he'd left behind. I was in the middle of talking to the students about poetry of the Spanish Civil War but I stopped, courteously. He couldn't resist a political joke and I immediately responded - who wouldn't? - "I challenge you to an epee contest."

"Go on," the students urged. "Show us ..."

Somehow we couldn't resist and assumed a fencing stance, going back and forth. He lunged and got me on the wrist. We resumed. I saw and opening and went straight for the mask - but there wasn't a mask. I knocked his glasses off. as I caught him on the cheekbone - and the students burst into applause. "I'm so sorry," I said. "One all," he said. And then I realised the students had their camera phones out.

"Do it again," one said. "I didn't catch that."

I was minutes away from being on youtube. My colleague and I agreed that masks were essential - and that epees and jackets would help. He left, and we had a great class on Auden's "Spain" and Edgell Rickword's "To the Wife of any Non-intervention Statesman." At some point in the discussion I remarked I was a pacifist but I'm not sure the students believed me. ("Fencing's different," I said. "It's consensual. Now, back to that phrase about "the necessary murder".")

Still, it was a neat point and appropriate for International Women's Day. And one of the students made me a lovely ASBO on a sheet of file-paper to put up on my office wall.

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