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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

hits and misses

One-hit epée changes the look of the salle. As I entered, the beginners were having a class at one end of the hall and a few intermediates were chatting but the main weapon being fenced in the body of the hall was epée. Even confirmed sabreurs were taking turns on the two electric pistes, determined to do well. There's nothing like the chance of a chocolate santa to inspire a fencer.

One-hit epée tournaments are regular events at our club. They happen towards the end of each of the three terms and the club president donates a seasonal prize, usually in chocolate, with plenty of smaller chocolate items for all.

I think this must have been the largest one-hit epée contest I've known. Eighteen fencers signed up for it. The skills range was from intermediate to international and the age range was nearly fifty years. A decision was taken to set up two poules of nine with the top two of each going through to the final. Looking across at the other poule, I felt I was in a group which would give me more chances. I reckoned that, for all the strong fencers in my group, I had a chance of a couple of hits at least - with luck. The other poule was already being christened "the poule of death."

One-hit epée isn't easy to predict and it's hard to plan for it. My first bout was against a sabreur. He came towards me, moving like a sabreur and hit me at once. I unclipped and handed the ground wire over to the next fencer. Meanwhile I noticed the other epeeists doing well.

I took more time in my second bout, against the doc, but the outcome was predictable. He hit me lightly and that was it. I tried to encourage myself with the thought that I'd have better chances against other fencers in the group.

Then I was against a fencer who has encouraged and coached me unofficially on a number of occasions. He tells me off for being insufficiently aggressive so I was determined to show him how aggressive I could be. I also remembered managing a hit on him in a previous one-hit epée context. It was a longer bout with considerable movement as we parried one another. Eventually we both went for a hit and my light came on. A couple of women near me applauded and I was feeling delighted when someone pointed out that my opponent's body wire had come free of the ground-wire - not his fault but a problem with old club equipment. Someone suggested it was up to the ref to decide if the point should be replayed but it seemed clear to me and I requested a rematch.

Once again I tried to be combative and parried energetically but my opponent hit before I could land a touch. I shook hands and said "well done" but felt slightly down.

I was beaten easily by my next opponent, a Chinese graduate student who fences with us as a guest when his usual club is on vacation. Then I was against a fellow epéeist who was doing well and who tends to beat me every week. I had one advantage - I'm used to fencing him. I can't quite recall what I did but I was determined to change my strategy and move more than usual. I heard the beep that meant a touch and didn't realise, till I looked, that I'd taken the point.

That gave me confidence for the next bout, against a fencer who had recently returned after a long break. Although he fences epée sometimes, he's still mostly a foilist. Being out of practice his movements were slightly wide - and I managed to hit him. Two points seemed respectable and I was feeling pleased.

My final two bouts were against intermediate foilists who had tried epée only occasionally. The first should have hit me but her attack missed and, in a messy scramble, I managed to land a hit on her. The second was quick and accurate and hit me first.

I looked at the score sheet. I'd won three bouts and three fencers from my group had scored only two. Whatever had happened in the other poule, I wasn't last. Meanwhile the doc and the Chinese guest tied for first place in our group. No-one was sure how the final four would fence for the chocolate santa so they fenced again. There was a series of doubles before the guest landed a hit and won first place from the group.

Meanwhile the club president had won the other poule and four fencers were tied for second place. The ref quickly organised them into further bouts. The tied fencers included a regular epéeist and an international sabreur. But the winner of the battle for second place was a confident intermediate foilist who was holding an epée for only the second time in her life. She was smaller and slighter than the other fencers and her quick, delicate touches took her opponents by surprise.

After some debate, a decision was made that the final four would fence in a poule unique. This was more fun for the spectators, especially since the initial result was a tie between the president and the doc. We gathered to watch the final and cheered as the club president won - and was duly presented with the chocolate santa he had donated. Then he produced small santas for the rest of us.

When I looked at the final scoresheet, I discovered I'd had my best one-hit contest ever. Five fencers had achieved two hits and four had managed three. This meant I was in joint tenth place. I don't think I'd have done as well in the other poule but, all the same, it felt like a good result. I happily gnawed the head off a small chocolate santa.

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