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

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

winning a bout (an unusual event)

As readers of this blog will know, I don't expect to win. Occasionally I get a good hit or two but winning - except against beginners - is a pretty rare event. Of course, in my fantasies I could take on d'Artagnan or Cyrano, but in real life the clash of blades is usually followed by a point to my opponent.

Last week, however, I felt on good form. Physiotherapy and the use of a TENS machine had done wonders for the pain from my fractured vertebra. I headed to fencing feeling cheerful and unusually alert after several nights' sleep uninterrupted by pain. I'd forgotten how good that felt. Ignoring the twinges in my back from the weight of my backpack - I still can't risk cycling - I enjoyed the scent of flowers and mown grass in the light evening. Lilac blossoms stretched over the tarmac pavement and the path to the leisure centre was lined by cow parsley.

The fencing boys were away on half term but the fencer I think of as the Welshman was there. (He isn't actually Welsh.) More importantly, he was keen to fence epée. As usual, I didn't expect to win but I hoped I wouldn't too badly. Like me, the Welshman is a late starter but he's been fencing longer than I have and has entered competitions. He also takes part in other sports so is plainly more athletic.

Still, I was filled with enthusiasm, especially when I surprised myself and my opponent by scoring the first hit.

I was relaxed, which helped, and moving more freely than I have for months. This probably wasn't impressive but it gave me the confidence to think about strategy and vary my attacks. When we started to score doubles, and I was ahead, I realised that a run of doubles would be enough. But as we reached 9-8, my opponent was faster and the score went to 9-9. But somehow I'd achieved the sort of calmness I needed and went for the next hit. I scored. "10-9," said the Welshman, whipped off his mask and held out his hand.

I hadn't been sure whether we were fencing to 10 or 15 but I was certainly happy to stop with a victory at 10. Victories don't happen often.

Holding onto the epée piste, I persuaded an intermediate foilist less than half my age that he'd like to give epée a go. He has the height for it. He's fast, but he's not yet familiar enough with the weapon. His en garde was still based on foil and I even managed a wrist hit. I could also take advantage of that little pause that is characteristic of fencers used to establishing right of way. It wasn't easy to beat him 10-8 but it was easier than beating the Welshman. After we'd finished I explained about his en garde and the pause and suggested he ask one of the coaches for advice. I wonder if I'll ever beat him again.

It would be good to end this post with a victory but that isn't how the evening ended. I fenced steam against an experienced and younger foilist who has done quite enough epée to avoid the usual errors. I couldn't get to grips with her foil technique and found myself repeating errors. We weren't keeping score but it was easy enough to see that she smashed me. But I still got a few hits.

Labels: , , , , ,

stabbing children

The arrival of two young epéeists - evenly matched and enthusiastic 11-year-olds - has cheered me at least.

In all the time I've been a member of the fencing club, younger fencers have tended to stick with foil or move to sabre. I can see why that is. The epée is the heaviest weapon. Even lighter versions will cause a young arm to ache after five or ten minutes of practice. And then there's a lot of practice involved before it's possible to achieve a hit while moving - at least if you hit with a sabre there's a good chance the blade will land roughly where you want it. Moving from foil to epée involves feeling like a beginner again: missing what seem to be easy hits and getting rid of the slight pause that characterises fencers who need to establish right of way.

I think the youngsters started with epée. They've been fencing for a while and are good.

I had some advantages. Because there aren't any club epées below size 5 - and because I can't hold or fence with a pistol grip - the young fencers had to use a heavier weapon than usual to fence me. (Other fencers used borrowed a smaller, lighter, shorter weapon from one of the youngsters.) Then there was my greater height and weight. However it seemed to me that I had one disadvantage at least - I would be trying to hit a smaller (and probably faster) target area.

If I were a better fencer, I'd have started off lightly, giving the young fencers a chance. As a pretty weak fencer, hampered by a back injury, I decided to try to win. I'd watched the boys for long enough to reckon that, if I beat them once, they'd be busy working out ways to defeat me. So I used everything I had - strength, weight and, quite possibly, the boys' awareness that they were stabbing someone old enough to be their grandmother.

In the first bout I was quickly two points ahead and held the advantage as we fenced, with several doubles, to 10-8. I won the second bout 10-2. Then I wondered if I'd been mean. "No," I thought. "I learn a lot by fencing people who beat me - and it's probably the same for them."

They were back next week. I fenced only one of them and he beat me 10-8. Time for me to try even harder.

This all happened a couple of weeks ago. I'm trying to catch up on blogposts. More shortly, I hope.

Labels: , , , , , ,