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, February 21, 2008

tempi ... and policeman's foot

The chef had beaten me again, with ease. I blame the apple strudel. She recounted with pride the new recipe she had mastered - apparently the successful creation of strudel involves hurling pastry at hard surfaces around the house. Good for hand-eye co-ordination, I expect, and very strengthening for the sword-arm.

I was fencing and losing again when an insight struck me. I was landing all my hits - when I landed them at all - fractionally too late and was being caught off-guard far too often. And I saw what I was doing. I was taking my tempo from my opponent and never trying to set my own speeds.

I'd like to report that I then won every hit. I didn't - I still lost most points. But I began to change the tempo and take control which disconcerted my opponent ... at least, I like to think so. Instead of being hit again and again with the consolation of a few doubles, I managed some hits of my own.

It wasn't a brilliant evening but I felt I'd solved a problem and realised that varying tempi might work for me, even though I lack the speed of my opponents. However, lack of speed and a nagging (allright, excruciating) pain in my left heel was deterring me. Towards the end of the evening I refused an offered bout - perhaps the first time I have ever done so. And I was ever so glad when a veteran sabreuse offered me a lift. She's a nurse in her everyday existence and enquired about the limp.

"Policeman's foot," she told me, and told me firmly to visit the doctor.

He agreed with he diagnosis and has prescribed anti-inflammatories, rest if possible and ice-packs three times a day. "But what about fencing?" I asked. He asked how I used the foot and I explained about lunges. As I'm right handed, lunges put pressure on my left heel. So does footwork. Lunges are not allowed. In theory I shouldn't move much. But he agreed I could stand still and practise bladework and point control. I don't know if I'll find a partner.

At least I didn't mention the fleche ... or the balestra.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

socks and bruises

The breeches are fine, though a little tight at present. And I've no problem with the mask or plastron. I have occasional problems with shoes, but I can cope. One heel rubs but I've no blisters yet. Still I dream of the sudden acquisition of money - not a great deal, not even enough to do sabre, but just enough for a little refurbishment of my fencing wardrobe.

The jacket was an economy measure - the cheapest I could find of the requisite thickness (tested to350 Newtons). I'd like a thicker jacket - 800 Newtons would be good. Epeeists hit hard and perhaps, with a thicker jacket, the black bruises down my right arm and leg wouldn't be quite so dark. More than that, I'd like a side-fastening jacket. I'm fed up of the weekly scramble and fumble and the embarrassed request for assistance with the zip at the back. It's a fine jacket - a strong jacket that wears well ... but I often dream of having enough money for one with a zip at the side.

I dream of proper fencing socks too ... but then I'm moving into luxury territory. I don't get hit on my legs so often that I need padded socks. Rugby socks are fine and much cheaper, though I'm not sure why rugby players want to wear white socks. But padded socks with magic names like "Duellist" or "Leon Paul" would be absolutely splendid. I wonder if I'd move better in them too.

Of course, there are other things I'd like too: more time for fencing, more weapons, occasional wins. I came close at foil last time, but the chef beat me in the end. These days she always does, but I keep hoping. I got a couple of hits that pleased and surprised me. But it's been an odd fortnight for fencing with the hall so crowded that we're all queuing for pistes or taking little stretches of floor for steam practice. I counted 45 fencers the other night, though quite a few were beginners lining up and practising lunge, parry, riposte. I took a couple of bad hits to my bruised arm early on and after that the epee weighed my arm down more than I like - but I kept going as long as it was my turn on the piste.

Later, one of the coaches got me and the chef to practise accuracy. He held an epee in each hand and, as he lowered his arm, we went for the crook of the elbow. At first we were standing, then moving slowly back and forth and finally we had to parry first or respond to pressure from his blade. And all the time my arm ached. It still does.

I'm dreaming of weapons and new fencing clothes. If only the cat avoided opponents. He's injured again - the vet prescribes tablets, injections and lots of comfort. It's all rather expensive. Sometimes at night the cat curls up on my bruised arm and purrs happily in his sleep. It seems cruel to move him, but in the end I do.

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