Monday, January 22, 2007

Battle of Seattle Saturday: chasing after boys

Well, I went down saying I was going to open a can of whoop-ass on those male fencers. Someone, I think, must of have shook it up first because somehow THEY weren’t the ones getting the beating. My fencing tournament day actually started Friday morning when I found out that my lower right leg was severely infected.

A few days ago, I received a strong epee hit to the top shin which dug out a chunk of flesh out of me. I cleaned up the blood, bandaged it and went on my way. But it started to hurt. By Friday, when the doctor removed the bandages a 2 by 1 inch section of shin was raw, infected oozing membrane, and the parts of the shin that weren't yet oozing, were red and inflamed. There were, as yet, no maggots. So when I blogged thursday that I felt flush and dizzy and flu-like; that might have been blood poisoning. Anyway, I got two prescriptions (one for curing the infection and the other prescription for when the first one doesn't cure it) and off to Seattle I went!

Saturday morning, 8 am and I am up, almost awake and getting my equipment checked. Guys are already running up and down in salle, they are serious...very serious. I try to chat with some, ask where they are from. They give curt answers, so serious are they. Either that or focused, or seriously focused, or just boring. So, by default, I end up with the other nine women in the event and we hang together. It is already an us versus them atmosphere (since the guys treated us as at best an annoyance and at worst with complete dismissal). And when you try to connect with guys talking about women's epee, you might as well be talking about the sport of watching grass grow. Come on guys, I know that fencing has it’s own little world but as epeeists, knowing who Sherraine MacKay shouldn’t be out of consideration for A ranked males should it (since you know....she wrote a book last year....on epee fencing?). Sherraine MacKay is the world champion female epee fencer, first North American one too (Canadian!). As one looked at me and said dismissively, “I don’t do the women’s circuit.” (you know who you are Josh!) Okay, whatever buddy. There were 70 people signed up for mixed epee but only 60 showed up. However, of the 15 A ranked fencers, 14 showed up (plus Jeff Bowman), which meant that this was a "top heavy" event. In fencing, the higher the letter, the better the fencer; so an A is supposed to be national elite level (I am an E with bitterness at not being a D). So, looking at 15 really, really good male epeeists. Then we get to the really, really almost as good male epeeists (B ranked).

I had what is known as a “tough” pool. There were two A ranked fencers (a left hander named Josh Conner and Nathaniel Strauss), a B from California named Contway(who an A ranked male on the strip next to me kept saying to me, “I know he is an A, he won it from me in the finals last summer”). A C ranked male, Friedman, who was at the junior Olympics, a lefty woman named Rorburg and me. With 6 fencers in the pool we should have one in each 10 point area - instead our pool had 2 fencers in top 9 places and all the males in the top 30. That equals a "tough" pool.

Okay, lets get back to the fencing. I started with Friedman, who had this move where he flipped my blade aside and then flipped it back and hit me. I don't know why it worked three times in a row....but it did. I never win first bouts. My ancestors were cursed 100 years ago for buying the last issue of the 1907 Christmas Annual ahead of a bitter spinster with occultic powers and now, I have to pay the price. Or...I just don't get my head in the game until the second bout. I was like, "That sucked but now I am really to focus." I didn't know that I had just lost to the "easiest" male.

I had come today to beat men, plain and simple. I knew that meant a lot more movement; a lot more stopping fleches, some longer lunges, faster reactions and extreme effort. I soon found out that with A ranked or elite male fencers, pretty much everything I know and have been trained with epee is useless. First off, they don’t have an epee form, they just keep their hands by their side. Nor do they use traditional footwork but bounce around. So, I could throw out what I had learned from the few lessons with Mr. Ho: beat attacks, attacks on stationary hands, etc.

I faced Strauss next (he finished 7th overall), and found that the only way to attack him was long lunges, which he would counter attack (which is about the only time he raised his sword). I found that he was just slightly underestimating my reach. He got the first two hits but by the third hit I had the distance and got him, only he got me in counter attack and again, score 4-2. I was going to try a long, long lunge when he fleched me, end of game, 5-2.

By this time the other woman, Rorburg and I are eying each other up because we realize after watching these guys that the bout between us is likely the only one where ONE of us will win a bout. Our bout was next and though she was a lefty, I took and early lead of 2-1 and then every time she would try and come in, I would just keep hitting her outside shoulder to win the bout. Which was good because most of the bout I was thinking "Don't think about what will happen if you lose this bout, about how you will finish without a single win...and don't screw this up!"

