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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

shoes, blisters and taking the blade

I was late to fencing. My train was late home, there was no lift, so I stuffed my kit into backpack and sword bad and set out to walk.

I haven't yet replaced the old trainers with holes, which finally lost all efficiency. It was wet, so sandals wouldn't do. I thought about walking boots, but for some reason could find only one. So, rather than wear the white trainers I keep for fencing, I put on my blue work shoes. After all, the heels aren't that high.

By the time I'd left the house, returned for the things I'd forgotten and set out again, I realised I was going to be late. With only a few yards covered, my feet began to hurt. I stuck out my thumb in a hopeful attempt to hitch. After all, if any driver proved dangerous I did have three swords with me.

The drivers didn't stop. They must have thought a middle-aged woman with large rucksack and three swords was most likely mad. I could see their point. I staggered on.

It's school half-term so there was plenty of space in the hall. Unfortunately some of the space was caused by the absence of epeeists. There were only two other epeeists: male, experienced fighters, taller than me and with a longer reach. I managed a few hits, possibly because they were being kind. They managed quite a few - but this week most of the hits I took were painless, which was an improvement.

I struggled quite badly in the second bout. "You have to take my blade," my opponent said helpfully. I tried in the approved manner - forte to foible. Every time I tried he still managed to control my blade, force it into a circle, take it out of the way and land a hit.

"So what do I do?" I asked. "Exercise to strengthen my wrist?" It didn't seem likely I could make my wrist that much stronger.

"Aim here," he said, helpfully, indicating his wrist just behind the guard.

"But you take my blade first," I complained. "And anyway, I'm already trying to be accurate."

"You could win on speed," he encouraged.

"But I don't do fast. I think this is as fast as I get."

My opponent smiled.

OK readers - any ideas?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Bank Holiday treats

I tried to post some videos on this blog but for some reason they wouldn't work. So I've posted them elsewhere. I particularly hope the authors of The Gray Epee and Screw Bronze! take a look.

Happy Bank Holiday everyone.

Note: In England we're having the traditional Bank Holiday weather: cold and wet.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

ADVERTISEMENT - not about fencing

This isn't about fencing. But I think this book is important so I'm including the advertisement on this blog too. I know some of my readers are film fans so you may like to know that a film of Murder in Samarkand is scheduled for release next year. And North American readers can buy used and new copies from Amazon.com (prices is $$ U.S.), get new copies from Canadian on-line retailer Indigo (prices in $$ Canadian), or order directly from www.amazon.co.uk.

Craig Murray's book, Murder in Samarkand, is part of a 3 for 2 promotion in Waterstone's. (That means that if you go shopping with two friends, you can get a copy each and only pay for two of them). It's also reduced in their internet shop. You don't have to buy it there. If you have a good local bookshop, buy it there. There are various on-line booksellers. Your library should stock a copy - or several.

You can buy it in paperback or in hardback - or borrow it.

Above all - read it. It's a good read and has important things to say. The focus is Uzbekistan. But it discusses the way British foreign policy operates. It explains a great deal of the background to the so-called "War on Terror". Unlike most books on politics, it's gripping. A friend stayed up reading it till the early hours of the morning because he couldn't put it down until he knew how it ended. (But the big story isn't over.)

You can also log on to Craig Murray's website and blog.

P.S. I think that Craig Murray's a hero. But he would disagree.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

slightly drunk and rather bruised

I went to the pub after fencing. It's a while since I've been to the pub but one of the fencers who began when I did - and who is now rather good - is headed for that mysterious place called "down south". It was his last night at the club.

Probably I shouldn't have been fencing. I was tired and bruised from last week. I'd had less than five hours sleep and a busy, exhausting and infuriating day at work. But of course I wanted to stab someone - as many people as possible.

I was glad I turned up. For the first time, there were more women epeeists than men (well, it was only 3 to 2). One of the women had just received her first epee and showed it off. "Shiny," every fencer remarked in turn, admiring the guard. The fencer was a little reluctant to risk her new treasure in combat - it seemed possible she'd be so protective that she'd be easy to beat.

It wasn't so. She has never beaten me so thoroughly. Even concern for her shiny guard didn't stop her. She said the pistol grip felt good in her hand. I'm back to being the only club fencer who uses a French grip.

I had a great deal of strategy this evening and tried mixing my attacks to take my opponents by surprise. This might have worked had I combined this with speed and accuracy. I was hit hard and hit hard - often, unfortunately, after I'd been hit by opponents. Occasional hits worked well and it's just possible this strategy of varying moves and attacks may work better when I'm awake, alert and accurate - the year after next, perhaps.

