Sorry I’ve been away a bit: in between training , working deadlines, mood swings, insomnia and weight loss, I’ve been a bit...off.
I have been reading Carl Von Clausewitz’s book On War to see what is applicable to epee. While discussing Generals he points that a “tenacity of conviction” is an important element in a good General, however “obstinacy” can be a liability. Clausewitz ponders exactly when the one attribute turns into the other. I posed this to Gerald at fencing on Monday along with what seemed to me the obvious answer: When I believe something and refuse to change my mind it is “tenacity of conviction". But when YOU refuse to change your mind to agree with me...it’s obstinacy.
Clausewitz’s says war (and it seems also epee) is comprised of four elements: danger, physical effort, uncertainty and chance (some say this also applies to my driving). And he says that it is how we deal and manage these that produce the best results. In one section, talking about intelligence (information about the opponent), he says that a good or great general, with limited intelligence makes decisions as if more information were available while a lesser one becomes frozen. This seem to sum up my insight between the small Victoria tournament where I became unable to act because I did not want to risk danger but didn’t know which counters my opponent knew to the Nationals where I used what information I could gather to make decisions on attack/defense and then use more information as it comes in to refine it. One coach said that top epeeists can completely change tactics in three points. For myself, I have found that while I usually change tactics in 4 points, I do not yet have enough experience to know whether the change will actually counter style the opponent. But at least I can recognize that my actions aren’t working and alter them. So that’s a start.
Enough theory, on Monday, I decided to work on my "mental game" and used some more from the book, On War, to try various mental approaches and see how effective they were in combat (against Gerald). For instance there was the “cool and aloof” trying to be calm and wait for the opening – that one went poorly. Katherine Durrell at the Nationals said that tall fencers need to try and see the opening before it occurs. So I tried that – Buzzz! Zero (so call me and I WON'T tell you your future: only 3.95 a minute). Then I tried to combine what Clausewitz calls “the genius of will” and his idea that all actions, even defensive, have a single goal, the defeat of the enemy. In this frame of mind, all focus and concentration is bent toward the single thought: that Gerald would provide an opening, and to be completely committed to its immediate execution. This I found highly effective. As Gerald said, “You’ve gotten some new aggression”, which is ironic because usually he was attacking me. I do think that this particular mindset would only work on someone like Gerald who constantly works to create openings in order to start his attack. Generally, the female epeeists I have fenced tend to be more still, patient and then have singular flurries of small attacks, stop hits, counter-attacks rather than an ongoing series of motions.
Toward the end of the night, Gerald said, “Okay, last point” – a clash of blade and we doubled. No clear winner. “Oh, we’ll have to do another!” he said.
“Actually Gerald,” I told him taking off my helmet, “I prefer ending this way.