Josh Connor was next and everyone seemed pretty terrified of him, because he was young, cocky and left handed (oh and seemed to win a lot) since he was undefeated so far in our pool and ended pools fourth overall. However, since I seem to fence an average of three lefties a tournaments, I wasn’t particularly concerned. Josh didn’t seem concerned with me either, until he fleched me and I doubled. I went on the attack, and he countered, point Josh. Then he fleched again and I got a point on his approach. Josh was faster than me, sure, but I was taller than him and as long as I got my arm above his on his fleche, I could counter. He decided to try for a toe hit. BAD IDEA! Every single elite fencer tries to toe hit me and overall, I am way ahead in hitting them on the shoulder as they drop down than they are on hitting me on the toe. Still, I was downn 3-4 when he fleched again. I got my arm up and felt my tip run along his outer arm but the light never lit, and bam! I was out (Josh Conner finished 9th). However, since he seemed to terrify everyone else, I name dropped him shamelessly whenever someone asked how I did: "I got 3 points off Josh Connor." They would look me over, "Wow." (I was tempted to add a bit about making him cry with the shoulder hit, but thought that might be pushing it).

I had fought three guys, I had lost to three guys. I don't get it, I beat club guys all the thime. What was going wrong. The last guy left in the pool bouts was Contway; the same guy who had beaten both Strauss and Josh in pools (not a good sign for me).

Linda had been taking pictures of my bouts with Conner and in every shot, Contway is in the background me (go back and look at the Josh pictures). My impression (after the event) is that while Contway may not be as young or flexible as his opponents (he had more braces on than I have ever seen before on an athlete, I don’t think there was a single unbraced joint) – he was a great tactician. I asked around about his style and everyone said the same thing, that he fleches...a lot. Last guy, so I went into the bout with a win or die attitude and started aggressive by doing all sorts of long lunges. I mean really long lunges, with fast recoveries. This was the guy I needed to beat. Contway, like the mature male fencers I fenced, didn’t have a problem backing up, in fact, there was a sensation of constant pulling and pushing in the space between us. This space and their lowered hand gave Conway the ability to often simply avoid the blade completely. Like the boxer said, the best way to box is not get hit, and the way Josh, Contway and Strauss fenced was to never allow the tip of a lesser fencer near enough to hit them. I charged Contway and there was an in-fight. I lost. I decided to charge and lunge him. I lost. At 2-3 I actually said, “When are you going to fleche?” Apparently never. Soon I was down 2-4 and I was going to play my last card: the super-lunge. When the referee says “fence” I can, if I explode with all my strength, do a sliding lunge the entire distance between the two starting positions. The two starting positions are 4 meters from each other, just over 12 feet. The referee called us to position...ready.....fence. I immediately took a half step forward, to steal 6-8 inches and my back leg exploded with my super-lunge, and I rocketed forward in full extension. Then I watched my blade tip, aiming for his shoulder, just miss him as he twisted his whole body downward and sideways. I let out a little shriek at the miss and waited the half second for his counter hit. Bout Contway. He was pretty friendly and I think shook up as a little with my last lunge because he kept showing how he reflexively just somehow twisted away. I wanted to know why he didn’t fleche. He said that watching me in with Josh Conner, I was getting 50% of the points against people who fleched me, so he decided it wasn’t worth the risk. See, the only guy who respected me enough to actually work out a strategy to MAKE SURE and win.

So, that’s it, pools are over and I hadn’t beaten a single guy, I am in 46th position and for the DE, I got a guy called John Varney who is in 19th place. I looked him over and he seemed to have some grey hair so I told people my plan was to “wear him down.” Everyone I told that to was soon bent over in hysterical laughter. There were, I concluded, some pretty odd people in Seattle. What they knew and I didn’t was that Varney was the number 1 veteran male fencer in North America, is currently #2 for the US and the current #1 epee male points holder for Western Washington. Knowing absolute NONE of this, I went over and asked him if he had any tips for me on how I might best go about beating him. Some weaknesses he might want to share at this time? He smiled but said that no, nothing he wanted to share. He was ranked 19, I was ranked 46. I told him I was sorry but I REALLY did need to win and I would likely be doing moves he had never seen before. I also warned him that I sometimes laugh when I miss very badly, so I wasn’t laughing at him. He said he understood and we were called to the strip.

For the first three minutes I worked on a tight defense and counter attacks. John Varney twice got me by getting me to roll my hand inward in a counter parry and then hitting the 1/8th of an inch of pinkie I showed. Very tricky. But I corrected that and at the end of the first three minutes it was still close at 3-7. I had done all that my defense could do and realized that while I could probably slow his points even further while picking up a few points, I was still going to lose. He was more accurate and more experienced and I was the one sucking wind, not him. Go out with dignity? Naw, remember, I wasn’t there to lose.

