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

Sunday, October 05, 2008


After last week's experience I was hesitant about returning to fencing.

It had been a difficult week and, gently as the dentist was, she confirmed that I had, as she put it "a fractured tooth". It's not bad, which is just as well as I have to wait two weeks for treatment.

Getting to the dentist was quite a trial. I decided to cycle, forgetting that my dentist resides close to the summit of a mountain peak in the vertiginous ranges of South Nottinghamshire - or, as the chef put it, on a slight incline. I found I couldn't keep going for the whole of the slope and got off to push my bike, uncomfortably aware of the young, energetic and, I assumed, contemptuous students swirling about me.

I got lost on my way to the surgery and found myself surrounded by the young. Even the dentist seemed no more than twelve, though I'll concede she may have been fifteen. She was very gentle and seemed pretty good at her job despite her lack of years.

At least cycling downhill was exciting - and I managed to avoid an over-enthusiastic articulated lorry as I swerved out onto the roundabout to take the quick, main route home.

Having faced the dentist, I shoud have had no qualms about fencing. But my jaw still ached and I didn't want another run of mask hits. For the first time, I was nervous about being hurt.

I've been bruised and even cut before and it hasn't worried me much. But those repeated blows to the mask unnerved me. The chef, communicating by i.m. from Paris, gave me advice: "You don't have to fence the youth," and "You could always do foil."

Wearily I pulled my jeans over my breeches, clambered onto my bike and cycled off into the night, slightly late. My swords clanged against the bicycle basket. I felt wimpish and stupid but my confidence returned as I gained speed in the cool air. By the time I'd chained my bike at the leisure centre I'd made a decision. I wouldn't fence the youth. And I'd consider doing foil.

I confessed my nervousness, with some embarrassment. The doc said it was like riding a bike - that, if you fell off, you must get on again at once. I saluted and, clumsily as usual, pulled on my mask.

I didn't have any good bouts at epee. However, I found I was moving better against the doc - not just attacking, which is what I usually do when I lack confidence, but trying to vary speed and tactics. I even got a few decent arm-hits. Later I fenced the Man man. He was, I assume, slowing down and giving me a chance, letting me get ahead and then overtaking me. I was grateful, I think. At least I took advantage of the chances so that he only beat me 15-12.

Things were slightly uneasy between me and the youth. He'd meant well, after all. I just didn't want to fence him. So when I found myself talking to one of the intermediate fencers - a young woman who started foil a year ago, I suggested a bout. We fenced a couple of points and then she was called for some coaching. Then the coach agreed to referee a bout between us.

I assumed I would lose. My opponent is younger and had been tough to fence when she tried epee. She's fierce and determined, using strength and speed. And it's a while since I've handled a foil. I did a quick mental check-list: remember to parry, straighten the arm fast, show you've established right of way. Then I picked up my foil, saluted, put on my mask and prepared to be beaten.

About five hits into the bout, I realised I could win. I'm not sure what it was - I think that the new tactics she'd learnt were making her pause, infinitesimally, before she put them into action. And once I was ahead she was cross with herself and uncertain.

The coach called encouragement and advice to her - then apologised that, as a ref, he shouldn't do it. But it seemed fine to me. I was the more experienced fencer and I was ahead.

I didn't want to be brutal or overly aggressive but I wanted to win. One hit I landed on her collar-bone hurt her. I paused and apologised. The coach pointed out that I was fencing, as usual, with my electric foil (the only one I have) while she had a practice foil with rubber button. I don't think she was badly hurt but she probably took a bruise. As an epeeist I expect 6-12 bruises a week but foilists aren't used to that.

The bout continued. I was fencing better than usual and she was fencing worse. I won 15-9.

Next week, my opponent won't pause when she uses new tactics, and I'm unlikely to fence so well. But it was nice to win a bout for a change.

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Anonymous Katie said...

That is a very convincing win.

It's also pleasing that you seem to be doing everything I tell you from Paris.

Why the change of typeface?

10:11 pm  
Blogger Kathz said...

It's always supposed to be Lucida Grande but every so often something goes wrong with it.

I don't suppose I'll ever win again - but at the time I had the confidence and she didn't.

I don't think I'm doing EVERYTHING you tell me.

10:39 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

so if I told you to spend less time at work, you wouldn't just unquestioningly obey me?

9:25 pm  
Blogger Kathz said...

It's a nice idea, but probably not.

9:27 pm  

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