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.

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Location: United Kingdom

Thursday, August 06, 2009

"Fail again. Fail better."

I'm back on Blogger. I didn't mean to take a break but life (and death) caught up with me, as they do. I've missed a couple of fencing evenings, once because I had to travel to the funeral of a friend and once because I was away at a Quaker event - Britain Yearly Meeting - where we finally and overwhelmingly reached the decision to treat same-sex marriages in the same way as opposite-sex marriages. It was quite an easy decision and relatively quick, given Friends' labyrinthine processes - it only took us twenty-two years.

In the meantime, my fencing has been erratic. I was greatly encouraged by a postcard from Beth at Screw Bronze which arrived just as I needed it. Losing a friend can make it hard to focus on anything and this friend worked hard at remembering to enquire after my fencing progress. There was even a phone-call once announcing that there had been fencing on the television. I was thrilled. "What weapon?" I asked. There was a pause, then a question in reply, "What's the difference?" But those regular enquiries helped immensely. It's ever so good when a friend takes an interest.

Back from the funeral, I found myself fencing a young woman of less than half my age who usually defeats me easily, even though foil is her main weapon. We agreed to fence to ten. I didn't feel like doing anything but decided I'd fence as if my friend was watching and supporting me. It felt good. I took the first two points, then we realised that there was a problem with the wiring. When it was corrected, we started again from zero and, yet again, I found I was two points up. I didn't seem likely to win, even with that advantage, but I determined to do my best.

Somehow, every time she caught up, I pulled ahead, never by more than one or two points. She drew level at 8 all and then I managed the hit that took me to 9-8. I wanted to get the next point and win the bout. As I darted forward with my blade, I felt her point attach on my arm. I was sure it was 9 all. But when I looked at the electric box I saw both red and green lights. It was a double - I'd done it and won 10-9.

After that my fencing slipped but it was good to know what winning felt like. I tried to remember that as my skill slipped in the rest of the evening - and in the club's one-hit epee contest where, to my surprise, I didn't come last. I gave advice to a couple of young sabreurs who were trying epee for fun - one hit me while my brief bout against the other ended in a "double defeat" (doubles lose in one-hit contests). I managed a solitary victory against a fencer who said he'd done what I warned him against last year - somehow he walked onto my sword. I knew that what I needed was the will to win - and, ideally, greater strength, speed and accuracy. The club president, who is in his 60s, had one of his frequent victories though he refused to take the sparkling wine which he had donated as the prize.

August is for free fencing and we have the hall for only two hours. I made it this week. Attendance had slipped to no more than thirty, mostly foilists and sabreurs. I spent some time fencing the only epeeist there - he's taking a break from coaching foil. Again I fenced as though I were showing a friend what fun it was - and I was faster, more varied and quicker to see openings. I may have achieved a hand hit by luck but it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been doing my best. I remembered to parry more and to follow each parry with the best attack I could manage, even though my wrists weren't quite strong enough to take my opponent's blade easily.

Towards the end, I began to tire and when my opponent suggested we fence to five my will to win had evaporated. He attacked more strongly and my defences were too slow and weak. He won 5-0. But he remarked that I had improved and was harder to hit, adding that in our preliminary fencing I'd managed five hits in a row, so I didn't feel so bad.

There were no other epeeists. Seeing a 12-year-old sitting at the edge of the hall, I asked her if she'd like to fence me at foil. It's sometimes hard for fencers of that age to challenge fencers who seem much older and more experienced. It was good for me to try the discipline of foil and good for my legs to take up the challenge of fencing someone much smaller than me. After only a year, my young opponent has a good stance and technique. Perhaps she'll move on to epee when she's bigger and stronger. (I won, by the way, though she'll probably beat me when she's a bit bigger. Still, it's important to remember that fencing is not just for the young.)


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4 Comments:

Blogger The Gray Epee said...

" Not just for the young"

Amen

1:20 am  
Blogger Littlefair said...

I had to look it up...Samuel Beckett, right?

11:29 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

yes, Waiting for Godot, I think. A very useful quotation - in my life, at any rate.

8:24 am  
Anonymous moos said...

Oh my! I love the fencing lady photos that you've posted. I collect the girls myself - but I've never fenced. Unless you count barbed wire.

12:40 am  

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