In the second three minutes I went on the attack: lunges, long lunges, again and again, lunges with secondary lunges, leaping attacks, anything to get past his guard. We went corp-a corp-six times (when you are both so close you are almost touching but you have both missed your targets and are trying to hit the other person before they hit you - other people might call it "blind and frantic jabbing"). I lost all six times. At one point I did everything I could to either push him off the strip of make him fleche – no matter what he counter attacked with, I blocked and lunged, forcing him back, but I just couldn’t force him off the strip. In the end, I leapt almost literally into his lap, missed him, and ran past. So the ref started us up again. This time I feinted to his wrist and then jumped under his sword and poked at his leg....and missed, I poked again, and missed, I poked again and just as my sword was about to hit, his blade got my back (Linda said a parent was shouting “poke him again, keep poking!” to me). I started laughing. I mean, you have to don’t you? I was down 4-13, crouched under a man’s blade poking at his leg and I miss three times? Linda said afterwards that I moved more in this match than she had ever seen before. I also did the bouncing footwork the entire time as well. Must be why I was seeing those floating black dots. By point 14 I was laughing so hard that the referee was laughing as well. It’s not that I wasn’t trying, it is just that he wasn’t hittable. So I lost 15-4.

Afterward everyone came up and told me how good he was and how he was Veteren champion. Even George Tidrick (14th out of pools) came up later and told me I did very well. As George put it, “Don’t feel bad, you got twice the points on him that I did.” (George faced him after me and lost 15-2; John Varney was eliminated by the Canadian Habib Farooq who went on to come in second).

It was, everyone said, a very, very hard tournament. Most of the men who won their first 15 point direct eliminations were the guys used to winning all the tournaments in their club. The guys who advanced after winning their second direct eliminations were the ones who won state, or region, or division competitions. The only surprise for people was Canadian Jeff Bowman who was listed as a C. "How is he doing it? He's only a C" people were muttering.

“But it’s a Canadian C!” I would try to explain, since there were 4 times the number of A’s in this one tournament than in all of Canadian male epee fencing. Canada is really, really stingy with rankings. I think you might get a cape and special rocket boots if you are an A ranked Canadian fencer. (Monica Kwan, who won three nationals in a row and is ranked #65 or so internationally was and might still be a B ranked Canadian fencer). Jeff went on to win the tournament easily, his only tough match was his last against the Canadian Habib. For example, by the table of 16 it was pretty much A’s against A’s as the Canadian epeeist Habib, after beating Veteran champion John Varney faced Birgit’s Husband and ex-international fencer Eugenio Salas (who has won almost every Washington and Oregon Tournament in the last two years), who he beats 15-14. Get the idea?

All I knew was that my thighs were killing me, as in “ow, ow” every step killing me particularly the right thigh, particularly going up or down stairs. I measured the thigh and it is now 70% the size of my waist at 25 inches around (can anyone say “freakish>” – I did when I saw it in the mirror – “Come look Linda, I’m a kangaroo!”). I ended up 46th out of 60, which was 3rd out of the females who came. I still believe that I can beat MANY guys in epee, but until they put me in a pool with at least a D or a couple C ranked epeeists (or forbid, even an E, the same ranking as me), I guess we won’t find out?

While I was there, most of the women were very “up” and friendly and there was a definite fencer buzz as we rooted for ANY women to win ANYTHING. But afterward, I had a bad case of the blues and felt like crying. The tournament I had supposedly come for (Women's Epee) was tomorrow, my body currently felt like it had flopped down several flights of stairs and all I could hope was that tomorrow wouldn’t be a repeat of today.

What is the solution to teary eyes? Carbs and credit cards. I went out for a bite and we went shopping. Linda and I left the Seattle club at 2:00 pm and we didn’t stagger back to the hotel until 9:00 pm (and ordered in pizza). Now, you might ask, is it wise, after one tournament and with another the next day to walk endless blocks hauling around seven hours worth of shopping? Damn straight it is. Seattle is just as much a vacation for us as it is a sports event; and part of this whole attempt to not get so down is making sure there is "more" in my life than huge I mean like NEW CLOTHES! So spending a few hundred dollars is the “more” in my life, particularly when I cleaned up at the Victoria Secret sale. One good thing about the whole superwork-out aspect is that the “Active wear” in Victoria Secret (which is often more revealing about bumps and body curves than being naked) is you can finally wear it AND look in the mirror. With my ever thinning waist, I also got size 13 jeans (Linda is not so in love with my plan to lose “just a bit more” so I can buy size 12 jeans). Linda did very, very well at Old Navy getting a bag o new clothes for her and then we had to go to REI to buy a new backpack to carry all our clothes back home. See how sensible we are.

