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, June 27, 2007

5 - 4

Sometimes fencing goes right.

It shouldn't have been a successful week. My resolutions to exercise and practise came to nothing - as usual, I couldn't find the time. Well, I might have exercised during insomniac episodes but to read or make herbal tea. So I arrived, tired and unfit.

We shared our flood stories. There are floods nearby. Although they didn't threaten fencing, some fencers have faced tricky journeys as roads were closed and some railway tracks submerged. I found it hard to focus in the warm-up and dreaded my first encounter.

My opponent was a third my age: taller, stronger and a more experienced fencer. I didn't expect to take any points off him, although he said he'd been up half the night. We began by free fencing before a bout. I was encouraged to see that we began with two doubles.

It wasn't brilliant fencing - but it was very good for me. I was thinking strategically - suddenly the advice I received a few weeks ago began to make sense - and was varying my attacks. I knew what I wanted to do and sometimes it worked. And sometimes the point of my blade seemed to have its own ideas. I carried through a few attacks without hesitation. My opponent hit my arm a few times - harder than usual, which suggested he was not on good form.

We moved to a bout - just to 5 as the hall was hot. I took the first two points, one with a hit to the forearm. "Angulate," a voice said in my brain, echoing my coach.

After two points, I thought that was it. He would improve and concentrate and take five points in a row, Losing 5-2 has happened before and it felt OK. I expected to lose and he took the next two points - but I could see that they were easy ones I should have defended. I had to get the next point. I concentrated and took it. I can't remember but that may have been my wrist hit. Then he came back and took the next two points. 4-3. It was more than respectable but I wasn't letting go. I should remember which point was which but I don't. I recall a hit to the knee and a hit where I took his blade on the guard and kept going as he felt the impact jar.

I'd pulled up to 4-4. That was it, I thought, pleased with my performance. But as he attacked, I saw and opening. My blade took control and landed just as it should. 5-4 to me. I had won a bout.

It doesn't happen often. It hardly ever happens.

Suppose I were d'Artagnan. Perhaps I could defeat one of the Cardinal's men - so long as I was well-rested and he'd partied hard before a long ride through the night. It could happen - in my dreams.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

more important than fencing?

What can be more important than fencing? Quite a lot actually.

I'd been hesitant about fencing this week. Pain in my right wrist and arm - probably from typing with the keyboard at the wrong angle - left me worrying about how long I could hold an epee and how accurately I could hit. Being a worse epeeist than last week didn't appeal.

Then there was a new claim on my time. My son was asked to play a keyboard with a group in a school concert (one item on a packed programme). I had to persuade him that I'd behave well. "Don't say anything, don't clap along, don't join in the songs - whatever other people do," was the command. Instead of going fencing, I went to the concert.

Mu son's involvement was arranged late. I didn't know there would be tickets till the last minute. And I took my fencing kit just in case. I wasn't really hoping to challenge someone to a duel but the school is next to the leisure centre where we fence. As the concert began at 7.00 and fencing lasts till 9.30, I thought I might get half an hour's fencing at least. A couple of weeks back the epee coach had reckoned he could offer some help at 9.00, when the beginners moved on from coaching to free play.

I'd forgotten about school concerts. They are filled with unexpected delights. They are also long.

I'd asked my son how long it would be. "Long," he said, but could give no detail. "Long" was a fair description. The first part lasted an hour and a half. Luckily I loved a great deal. The opening samba band thrilled the audience with gusto . A teacher - evidently a trained singer (professional standard, surely) - sang songs by Roger Quilter and Vaughan Williams. It wasn't quite to the pupils' taste but I was enraptured. He sang my favourite Quilter song - a setting of Tennyson's most erotic poem (although the wonderful couplet at the centre is omitted from the setting). A student gave a startlingly intense and interior rendition of Bach on an elderly and inadequate keyboard - and produced wonders. There were performers filled with enthusiasm and many with great promise. Some technically imperfect performances were moving. I willed them to do their best, knowing that one day they might do better still.

At previous school concerts pupils were compelled to wear school uniform. This time they wore their own clothes, which seemed to boost their confidence. The costumes were mostly casual and not extravagant - but they showed the characters of the performers. The audience (family, friends, other performers) cheered every act wildly. Pupils left the stage grinning

At half time I headed for the leisure centre to give my apologies. The hall looked cool and relatively empty (quite a few fencers were on the stage or in the audience). I looked longingly at the white-clad fencers as they moved swiftly and skilfully. All at once, I wanted to be among them. The epee coach wasn't there so I had no apology to give. I wondered briefly whether 20 minutes would allow me to get my kit on, exchange a few hits, change back and sit calmly in the audience. I knew it wouldn't. "If it ends early," I asked, knowing it wouldn't, "could I keep my jeans on and slip on a jacket and fence foil - just steam?" The coach I asked agreed but we both knew I was unlikely to be back.

It was a good concert. I just needed a time-turner. Sometimes I need to be in two places at once.