Then, hot and exhuasted, I headed with the crowd to the pub. I don't drink much these days and this has a wonderful side effect: in the right circumstances, small amounts of alcohol make me feel very merry quite quickly. We sat outdoors - probably a good idea as fencing is a rather sweaty sport. Half way through the first half-pint, I felt a happy glow as we discussed subject ranging from good fencing tactics to tactics for taking over the badminton players' part of the hall. Dynamite in shuttlecocks was discussed, as were posters casting doubt on the sexual prowess of badminton players. We NEED their part of the hall - our club is growing. Strong tactics are vital. Of course, some fencers play badminton as well - but not usually while fencing.

Eventually the laughter and jokes came to an end. I got a lift home. The bruises still don't hurt - evidently the pint of beer I enjoyed had an anaesthetic effect. And that's good too.

Note for connoisseurs of beer: the pub didn't have my favourite real ales but a half of Kroneneberg followed by a half of Cobra - very pleasant for a summer evening.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

steaming on

The rain continues. Being British, we all talk about the weather in a "mustn't grumble" sort of way, reminding one another that the crops need it. But nostalgic memories of April sun creep in.

I'm writing this while the adrenalin works as pain relief. I just noticed that one of the hits to my right arm drew blood - just where they apply the needle at the blood donor clinic. It's going to be bruised too and I suspect it will start hurting badly in half an hour or so As I enjoyed all my bouts, it was worth it.

The hall was packed and several epeeists had returned after absence. One had been in Paris at the same time as me. She'd been in the Place de la Bastille on election night, even though she knew Segolene Royal was unlikely to be celebrating there. "Did you burn any cars?" I asked eagerly, having heard about the disturbances. But she hadn't. There was just a fairly tame demonstration in French terms - perhaps with a couple of fireworks - until the police started throwing tear-gas at everyone.

We discussed the elections during footwork - annoying, I expect, but it was a while since we'd seen each other. It wasn't good for our footwork either - we kept forgetting which lowered arm called on us to lunge and which to step-lunge. But then I succumbed to foil and, after that, quite a lot of epee.

I wasn't particularly good or strategic, though every so often there was a hit that pleased me. But I enjoyed it a great deal. The evening ended with a steam bout (which we decided half way through should go to 20, since there seemed enough time). Epee is the easiest weapon to ref on electric and the hardest on steam. Refs have to be persuaded and cajoled into giving it a go. "Please ref for us ... we'll make it easy for you."

"Could you please hit each other on the side nearest me?" our ref pleaded, as we turned to her for a decision. "I can't see if a hit lands."

Then, "Do you think he hit you before you hit him?"

Later I pointed out that she'd missed my hit ... possibly. "But he's more likely to get a hit than you," she explained, "so if I watch for his hits I've got more chance of seeing them"

"That's not fair," I complained. "I'm not so good as him so I need the extra points. Look for my hits and don't worry about his."

By this time we were both giggling so my opponent offered his help. "Why don't you give her one hit for every four you give me? That would be about right."

I'm not sure about the scoring - none of us was - but 4 to 1 overstated it. My opponent won 20-9 which seemed about right.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

soggy shoes and suicidal snails

At the weekend I had two days with friends in Paris. I've been blogging about that elsewhere but there wasn't any fencing involved, although I did think the Place des Vosges looked like the sort of place where d'Artagnan and friends might hang out. It was sunny in Paris.

Back in England, everything is busy at work and it's raining. After the extravagance of Paris I couldn't justify the cab fare - I grew up reading Noel Streatfield's wonderful book Ballet Shoes, in which the splendidly independent and economical Fossil girls were brought up to "save the penny and walk" rather than taking the bus. So I set out to walk the mile and a half to fencing.

Before you get worried, I did make sure I could keep the swords dry. My feet were another matter. I could hardly wear the smart work shoes I need tomorrow, my walking boots take half an hour to lace and sandals or plimsoles are simply stupid in the rain. That left the cheap trainers with holes in. I squelched all the way there, with my kit stuffed into a back-pack, doing little jumps to avoid the snails on the pavement. The chief occupations of British snails seem to be sliding on pavements in the rain, being crunched into slimy, crackling messes and eating one another. French snails have a more interesting life according to Microcosmos but I suppose lots of them end up on a dinner plate.

I don't suppose I avoided all the snails but I did enjoy the wonderful smell of wet hawthorn. It's in full blossom just now - deep white or intensely red - and it's always been my favourite.

However the walk into the leisure centre across the hall was less happy. I left a damp trail - luckily the health and safety people weren't watching. Then I slipped out of the soaking trainers, revealing sodden fencing socks. Saving time by changing socks at home is not always a good idea. At least I hadn't tried to walk in full fencing kit.

The fencing was much as usual in that some things worked, some didn't. I was a little more successful that I'd expected and thought I was planning more (sometimes) and thinking more strategically. Unfortunately thinking strategically didn't always coincide with good hits. But I felt just a little fitter and faster than in previous weeks - probably the Paris effect.

And I got a lift home!

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