Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fitness Test, a Hickey & Handmaiden of Epee

On Monday Amanda and William came back from Provincials full of vinegar and aggression. William (won bronze in epee) chased me all over the strip. He also charged into my lunges and stopped my blade, making the tip bend upwards, the wrong way (some people, like Mr. Ho & William, may say that I did not have the correct hand position; but in a choice between my fault and William’s; I choose William). So my lovely blade, which I had named “Maria the Disembowler” had to be rebent 6 times (all in bouts against William) plus my blade was mocked as having “a D&D name.” Don’t listen to them Maria.

I did manage to win a 10 point bout with Steven ENTIRELY with arm hits; thereby assuming the self appointed title “Queen of arm hits”. I owe it all to my trusty ping-pong ball.

After telling William that I wanted him to fence me “Totally 100%”, he promptly hit the vein in the soft tissue of my neck so hard I collapsed to the floor and played, “Oh my God, this is how I going to die, with my face pressed up against the hardwood of the YMCA?” for a few seconds. William felt very bad, which was odd because I told him repeatedly that I would have made the same hit if I could have (and I will, oh I WILL!). I was disappointed to find out that my counter to his arm missed. So, all in all, William gave me a hickey!

Because the Y was closed for the four days over Easter I followed up a tip from William and checked out the Capital City fencing club. They were kinda scary; for example no one talked, smiled or joked for the hour I was there. But they were open over Easter weekend and do have a coach who gives lessons; for $1 a minute.

I came Friday night, changed clothes, chatted a bit and then joined the fencers as they started their footwork drills. Previous to the start of drills I had been feeling pretty good about myself: after Amanda I was the fittest person in the Y club, I did lunging practice every day, I did hand-eye practice every day, did some walking, some running, I was a fit trained athlete right? As it turns out: NO!

First exercise: take one of the lines running the length of the gym and do step-step-lunge all the way down the line, retreating back to the baseline in “position” and do the same set of lunges on the next line, and the next line (three lengths of the gym forward and back). Then do the same with step back-lunge, then with balistra-lunge, then lunge-recover forward-lunge (the most painful), then jump-back lunge, etc. On and on for 40 minutes.

I was sucking oxygen while my heart gave me that intense burning sensation which means you are voiding the warrantee. One guy, whose face looked it was about to explode from blood pressure tried to stagger away. “Don’t leave” I wheezed out almost clinging to his legs, “or I’ll be the slowest.” (Nice, I ask him for a favor and insult him at the same time) He stayed but later when we following a leader playing “keep the distance…and lunge” they asked for another leader and he caught my eye and started shaking his head. Did he think I was going to try and lead, or worried I would volunteer him?

So, with my lunges now a half second later than everyone else I realized: I am the slowest, out-of-shape, embarrassing klutz of the class. You think after high school PE that you get to leave that feeling behind (curse those presidential fitness tests). WRONG!

There were only two other epeeists that night; John and Bruce. I fence John for 25 points in a 5-10-10. John does foil too and is 16. I can tell this because in one of my attacks he parries in 4, in 6 in 7, in 2 and finishes by pulling my blade above his head in a saber parry in fifth position. His stance is bad, his arm position is worse but he is fast and his entire points are based on: parry, parry and hit on the counter-attack. His epee is not clean or beautiful. As one of the sacred hand-maidens to the Guardian of Epee, I feel it is my duty to bring him back to the pure epee ways by crushing him with arm hits. That didn’t happen then. But it will.

Next was Bruce, the pentathlete. I guessed that after he did his 40th fleche (a leaping attack pictured below). No, I am not kidding. First Bruce warmed up and I was getting two points for his three. Then he goes, “Okay” and does fleches for the next 50 minutes. ONLY fleches. After 45 minutes he told me he did fleches because he heard I wanted to work on my fleche. That’s true Bruce, MY fleche, the one as slow Hentz ketchup. Instead I have Bruce, the human arrow lunching himself full force between 60 and 80 times.

I have: a black spot on my right leg the size of a loony, which matches one on my left thigh, two or three bruises up the right thigh finishing with a bruised scrape running 5 inches long from the upper thigh right into the groin (you think I would remember that one), I have two chunks chipped from my stomach (one felt like someone dragged a hook into me. I stopped to see if I was bleeding. Nope. Bruce fleches again.) I have an uncountable cluster of bruises which start at my upper arm and go over until my breast bone (thank you Leon Paul for breast guards!). The part between my shoulder and collar bone is so tenderized from pounding I suggest to Linda it would make a good streak dinner. The soft part of my neck by the vein got a hit but the best was the blow so hard to the side of my throat that it not only drove me to my knees and knocked my helmet half off but left a two inch gouge of ripped skin on my throat even under the Neck Guard. Bruce waited till I stood and then we did it again.

