If this week’s epee has a life lesson it is: keep going. Monday’s fencing was singular in its forgetfulness. I just kept working on the same three things I have been working on for the last two weeks: lunging to the forearm, lunging to the body and engaging the blade. The reason I always work on footwork is because I am slow. S...L...O...W. I am the bionic woman. Remember on the TV show where they slow down her movements because of her super speed; that me but without the super speed part. This is why I lunge to the forearm, on the premise that if I lunge at the farthest point from the body, I might have a chance to escape when it goes wrong.
Friday I arrived to see that Tornado had returned. He had notched it back a bit so that he was a force 4 instead of a force 6 attack. That didn’t stop him from hitting my leg so hard that he not only raised a welt but his epee tip ripped open the double thick cloth. There was a new male fencer whose style was so eccentric I call him Snap. Snap fenced like a foilest, waiting until the other person attacked to deflect or engage the blade and then striking out in the longest lunge I have ever seen, finishing by launching himself horizontally from the extended position. William and I were disturbed and whispered encouragement to our blades as there was a fair chance they would be snapped like bamboo tonight. The match between Snap and Tornado was pretty interesting as Tornado’s weaving bladework meant that finding and engaging it was beyond Snap. Snap, after retreating, folded himself up, going to his knees and eventually into a fetal position. Any qualms I might have had about hitting someone curled up in a ball weren’t shared by Tornado – pow!
After a few rounds like that William and I decided that we should “go get a drink of water,” which meant sitting on the bench and talking for 10 minutes. During this time, Glen, one of teens, joined us and the conversation drifted to my love life. Glen wanted to know if I was married to the 6’7” Steve who fences epee or just going out with him. Seems all those stabbing blows to the groin are signs of a love in some people’s head (won’t be asking about your parent’s relationship, thanks). Guess my wearing the “Butch” T-shirt last week was too subtle.
By the time we returned Brian and Amanda had arrived and both Tornado and Spark decided to fence foil. There followed the best hour of fencing I’ve had in a while. Oh yeah, I beat Brian. And he wasn’t fresh from the hospital. I did it with engaging the blade, lunges to the arm and the body. Ha ha! Yes, the practice actually worked. The next bout with Brian after I took the first two points he changed from “the world’s laziest fencer” to an aggressive and attacking fencer. I lost, but I made him change his game.
I have put in the practice, the lunge training, the endurance training, the point training, the mental analysis. Sometimes, when fencing someone good, like William, I experience what I call, “uplift.” Somewhere, between the points, the strain on the body falls away, and I don’t have to think about footwork, or arm position, or keeping distance as my body adjusts by itself. I read his body, ready for attacks, but not worried, watching. On his arm I see an opening, and I feel my tip yearning to be there. Time starts to slow as the world and my body falls silent, leaving only the opening and the blade. I feel my body moving, lunging, but all I can see is the point where my tip will hit, closer and closer. And just before the tip hits, with my whole being focused, time almost stops. Of course, if my tip slides off and I am dumped back in real time, cursing to myself and with a microsecond to decide whether to leap back or try again, it isn’t so pleasant.
This is part of why I fence, and why I push myself to get better. The closer I can get myself to perfection and the closer I can push my opponent there, the more chance of uplift. The more uplift, the more I call to my real opponent, Fencer X. Ever since I started fencing, I always searched for personal perfection, waiting for a fencer who would be inhumanly good. That is the fencer I want to face. Winning against other fencers isn’t an end in itself, but it does tell me that I am improving. And while winning the provincials or the nationals would be nice, that’s not why I fence. It wouldn’t be enough.
Recently, I have come to know the name of Fencer X: Death. So yes, I train to fence Death. But only my Death, not Death incarnate (I’m not that greedy). I don’t want to win, I want to FIGHT. I know it is impossible to win. But then, I guess it is the impossible that attracts me. If Joseph in the Bible got to wrestle with an angel, then why can’t I fence with Death; it is certainly more interesting than a chess game. I worry that I’ll never get a chance to go out fighting. Linda thinks I’m already fighting, and that I have been for quite a while.
9 hours ago