Saturday, April 08, 2006

Epee training, exhaustion and blue hair

Today is the BC Provincial Fencing Championships. But I am not there. Mr. Ho told me that I could not go.

I went to practice last night feeling pretty confident: I fenced well the previous week (including a 8-11 bout with Amanda) and had put in time practicing lunges and precision attacks on my ping-pong.

I fenced a couple foil bouts for warm-up. Mr. Ho was wandering around as he had neither Monica nor Amanda to train. I wondered if I should ask Mr. Ho for a lesson. The other fencers thought that a bad idea; he could decide not to give you any lessons ever, one fencer hadn’t had a lesson in four years.

I asked Mr. Ho for a lesson. “Why not?” he replied.

We started the lesson at 7:45 with arm attacks and lunges. Amanda told me that he tells her, “hit the opening, hit the opening” even when she can’t see the spot just behind the epee guard bell, but over time, she has learned to hit it, unseen.

We practiced forearm lunges but he suddenly leaves telling me to practice until he returns. Lunges in front of the mirror become tiresome without the terror of Mr. Ho watching. Gerald wanders over and wants a few bouts. I promise them after the lesson if he will let me use him as a target. I am back in junior high worried that the teacher will come back and find me goofing off.

Mr. Ho comes back and finds us practicing lunges, he announces that we will BOTH have a lesson. We each get 5-10 minutes with Mr. Ho before we alternate. Mr. Ho seems to spend more time with me than with Gerald but then that might be the time altering tunnel of focus, fear and fatigue talking.

The first exercise is to hit a series of eight targets on Mr. Ho’s wrist and forearm by only moving my arm, but also getting a perfect and sustainable arc when you hit. This is very hard to do, particularly on the top and bottom of the wrist as the epee tip skids up the cowhide training guard. “One hit!” Mr. Ho yells, “You don’t get more tries when you throw darts.” I extend, and extend, and hit and hit. I am “in position” the whole time; knees bent and arm parallel to floor, elbow 8-9 inches from my body. This is what I hear: “No, hit the first time.”, “Don’t go back until I push with my arm.”, “Don’t move your body.”, “Stick the point.”, “Hit here! The wrist!”, “No! You are moving your body”, “The arm follows the point, always the point.”

My heart beat is above 200 bpm by the time I step aside and Gerald steps up to the drill. Mr. Ho is showing Gerald his weakness in arm stance and lunge. Gerald doesn’t practice out of hours like I do. I get a little pouty. But I realize that if Gerald becomes a better fencer, I will have to push myself more; the more I push myself, the better I fence. I am reconciled with Gerald getting a lesson.

My turn again, long lunges to the first four targets, then the second four. “Make it one smooth motion.” Mr. Ho tells me and I focus so much on my arm and body that my point is all over the place. Six lunges later I hear, “Go back to two motions.” I’ve never lunged to the sides of the arm or under the wrist and I start thinking about the target; bad idea. I lunge and lunge and lunge, 4 lunges to each position, each lunge two seconds apart – 16-24 lunges a minute for five minutes. Straighten arm, explode with the leg, hit, hold, return to enguard and again.

Gerald steps in while I suck air, blood pounding in my ears. I calm down, I remind myself; these are the lunges I have practiced for the last two weeks. I know these lunges, I can do these lunges. I step back in and do a quick 16 lunges, and another 16; all perfect. Mr. Ho puts down his arm. “Of course,” he says “Lunges are easy, this is exercise that beginners do best.” Yeah.

I think Mr. Ho is bored, or lonely as we keep going, 8:30, 8:45, 9:00 – mid-lunges, step-forward lunge, step-backward lunge. I haven’t practiced these much; my point and form wanders. Every time I step off the training strip my exhaustion body slams me; soon I have to lock my knees to stop my legs collapsing. I am nauseous and I can’t seem to cool down. Yes, these may be signs of heat stroke, but I am NOT LEAVING the strip. I will train as long as Mr. Ho stands.

At 9:05 my en-guard arm is shaking so hard that I can’t keep the tip still. It is the last series of attacks, back to arm attacks and step attacks to the wrist. I asked Amanda on Monday which is greater; her desire to win the Provincials or her fear of facing Mr. Ho if she doesn’t win. She said that if she makes it to the finals she will definitely not want to come back and explain to Mr. Ho why she didn’t win.

I paid a hairdresser to have steaks of blue put into my hair today. The sweat pouring off me has left trails of blue across my white fencing jacket. I look like the victim of a rogue smurf attack.

After training Gerald and I bout under the eye of Mr. Ho; some bouts full attack, some just arm attacks. I lose all of them la belle (by one point).

By the time I get home my back has locked up and even pain pills can’t help me sleep. Once I reach 6 am, I know the worst is over. Linda wonders how it can be worth it. This morning I practice lunges and will do ping-pong practice in the afternoon. I will be the best epeeist that my body will allow.

I am not at the Provincials. I am not competing today. I will be soon.

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elizabeth said...

Once you take command of "stink eye" and make it your own - I have no doubt that Mr. Ho may get it on occasion...
This sounds like such a dedicated sport and for your hard work you are commended. I, personally, prefer to having a rousing game of thumb wars to pass the time. An athelete - I am not.

elizabeth said...

But I kick ass at thumb wars. Be afraid.

Elizabeth McClung said...

"be very afraid" -

I kick at thumb wars too, becuase I cheat - mostly by bursting into tears and then pinning them when they are stunned - psychological warfare! (if it worked when I was 5, it can work now!)

B.V. Brus said...

Sheesh, woman. Kill yourself, whydontcha.

No, seriously, remember that you can't be the fencer you deserve to be if you forget to take care of yourself as a person first.

Keep it in perspective. Oddly enough, giving yourself, say, 10 percent more room to breathe can actually improve your competition performance an equal amount. Really. I've seen it happen.

Anonymous said...

And here someone was spreading a rumour you were in an enormous shouting match with Mr. Ho...

Unfortunately, I don't remember who it was...

See you tonight.


Wendryn said...

I like the hair!

evil_fizz said...

Is it bad that this makes me feel nostalgic? I do miss fencing.

(This isn't really a substantive comment, but I am so excited to find a feminist blogger writing about fencing. I'm missing my epee more and more as I read your blog.)

kathz said...

I love the blue streaks. I don't know whether to hope the streaks came out of your jacket or that you've started a fashion.

Your dedication to fencing is stunning. I can't imagine working at fencing like that - but then, I can't imagine being as fit as that.

Kathleen said...

When I was in 9th grade I wanted black hair, really black hair. I got a haircolor called "Amazon Indigo" and when I rinsed it out of my hair, it ran down my face and I was a smurf for a week. The blue looks nice in your hair.

madfencer said...

I know how you feel being that dedicated to fencing. Ive been fencing for 5/6 years now and it really does suck if you're injured and can't fence. You sound like a really good fencer. Do you fenc ein the U.S.? I fence in Guernsey, Channel Islands, UK. I have recently taken up epee and love it! My main weapons are definatley foil and epee...I only use sabre if there's master-at-arms or if I have **** foil/epee results and want to take out my anger on someone!

madfencer said...

oh btw go on :)