Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Epee Fencing training; I finally get a lesson!

I’m on a new rigorous fencing schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Friday and I’m loving it. By loving it, I mean that I can barely walk, I need painkillers to tie my shoes and there seems to be a continuous bruise which starts over my right breast going up to my collarbone and over and down my arm to my forearm. But anything that hurts this bad must be really, really good for you, right?

On Monday night I was the first person there, Ms. Eager Beaver. I was trying to work on what I worked on six weeks ago, arm hits and lunges to the shoulder. I rotated through the fencers, doing a fair job of training and even winning some bouts. Then I fenced Gerald.

There is something about Gerald, is it the way he lets his blade hang down to the ground and doesn’t move it until you attack, or is it the way he retreats from an attack, looking to all the world to have lost control but still somehow avoids my second attack, my third, my sixth? The problem when I fence Gerald is that I get totally sucked into this emotional vacuum where “Oh I WILL get you this time” is pretty much all that is running through my head. While my attack may start as a lunge to his wrist, it somehow only ends when I am wrapped around Gerald, trying to push under his arm to stab him in the back of the shin. For example, on Monday, I had this brief idea that I could do a controlled low attack and frustrate Gerald by hitting his foot (getting hit in the foot is very demoralizing). It started well, except I missed by an inch. But instead of retreating and trying another attack, I make another poke at his foot. He moved his foot. I poke again, he moves it again. Before I know it I am standing there, hunched over jabbing wilding at Gerald’s feet, which he keeps leaping about just at the last second, until he slowly, oh so slowly, pokes me with his sword. The judge was almost on the floor with laughter, gasping “wack-a-mole” and “dance pilgrim dance!”

This is what happens when I fence Gerald. At the end of one match I was so frustrated he actually gave me a friendly hug to calm me down and I rested my head on his shoulder, either that or I was trying to get close enough to give him a kidney punch. Like I said, Gerald brings out something in me.

I also seem to be under a curse which makes me out to be the evil psycho widowmaker. Later on Monday, Gerald and I are fencing again and he is leaning forward quite a bit. I think, “I’ll make it look like I am going for his wrist, and continue on to his upper thigh.” I must have been tired, because I just missed his upper thigh. I finished the lunge and Gerald said in this odd voice of wonder, “Ohhh, you did it again” (or that might have been “Oh you!!! You did it again.”) and then staggered along the wall to walk it off. “Are you sure it didn’t bounce off your thigh before I hit your groin?” I asked him a little later.

“No, no,” he assured me, “You came straight in.”

Two bouts later with William, I have finished a lunge, and William has his sword pinning my blade from a lunge that started off toward his stomach but I think now has edged slightly lower. He is hunched protectively so far over that his mask is touching the blade. I check the board, the light hasn’t gone off, so I don’t have a point. Hmmmm, how much do I want to win? I slowly extend my arm. (Hey, it’s a legitimate target!)

At the end of the evening it’s back home so I can practice hitting the floating ping-pong ball. The guys at the club have told me they REALLY want me to work more on accuracy (what, like you can’t buy a protective cup?).

The next night, I am on the bus to Vic West. I have made a deal with Mr. Ho, that if I pay for Tuesday nights and go out to Vic West, he will give me a lesson. Of course, with practice at home from the weekend, fencing on Monday and practice on Tuesday, my shoulder hurts so bad I wonder if I can keep my arm up.

At the Vic West Y gym Mr. Ho puts me in an “enguard” position and asks, “How’s your arm?”

“Great!” I tell him with a smile.

First we work on position (I am tilting my head to the side to give my dominant eye more view, but it is throwing my body off in lunges), then on lunges and then on arm attacks. Mr. Ho has a cowhide arm protector with patches on it I am supposed to hit. I have to hit the one right behind the wrist, and one on each side of the wrist. There is a small dimple in each spot, smaller than a penny, and if I hit it, my point will stick and my blade will make a nice arc. If I don’t hit it, my blade will skitter up the arm and usually Mr. Ho will break off due to laughter, sometimes he is bent over due to laughter. It seems every time he says, “Good, that’s the right way to do it.” I immediately follow it with a very bad attack which makes him conclude, “I won’t tell you that you are good.” At one point, when I finally stop using my shoulder to make the attacks and get accurate, he is happy and says, “Yes, like Hungarian coach say, it’s like spitting.”

