Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Xmas Epee Fencing and the Battle in Seattle

What did I get for Xmas? Linda gave me several stabs under the collar bones, and I loved it! No, this isn’t an introduction to “Tie me up, tie me down: an S&M Xmas”; we fenced epee on Christmas day. Several years ago, Linda did six months to a year of foil fencing and thought it would be nice to try some epee; but without the intense bruising from the guys in our club. Plus, after two days without any one to one epee training I was getting twitchy and she didn’t want me running off on the sly to a low-down epee haunt to feed my need; some back alley joint where epee addicts go. After digging out her breast protector we picked up at Leon Paul last year in case of just such a whimsy, and repacking her into one of my jackets, we got our helmets and swords and went down to the open parking lot for some stretches and footwork training.

We did the warm up and then a series of five point bouts for Linda to get a feel for the blade and the difference between foil and epee. Then we played the “arm game” which is a game I play with beginners to the sport where I can only get a point if I hit them between the fingertips to the elbow while my whole body counts for them. The arm game is good because it means both fencers can fence all out, since I have such a small target and if she guards her lower arm well, it becomes very difficult for me to get points. I thought because I sleep, eat and live with someone I would be able to read her moves easily – not so. Linda had a very quick learning curve and doesn’t telegraph her moves, plus she keeps very good distance and retreats (a lot of people don’t retreat – which means when they stop retreating, bam – I get the point), but more importantly, she can switch from retreating to attack almost instantly and she has a very hard rhythm to read. Most people, after their first and second attack, slow down and stop, which is when I counter: point me! Linda slows after a couple attacks and then suddenly speeds up and launches another series of attacks. We started some 10 point bouts with her getting 2 points for each hit. At the start I was winning, but by the last bout she was skunking me. She was surprising, unpredictable, defensive and aggressive and had me laughing. She helped me remember that epee can be really fun. That's good becuase, except for tournaments, which tend to be kinda intense, epee hasn’t really been that “fun” for me lately.

Speaking about tournaments, I will be going down to The Battle of Seattle from Jan. 20-21st, 2007. After some deliberation, I decided to enter the mixed (read “95% men”) epee as well as the women’s. The “mixed”, with four weeks to go already has 45 epeeists from Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, and even Atlanta Georgia (7 A ranked, 10 B ranked). The women’s has 17 so far and hopefully will get up to 25+ before the event. My main concern is that the women’s is on the Sunday and the mixed is on the Saturday and all those guys will treat me like a big cloth doll and leave me with bruising and strange tread marks as they run right over me. I on the other hand have a severe case of Annie Oakley (“anything you can do, I can do better!”) since usually if there are six women in a mixed tournament they will end up the last six places. Now I am convinced I can do better than that, I mean, how hard can beating a few A and B ranked men’s epee fencers be? So whether male of female, if you have lusted after fencing me, this is probably your best possibility – The Battle in Seattle, “be there or be square, dude!”

On a sad note, unless something unexpected happens, which in my life is fairly common, I will be unable to continue competitive fencing beyond Feb. or March. That is when the funding I have available runs out. Since I have already sold what limited edition books I have to extend my ability to go to competitions; I simply don’t have anything left to sell to raise funds. Plus, since I still do not have a coach, nor can I get a commitment of training lessons beyond 3 or 4 a month, as well as a lack of steady training partners it makes it very difficult to make advancements comparative to the training hours and financial commitments I put in. My desire would be to continue this year to go on to do the Canadian competition circuit as well as some of the US tournaments perhaps including the Div II nationals (since I have dual citizenship). That is what I would like. However, I cannot see right now how to get from there from here. To give you some idea, at my location, training fees are currently about $1000 a year, while equipment and competitive events costs would be another $5,000-$6,000 (yeah, fencing seems to take a close second to "drug habit" for consuming money - be thankful I am not into competitive polo!). At least I’m glad I don’t live in the Queen Charlottes or Alaska. I’m not saying I am quitting fencing, or that I will even quit competitive fencing, I am just saying, from where I am sitting right now, that is how it stands. I probably could find the money to fly to the Canadian Western Championship but unless I have a coach or training partners, I wouldn’t want to go to a competition in a few months with LESS skill than I have now.

Wow, what a downer, huh. That said, I am currently still competitively training, around what obstacles I have, and trying to figure out ways to make myself a better all around fencer – Linda gave me that when I laughed at how fun it was during our bout. Truly there is nothing more terrifying that being chased by a beginner with a blade down the length of a parking lot. You have no idea where their arm is going to be, you’re not sure if they have any idea where their tip is going to be and the only thing you know is that they see this really big white target in front of them and they WANT it!


kathz said...

Fencing with a partner seems an ideal way to sepdn Christmas. You should team up - together you'd be unbeatable.

I'm glad you're headed for Seattle and hope that entering the mixed competition works in your favour. The best male epeeists I've fenced hit less hard than the weaker ones (although mistakes can happen). I hope that's true at Seattle as well, and that the techniques you learn help you in the women's tournament as well. (And if I came ahead of a better man in the club epee championship - luck of the poules there - I'm sure you can finish ehead of several men in Seattle.)

I hope you are able to carry on fencing somehow. I find fencing for fun enjoyable though it mightn't be right for you. But it doesn't sound as though you've had the sort of help and support from coaches you need. So my new year wish for you (part from happiness, and fame and fortune as a writer) is for a really good coach AND a generous sponsor, so that you can continue to compete.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to thank Linda profusely for paying attention to your fencing. When your loved one watches long enough and listens to your griping and endless self-talk about the topic, she's bound to pick up a few skills by osmosis alone. Cool.

One of these days I'm going to save enough money to travel to a far-northern tourney and bump into you. I look forward to it.

And speaking of money: My sympathies. Really. Our situations are different, but I can appreciation the evaporation of resources and how frustrating it can be. I'll send a good wish and/or prayer in your direction.

Anonymous said...

(Ummm... I meant "griping" in a good way. Because, like, you know, we all gripe about our sport. Talk, complain, theorize, pontificate, etc. endlessly. Because it fills our every waking moment. THAT sort of "gripe.")

Sober @ Sundown said...

Keep your chin up. Something could happen to change your circumstances for the good!

Elizabeth McClung said...

I am pretty optimistic about this actually - and hope that realizing that I might have to go down to "recreation fencer" for a while will make the competitions I go to ones where I laugh a lot more, maybe even during the bouts, and of course take crazy risky chances. However it goes, I took my moment on the national stage - if that comes again, great, super - but if it doesn't, then I have already lived more than I previously believed possible.