Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fencing: Mr. Ho trains me for pain

I haven’t blogged about fencing for a while because I am in some sort of painful, bruising metaphorical valley. First I was going to go down and fight Birgit Salas in Seattle two week ago (a trip to Seattle costs me $500 – which is a lot of blood to sell) – unfortunately there wasn’t enough people going, so I had to postpone that. Then there was a mixed epee tournament in which “mixed” meant 18 guys with A-C ratings and 3 females. So I was going to get beaten up, literally. Then the ferry was booked so I would have to stay an extra night, so I had to back out of that. THEN when the results came out the three women came dead last: which made me REALLY want to have gone. Because since I fence like 11 different guys normally, I can’t believe I couldn’t beat at least ONE down in Seattle.

Right now I am doing about 7-8 hours of bouting a week and about 1-2 hours of training. This is a bad ratio. However, when it is freezing outside cross training is a hard motivation. Want to hear what Mr. Ho has to say about cross-training: 1) “What the use?” 2) “You could run to top of mountain and back, how that make you a better fencer?” 3) “Don’t be stupid, no running.”

Mr. Ho however does see me as a person who is preparing for competitions. This means that I get more of his abuse...I mean attention. Like last Tuesday when we did 25 minutes of one to one training, then William and I did three bouts of 5, a 15 point bout and a 10 point bout. Mr. Ho was ref and used the time to make long and extensive comments about anything I did wrong. Yesterday he climbed up some scaffolding left behind to yell out orders ala the commandant in Bridge on the River Kwai. 20 minutes after everyone else had left he has William and I hopping on and off the strip (“Faster, faster, no rest!”), the guy from the Y who wanted to close up the room to go home was there. But we fight on with Mr. Ho saying, “One more 5 point bout between William and Elizabeth” (William is between his first and second trials for the Canada Winter Games, which he has to finish qualifying for, so he gets focus now too).

Some classic Mr. Ho comments from this week:

“You lose point because you empty up there” he says touching my forehead.

“You okay?” He asks me as the sweat is dripping out from the bottom of the mask, “I’m Great!” I say. He comes and hit me on the leg with the sword for lying to him, then we go back to doing lunges.

“Number one thing Elizabeth, stay centered.”
“And Number two,” I say, “Get point.”
“Yes, that important too.”

“In competition fight, fight, fight, you only been fencing one hour and you look tired.”
“Training session and one hour fencing” I mumble.
“What’s that?” Mr. Ho demands.
“Said, I’m not tired Mr. Ho! Let’s fight!”

The last couples weeks I have had what Mr. Ho calls “Combat Training” too, where he suits up and fencing you, giving specific opening, for which, if you don’t hit on time and precisely, he will punish you. He may be old, but he does spend several hours a day with a sword of one type or another in his hand. With me, he plays defense, trying to get me to extend my arm with an opening he can hit. With the guys, he charges, fleches and lunges.

Last night was a good night: Steven, William, Gerald, Rodney and Amanda were there. I bouted parries with Rodney, practiced retreats with Gerald, arm hits with Steven (tall tall Steven), attacks to 4 (the space left of the right arm) with Amanda and engaging the blade with William.

I wish I had a coach. Mr. Ho doesn’t want to invest too much into me, since as he puts it; “You are too old, so old.” Which he tells me every time I ask him for two one to one lessons a week. Last week he said, “With your joints, the more you train, the more pain.”

“Yes, Mr. Ho,” I said, “But it’s MY pain.”

He grunted at that. I’m off in an hour, as while others trick or treat, I fence: a personal lesson, then some bouting, maybe some footwork. I am trying to convince me to show me how to fleche. He says that he will show me in 5 to 6 years, because “I need a good lunge first.” Hopefully tonight he will show me beat attacks. Last week it was avoiding the parry during a lunge. He would parry either right or left while I lunged and I would have to make a SMALL circle to avoid it while not slowing down. Get tired, or get it wrong, and get verbal abuse. “What wrong with you?” Mr. Ho demands.

“Mortality” I tell him.


Yoga Korunta said...

Stay strong, Elizabeth!

Jim said...

Often (Okay...almost always) when you write about fencing epee, there are elements of brutality and suffering. If I were you, I would question this sometimes. I am not saying it is wrong or right. I do not know. Perhaps it makes you a better fencer and I just do not know what I am talking about, but I just do not see the need. Working hard is a yes....brutality and suffering do not make you a better fencer. They make you brutalized and hurt. Find an entry in your journal about training that does not have an element of suffering in it. Find one that says I worked hard and had fun. It is just an observation.

To each his own.

Elizabeth McClung said...

As for the abuse; if you want to come up and slip some happy pills into Mr. Ho's drinks, please be my guest. Barring that, with his attention on me, I am currently assured of at least 4 hours of berating, mocking and sometimes helpful advice a week. If there was another coach or club of worth in the area, I would go. Mr. Ho is not a nice person, even his wife says that she doesn't understand how anyone can train under him.

There are moments of "I worked hard and had fun" but I don't think I am likely to have those for at least a month or two. That may be the club, or the coach or both or simply because fencing is, in some element a brutal sport. Michelle, a foilest, in the qualifier for the Canada Winter Games met in the quarterfinals a girl who gave her more bruises that I believed possible (at least 20 on her arm, then going down her side and leg as well), which she fenced while it was thought her thumb was broken. She was in and continued recieving agonizing pain yet refused to give the strip and won her DE, then refused to have a medical leave in order to fight a final in which she was barely functional (she finished second overall). Is that nice or normal or "hard work" for a 16 year old girl? I guess it depends what you want from fencing.

If you are female and in your 30's or above, in order to compete, advance and challenge yourself you will recieve pain, and bruises, and post fencing pain (Gerald also tells me he has to use pain killers to sleep and is not so functional the days after he fences) - it will be a balancing act between how quickly you want to advance and how much your mental endurance and your personal body can take. The last (and pretty much only time) I have fenced hours and NOT recieved bruising would be at the Seattle Open (I am certain however that the Men's Epee was a different story).

As Gerald has said, I am excessively driven, so perhaps for me, pushing myself to do in months what others do in years is "fun", bu then there is always another level to conquer.

belledame222 said...

“You are too old, so old.”

“You lose point because you empty up there” he says touching my forehead.

He sounds like Mr. Miyagi's evil (or at least hardcore) twin. owie. but then, i'm a big creampuff and don't take well to all this motivational training...

Sober @ Sundown said...

I miss fencing. I haven't fenced in over 2 weeks.

I understand your drive to keep going regardless of the pain. You go Grrl.

madfencer said...

Wow...you are so lucky to have a coach like that. Although he is putting you through all that, it'll be worth it in the end. I live in the channel islands, uk in the the middle of nowhere...I dont even have a proper coach so I can't wait to go to uni! Im planning on going to hungary (to honved fencing academy) next yr in my gap yr which should be cool. Keep up the good work, it WILL pay off :) Helen x