The first half had included popular and classical items. The second moved more towards rock. The version of YMCA in which my son was involved sounded like punk to me, but my knowledge is dated. I think Village People might have found it unexpected. The rock version Pachebel's Canon was startling. An energetic death metal performance (preceded by a polite announcement that was half explanation, half apology) had the young people applauding ecstatically while the grannies smiled. It all took them back to their youth. They thought happily of Alice Cooper.

The concert ended after 10. I was filled with energy as I collected my kit and swords from the leisure centre reception and headed home.

Next week, I hope ...

Meanwhile, I can fantasise ...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

wishful thinking

Wouldn't it be wonderful to sing grand opera while fencing?

(I have to concentrate ever so hard just to hold a tune.)

This is Placido Domingo in Alfano's opera of Cyrano de Bergerac. The swordplay isn't exactly Olympic standard - and he takes a while to draw his sword - but being able to sing like that should stun opponents into submission.

I expect KateJ to respond by posting an example of operatic archery - perhaps a snatch of Rossini's William Tell ... And I expect Elizabeth McClung to inspire one or more operas about female wheelchair boxing ... though manga and anime are probably more to her taste.

But perhaps you don't share my passion for opera.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 14, 2007

d'Artagnan, shoes and wire-nibbling

I would have liked the d'Artagnan shoes. Mind you, "d'Artagnan, by Adidas" doesn't sound quite right.

The d'Artagnan fencing shoes aren't what he wears in the pictures. I ended up with a pair of Kappa trainers - half price in a sale. Unfortunately the rather strange logo is in the shade Kappa call "hot pink". I looked for a different colour - black, blue or red - but in my size it had to be hot pink. I don't think d'Artagnan would have been seen dead in Kappa trainers.

I'm not yet sure about them but they're ever so comfortable and a good fit. I haven't yet decided what makes good shoes for fencing - these are lighter, which makes movement easy, but I'm not sure they offer all the support for movement I'd like. I think I want shoes that will make me fast - perhaps winged boots like Hermes' would do the trick.

Anyway, I got to fencing and found myself facing that difficult opponent who takes control of my blade with such ease. After losing a couple of points, I tried to remember the advice I'd been given. "Come en garde in sixte," I muttered - and tried a beat befire parry, opposing forte to foible, sliding my blade over his guard.

I was too slow, of course. Eventually, somehow - I don't know how - I forced my way forward and landed a clear hit on his chest. We both stopped. The hit hadn't registered on the box. We switched swords for a moment - plainly mine was at fault. Problems with the blade-wire, I assume.

I was loaned a pistol grip and then, when I found that hard, a grip that should have been easier. But it didn't feel right. Just as before, I found that anything other than a French grip felt wrong.

"Shake hands with the grip," I was advised, as I tried to remember how to place my hand round the metal prongs. But it slowed me further. The simple French grip can feel like an extension of my arm - anything else is an object I carry in my hand and I have to think how to use it.

I stopped. I'd been using my second epee. My first had suffered spring problems and then lost two of the bolts and nuts for fixing the body wire. I thought perhaps someone could show me how to transfer them. A sabreuse came to my rescue, using a hairclip to unscrew the bolts from the second epee so that they could be transferred to the first. She didn't just show me how it should be done, but nibbled back the coating on the wire so that the metal thread would wind round easily. It was fiddly and I'm afraid she lost some fencing time helping me. Wire-nibbling could be misinterpreted, we decided - and evolved a fantasy: we would approach men in bars to ask, "Would you like me to nibble your wire?" "Can I nibble your wire?" could even be a slogan on T-shirts - who would admit to ignorance of such an obviously well-known practice?

With my first epee restored to health, I staggered stiffly back to the epeeists. (I'd been sitting on my legs and had slight cramp.) I managed to fence a couple more men. The wonderful first epee should have brought me luck and victory. But I was still tired. I think my opponents felt sorry for me. It took all their care, generosity and slow-motion fencing to ensure I got one or two hits.

I must find time to exercise and practise.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Losing - despite electric aid

There was splendid advice in response to my last post. I wasn't sure I could do it but I thought I'd give it a go.

But of course, the fencer I found so difficult wasn't there and I found myself fencing women for a change. They were all shorter than me but I found that once in a while I could score points by lunging and going low. On the whole, however, I missed. I missed by miles, moved slowly and hit flat.

When we moved from steam to the electric piste it seemed as though I was doing better. I was 5-2 up when my opponent landed a clear hit that didn't register - the box had stopped working. So I probably wasn't 5-2 up either.

I thought I'd try for particular hits and see if I could get them. It was a stupid idea. As I tried to slide my blade over my opponent's guard on point after point, my moves were repetitive. I was defeated every time. I decided to try for the knee, repeatedly. My opponent was waiting.

Later, fencing a more experienced fencer, I scored what I thought was a good hit. My light went on - but my opponent was checking her equipment. Her body wire had become detached (not her fault - problems with the connection from the box). It seemed as though the electric equipment felt sorry for me and was trying to help me out. It didn't succeed.

I lost.

Later I switched to foil and fenced my son, who had returned after a few weeks off. He was out of practice and his back was hurting. He beat me 5-1.

It was good to see people and practice. Perhaps next week I'll have better fencing to report.

Labels: , , , , , ,