I am baffled.

“When you spit” Mr Ho imitates spitting, “You don’t overthink or put to much effort into it, you just spit.”

I am still baffled. I’ll take your word on it Mr. Ho, my childhood watermelon days ended with a lot of seeds dribbling down my chin. Maybe I spit wrong? I won’t tell Mr. Ho that.

The lesson goes on for a long time, maybe 45 minutes. We finish with another series of lunges; faster, more extension. I am sweating a lot. Maybe more than usual. At the end, when I take off the mask, Mr. Ho looks worried and asks me if I am okay. I just give him a big smile and say “Great” (As Gerald said to me on Monday, “I think your dream is to fence and win even with a heart attack.” – I replied, “In that order, first win, then heart attack” – so to Mr. Ho, I will always feel “Great!”).

There are only three of us fencing as Amanda goes to get her lesson. William and I face off and do an uncountable number of bouts against each other. “I’m going to beat you the Mr. Ho method.” I tell him. And do a few points with lovely, delicate and precise arm touches. Except then I can’t get the touches anymore and William is catching up. I charge him and then leap into the air to stab him in the shoulder. “That wasn’t the Mr. Ho method, just my old ways.” I told him.

“I guessed that.” He replied.

Amanda had gone for water and Mr. Ho was still in his training kit so, I wandered over. “Are you bored Mr. Ho?” I ask.


“Do you need someone to give a lesson to?”

“You already get your lesson.”

“That’s okay,” I assure him, “I don’t mind another if you’re bored.”

He rolls his eyes, grunts and turns away. Linda thinks he is starting to warm up to me.

But all this pain has a purpose, because I am going to a fencing competition. Yes, my very first official fencing competition! On Monday, someone said that Seattle had a competition coming up. I checked, they do, and I bought my ticket and motel accommodations last night. It’s the 2006 Leon Auriol Open in Seattle. The women’s epee is on Sunday, and if just one more person registers, there will be 25 women in the competition which means if I finish in the top 12, I would get a ranking. While I sure would like a ranking, my main worry is that I will be beaten soundly by a bunch of anemic 13-15 year olds and then burst into tears. So anything above that is an improvement. (of course if I win…, no, just think about not crying). I compete in just four days. I would pinch myself except one arm is too bruised and the other is too tired to pinch.

Mr. Ho was not impressed when he heard. “For competition you will learn nothing in one lesson; in ten lessons maybe you learn enough”

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “Once I’ve had ten lessons I’ll find another fencing competition to enter.”

Mr. Ho looked at me like he had just swallowed a lemon. Like Linda says, I think he’s really starting to warm up to me.


Sam said...

No cup? No sympathy. (Or at least not much.)

Have a great time at the tournament! And don't forget to breathe. :)

kathz said...

Sounds like some great fencing (it's good fencing that causes pain and exhautsion, isn't it?) - and I'm hoping you get a ranking at the tournament (but whatever happens, enjoy it).

Cap'n Dyke said...

Omigoddess, omigoddess! Omiassassin, omiassassin! Yer first competition! I'm so excited that if me ship wasn't in th'East Indies, I'd be sittin' in th'stands cheerin' ye on (an' throwin' things - like small animals, at yer opponents)!

May th'wind be with ye an' yer pain be slight on that fine day!

Sober @ Sundown said...

I'm going fencing tonight........ I haven't been fencing since I started on all the framing.

My coach wants me to fence Saber. I told him I'm not ready to compete yet. Few get away with telling this coach stuff like that. If he wants you to do something, you do it quickly, and without any complaints. Maybe someday I will compete.

Good luck at the competition! I hope you get ranked on your first one. Remember to stay calm, and mentally clear.

Yoga Korunta said...

You go, Elizabeth! I'm proud to read your blog!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I am sort of glad that I haven't a lot of time until the competition because I am fretting something fierce. I realize that making another fencer cry might be a bad think too so I have two goals: Beth no cry and Beth no make other fencers cry. Though I admit, I have wondered if I meet a 13 year old fencer, can I lunge hard enough to actually lift her off the ground (that's a bad thought, right?)

Jim said...

This sounds great Beth!

Trinity2 said...

Good for you getting into the competition - you go, girl!