I am not sure what Bruce wanted to teach me. Did he think I was going to come up with some brilliant insight in the 40 seconds between one hit and the next? During the last 15 minutes I was punch-drunk and thought I was Rocky: “Do it again, I can take it!. That all you got Bruce!” Maybe I was hoping his beating me up would tire him out. Except when he took off his helmet, I was the one who had the “post-monsoon” look while he was “warmed-up”.

Bruce, as it turns out, goes to the World Cups, as does Meiko who has 21 years of epee experience. I fence Meiko on Monday. In fact Monica has the least experience in epee of the whole club, only nine years (I am going into my tenth week of epee, woo hoo!!).

Last Monday I wrote an email to an epeeist saying that if I could, I would love to fence a bunch of world cup athletes, to really force myself to improve. Oh, how God loves to punish me and my big mouth.

I am depressed and I don’t know why. On Monday at the “Y” I won some and was blue because I thought I wasn’t challenged enough. On Friday I limped home thinking about the cartoon “Bambi V. Godzilla” (no, the film really is just those 10 seconds long): I had no question which role I had played that night (hint, I’m the one with dewy eyes removed off the street with a spatula). Am I motivated? Am I going on Monday? I actually started to ask myself if I was having fun. Then I asked myself a more important question: how many pain pills do I have left?

Jpeg2 -


B.V. Brus said...

"Loony." Heh heh.

Pain sucks.

elizabeth said...

That was a very enjoyable read! It sounds like fencing is about as painful as a bout with real swords.
Only you could find a clip like that...

elizabeth said...

Sorry Epee.

elizabeth said...

Is there a difference?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Nope, Fencing covers three weapons: epee, sabre and foil. For some odd reason, Canadian women do really well at epee (which has one rule: hit the person anywhere!) and a Canadian woman is currently number 1 in the world. Sabre is the closest to "movie" fencing. Epee is kinda like gunfighting with swords - you try to get the sun in thier eyes and BAM!

I have no idea why I am getting hit so hard. I sort of want to put a big stuffed rabbit in gear and see if the same thing happens. I did get points off bruce 1/3 of the time but he got a bruise on me EVERY time.

elizabeth said...

I don't know. I would want to like - rip off the helmet and go apeshit on someone if I was in that kind of pain....don't know if I'm right for the sport....I guess that would be poor sportsmanship?

elizabeth said...

But it would make for some serious entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I kinda have a dream about making a "happy face" of bruises on a couple of people. Yep...sounds like we had the same kind of weekend. I may dye my hair blue.

Anonymous said...

Oh crud..I hit anonymous.

~ waves~ It is me...Jim.

NOTHING said...

i would end up trying to hit the person twice as hard as they hit me, and end up getting my ass kicked any ways

Murray said...

So this is what it takes to become good at epee. I admire your guts and drive - but after reading about epee I think I will seek out other avenues of exercise. So enjoy your writing and insights

Elizabeth McClung said...

"i would end up trying to hit the person twice as hard as they hit me, and end up getting my ass kicked any ways" - yes but just knowing they are going to be limping tomorrow can feel pretty good too. Oops, forget I said that.

Surendra Singhi said...

Your excellent writings on epee fencing, inspires me to work harder on my game as well. I would like to know what sort of hand-eye practice do you do?


Elizabeth McClung said...

I use two things: First is using duct tape to put a string on a piece of string and a ping pong - hang the ping poing from a hook in the cieling with many loops so it is easy to adjust the height - I try to do 150 hits a day at different angles using the smallest tip I have (A foil practice tip). Also good for small lunges for precise distance. For longer lunges I have a dart board mounted on the wall, then I choose a spot (like triple 14) and try to hit it again and again. Sometimes I do "switchover" where I start aiming for one spot then switch the tip over to another as if I was parried in the first target. Thanks for the compliment - how did you end up doing at the nationals?

Elizabeth McClung said...

ugggg....awful spelling: hang a ping pong from the ceiling with a string using duct tape to attach the string to the ping pong. (better)

kathz said...

It sounds terrifying. But I reckon if you take a break from this club, continue to train with Mr Ho, and go back in a few months (probably for you a few weeks) and fence those same people, you will find that you're aware of an enormous improvement relative to them. You are learning faster. In a couple of months you will be landing many more hits and have far fewer bruises. But I do hope you're coping OK with all the pain.

Surendra Singhi said...

Thanks for explaining the ping-pong and dart board exercises.

"How did you end up doing at the nationals?"

Terrible, lost in the first round. To console myself: "I lost to a good and experienced player, who won the Bronze medal".
I watched the video recording of my game, and I would recommend others to try that also, it made me realize what was I doing wrong and exposed quite a few weaknesses in my game.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Watching a video is a good idea, if I could stand it - as we usually fence in front of a wall of mirrors, you can sometimes get distracted by how bad your stance is during a bout.