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, November 06, 2008

Finding the floor

"Come round on Wednesday," a friend said, expansively, at the end of Meeting. "We're burning Catholics."

"Sorry, I can't make it," I responded. "I'm stabbing people."

Perhaps it's as well there weren't any newcomers. People don't expect Quakers to talk like that. But the Friends who were present understood that they were being invited to a fireworks party with bonfire and that I couldn't go because I was going fencing. Some Quakers are a bit doubtful about my enthusiasm for fencing but fortunately they're a tolerant, accepting lot.

I forgot about the fireworks until I got home, when anxiety about Joe the cat hit me. Being a cat-owner keeps landing me with unanticipated responsibilities. Perhaps I couldn't go fencing at all, I thought. My son was heading to the display at his former primary school and I couldn't leave a fearful cat alone in the hosue.

Fortunately Joe deosn't scare easily. He curled up in the sink, which would be his favourite place if it weren't for the water. He likes the water and wants to play with it ... if only it weren't so wet.

I cycled through the damp, dark mist to the accompaniment of occasional pops and thuds. Tethering my bike, I headed to the hall - the big hall. It's been closed since July for work on the floor, leaving us to fence in the small hall, squash courts and corridors. But now the floor is fresh and shiny. The walls have been painted too. They are in rather unfortunate shades of bright green, which clash with the new mustard-green paintwork elsewhere. It's a shame the leisure centre didn't consult the fencers on suitable colours for a salle. We'd probably have gone with cream, black and gold. I expect the leisure centre found a helpful discount on green paint.

But the sound was the real surprise. I'd forgotten how delightful it is to hear the clash of blades and the cries and grunts of sabreurs. (I don't know why sabreurs make such a noise when fencing but they always do.) The beginners were still working at one end of the hall and there were three pistes next to the curtain that divides fencers from badminton-players. There must have been nearly fifty fencers there, some fencing steam and some waiting for a piste or space.

There were only three other epeeists and I fenced them all. My single victory over the dancer had given me new confidence and, when we fenced again, I managed far more hits than usual. We weren't scoring but I reckoned I managed three quarters as many hits as he did. More importantly, it felt like a proper bout and I reckoned that perhaps I'd have a chance of beating the dancer on another occasion, with a bit of luck.

I had a much harder time against the doc. His speed and light hits to my arm remained disconcerting. I managed a few hits but wondered, at times, if he was letting me hit him. However he often appears to open his arm to attack only to deceive my blade, so it was hard to tell. I also fenced the brunette again. She may be new to epee but she's an accurate left-hander with a long reach. At first I was as nonplussed as when I first fenced her. I would reach and try to angle but she would always get in first. It dawned on me that the only way I could hit her was by taking her blade. It didn't always work but, as I tried, I began to even up the contest.

I realise I've been slipping into my old habits of mirroring my opponents' techniques - or just repeating attacks in the hope they work. Fencing twice a weeks is giving me the confidence to work more on different strategies for different opponents.

But I'm also inspired by the return to the big hall. It offers opportunities for conversation too. I fell into conversation with a couple of sabreuses about the freedom fencing offers us. The club gives us an opportunity to be ourselves, we agreed - we don't have to modify our behaviour for other people. And we get to stab people too.

I heard the same from the mother of a young foilist. He's slightly autistic and needs clarity and repetition so that he can advance. His mother was full of praise for the club and the coaches - she's found an environment where her son can feel secure and be accepted as he is. Once again, I was glad to be a member of my fencing club.

All the same, I left early, just in case Joe the cat was worried. He wasn't.

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Anonymous Katie said...

I like green.

4:33 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

They are very big walls and they are very green. The mustard green on the bridge is worse.

4:37 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

I like mustard too, though. Sometimes I like to wear a mustard-coloured cardigan with my green shoes. They go very nicely together.

6:58 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

Once I had a pointless argument with a German about whether something could be 'very green'. It was very tedious.

6:58 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

I bet all your green clothes would clash with the walls, however.

7:02 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

you will have to take some photos.

7:28 pm  
Blogger The Gray Epee said...

I am glad your are trying some new moves Kathy.

Sometimes you just have to take the hits for a while, but it is worth it in the long run.

12:32 am  
Anonymous Katie said...

PS: I can see the carpet in that last picture! That means it is not true what you said about your house.

6:49 pm  
Blogger Kathz said...

Isn't it a horrible carpet, however? and the picture was taken some months ago.

6:53 pm  
Anonymous Katie said...

I have seen worse carpets. I think it is rather jolly.

6:58 pm  

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