It indicates something about our epee club that I can show up to fence with purple hair and no one notices: it indicates I fence with a lot of guys! William, the 16 year old high school graduate, kids me about showing up later to avoid Mr. Ho giving me another public lesson, and he is right. I am still working on my lunge, I have been all week.
The lunge is supposed to do two things: close the distance between your blade tip and your opponent’s body part quickly and hit precisely. At home, with practice I have found that I can lunge quickly with no point control whatsoever or slowly with great accuracy. I decide that tonight I will choose accuracy as I try to perfect my lunge form. I also expect to lose. I tell this to Steve, the 6’7” dark haired guy with lamb-chop sideburns who talks a lot about Penelope, which turns out to be his car. “I’m losing every bout tonight.” I tell him.
“Stick with the plan.”
I put on my helmet and we fence. All the chemicals from my five hour hair dying soon fill the space in my helmet, making me slightly high. This improves my fencing as while I am slow, I am incredibly accurate. I hit Steve on his wrist, his arm and then as he is pulling his hand away from me, I hit him on his pinky. Gerald comments on the hit, “like salmon fishing with a spear.” I assume this is a compliment in Gerald-world speak.
My plan is failing miserably as I win virtually every bout, in my slow, long lunging, mid lunging fashion. I hit Gerald in my longest lunge yet and he asks the universe “How did she do that?” I don’t know.
William has developed a new technique where he lunges as I lunge but hits my arm just below the shoulder with enough force to actually stop me from being able to extend my arm completely (Ow!). My lunges to his collarbone are falling short and my arm hurts. I adjust my aim to his bicep instead and it works. Almost everything works tonight.
Steve and Gerald are having bad nights; Steve goes home but Gerald plugs on. We suggest he drink some alcohol to tap into his special drunken-master powers. Gerald has a bunch of black belts and taught martial arts for 20 years and has taken up epee because he doesn’t have the body to absorb the hits anymore. Mr. Ho says that “Gerald thinks he knows martial arts.” Mr. Ho knows a lot about fencing but isn’t someone people turn to for affirmation. Even his wife Veronica says she doesn’t have the temperament to be coached by him.
Brian shows up and we fence for the first time in a month. I do long lunges to his shoulder and he gets me on the approach. I’m getting the touches but just not quickly enough. Brain wins the bout and pulls off his helmet. “That’s what I love about fencing” he tells me, “You try something, I defeat you and now you have to go and try to figure out something else.”
I look at him for a few seconds before saying, “Wow, you really are an asshole.” He says that it might have come out wrong but only fences one more bout over the next hour and a half. Amanda comes for two hours but manages not to fence anyone by drifting around talking to people. So Gerald, William and I fence on. We joke a lot. Gerald constantly mocks the way I give my hips a wiggle to try and keep them loose for lunging, and William covers his eyes while he pleads with Gerald, “Not the hips, not the hips.”
Twice Gerald and William get so tangled that Gerald does a very slow takedown on William who emits strange sounds of rage from behind his mask. Even when all the other fencers, including the foil fencers have packed up, we fence on. In the second to last bout, Gerald beats me by waiting for the lunge and then parry-reposing inside. I guess that means I will have to try something new next week. While William and I face off, Gerald takes off his kit to let us know his fighting day is done. We just hope he stops when he gets to his shirt.
William and I are always close, but this one is closer than other bouts as each time one gets a point ahead the other claws it back. We are supposed to go to five but at 6-6 I am sure I can get that single touch, but William hangs in there. We fight on. At the end, my blade skids off his mask as he pushes through for the touch: 8-7. My shoulder aches from the 14 bruises tightly clustered on my shoulder, collarbone and upper bicep. William has become very consistent and accurate. The people from the Y are there to turn off the lights. Hmmm, William will need to be chastised next time. I just hope I am the one to do it.
19 hours ago