epeeists take on the dark side
The exploration took longer than I'd planned. I'd tethered my bike at the Arts Centre so that I could buy tickets for a forthcoming concert (Bach - totally irresistible) when the rain shifted from a grey drizzle to a crashing downpour. The obvious decision was to buy a double espresso and watch the swan and ducks on the lake - so I did.
At fencing my optimism fell away. I was short on energy - this always shows when we're asked to jog up and down on the spot as fast as we can, raising out knees high. I didn't last long.
A rather good sabreur, who looks about 15 but is apparently a university student, has decided to take a rest from sabre and spend a month doing epee. I'm not sure this should be allowed as fencers from the "dark side" (as sabre is known in our club) have a habit of being snooty about sabre.
He began by fencing the doc and I watched attentively, realising that I would probably have to fence him at some point in the evening. While the main hall at the leisure centre is still being re-floored, the lack of space has put off a number of fencers so I tend to take what opponents I can.
Specialists who suddenly switch weapons are always unnerving at first because they do unexpected things. This can be useful. For instance, a sabreur who tried to hit with the side of the blade won't score while foilists tends to waste time trying to establish right of way.
At first the student didn't seem to be making any mistakes. He had a good epee stance with an excellent en garde. His rapid attacks and ripostes meant that he was scoring point after point. Even though he bounced up and down in the characteristic way of sabreurs, I couldn't see any way of beating him. And then I noticed the way his foot beat the ground in an appel just before attacking. He was still way too fast for me but, towards the end, the doc was beginning to break through. Unfortunately it was a little late but, towards the end, the balance of play was with the doc.
After that experience, the doc was in extra good form. So was the Man man, though I'm beginning to feel slightly more confident about fencing him. I tried to put into practice some of the things I'd tried out on Saturday. Occasionally I managed to take the blade but mostly he was too fast for me.
By the time I fenced the student the optimism of Saturday had evaporated. Although I knew in theory how to fight the student, I simply wasn't fast enough. Towards the end, I managed a couple of hits. He was thrilled with the evening and suggested it showed that sabreurs could always beat epeeists. I suggested that next time we would go for their feet, because they wouldn't be expecting it. "We'd bounce out of the way," said the sabreuse. "I don't know," I said."One good, hard toe-hit with an epee - that's stop the bouncing."
The sabreurs looked at me in surprise. Perhaps it's because of my reputation for non-violence - or perhaps because they know how difficult toe-hits are and how rarely I achieve them."
"Not a good evening's fencing," I reflected. "Perhaps improvement takes more than one Saturday session."