I would like to say there is a happy ending to this day, but truth was, once I stopped moving it was pretty painful. That night, I was using a platinum strength muscle relaxant, valium, and a prescription painkiller they gave me at the hospital once as an interim drug to take me off morphine: all mixed with wine in order to get a few hours sleep, repeated as pain pulled me awake every 3-4 hours. If you want to know how part of me felt, then imagine a supernova out in space, a fireball of constant eruptions and unbearable heat. Now put that supernova in your right thigh. Until about 6 am, it felt like my leg was trying to explode but somehow the skin was JUST keeping it from succeeding. Thus ends day one of the Battle of Seattle, in semi-conscious dreams, drugs and delirium.


kathz said...

I know it wasn't what you wanted but there's a lot to be said for fencing in a major tournament and getting points off high-ranked men. It sounds as though you saw and experienced some pretty good fencing - and were able to learn from it despite the speed. (Sometimes I just go, "wow! he hit me. How did he do that?" which isn't very useful.) I bet it pays off in the future, especially fencing men. It's a shame you don't have the sort of coach we do. We go up to our coaches and say, "This is how he kept getting points off me. What can we do to stop it?" and out coaches, particularly the two smaller men, hand out helpful tips.

There's quite a lot to be said for clothes, wine and pizza too though the painkillers don't sound fun. I'm looking forward to the sequel!

Nathaniel Strauss said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for your entertaining post.

You're a quality fencer and we'd love to have you in Seattle for more tournaments. You're welcome to come to practice at Salle Auriol, as well. People will probably be more eager to chat at practice than at tournaments. Before and during tournaments, many competitors are focused on preparing themselves mentally.

I'm sorry that I didn't know either of the Canadian women's epeeists you mentioned. I think most people (at least in the U.S.) just don't keep track of those kinds of things. I've only been to a handful of tournaments in Canada, and they've all been in men's events. And there is only one fencing magazine in the U.S. in general circulation, and it focuses on American fencers. On top of all of that, I just don't keep up with everything fencing-related; and what I do keep up with is almost exclusively men's epee. Heck, outside of my club and my past teammates, I can hardly think of the names of five women's epeeists or men's sabrists.

On a separate topic now.... I felt somewhat disrespected by your repeated "I can beat you" comments during the pool. I couldn't tell whether you were totally joking, totally serious, or just having fun trash-talking. But any way you cut it, we don't know each other well enough for that. I've been fencing for almost 20 years now and I've never heard anything like that. Especially from someone whom I beat so solidly.

Take this as honest advice from a more experienced fencer. In epee, there is a concept of "doubling out." What this means is that if you're ahead in the bout, you can intentionally cause a double-touch. If you're good at it, it allows you to finish an opponent off with less risk of them scoring single touches.

I intentionally set up both of the double touches you scored against me. I'm not saying this to hurt you, just to teach you. You're a good fencer but you have a lot to learn, just like the rest of us. Don't ever think that you've figured it all out and all you have to do is "lunge farther" or "move faster." Keep listening to your coach and learning from your opponents.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thanks kathz - I'm working on the sequel now

Nathaniel: I'm sorry if I offended you after I took off my helmet by telling you that I thought if there were just another bout I just "knew" I could get those five points or beat you. If I didn't preface it with "you're really good", I'm sorry, that's how I usually say it. Is it joking? Well I suppose but more like a compliment and I find it shorter than saying; "I find your fencing interesting enough and challenging enough that I will probably obsess on it and train simply to fight YOU for several months" - I was wondering why you weren't saying anything and just looking at me odd - I am also not sure why we would need to know each other more - I just danced with you intimately for 3 minutes - that's all I'm interested in. For example, Birgit and I talk this way and I probably said something similar to John Varney after our match - at the end of the day it means exactly what it says - Though you outclass me and have many years more experience, I look forward to our next meeting when I fully intend to unleash my new secret fencing weapon and win the bout, then you can say to me; "One more bout and I'd have you." (though oddly I rarely do win since I tend to say this to people who are so ahead of me in fencing that I can barely see thier smoke)

As for doubling out, yes, I knew you were likely doing that, which is why I was trying to find a right distance to get singles on you - as your full intentions - I can't say as this is a completely subject blog of a completely subjective experience (what I see), some people, I can't even guess what they are thinking (which is why I have no real interest in another five points with them). As for the coach, as soon as you (or anyone, I am not particularly selective) I will be entirely happy to use them.

Sober @ Sundown said...

How is the leg doing?

Anonymous said...

re leg and dizziness: If you'd take better care of yourself, you might have noticed earlier. ... Uh-huh. Tough love here, woman. You're not getting off easy on this one.

re comments above: This is why I've always been reluctant to post real names of people I fence, because there's always at least two very important and valid perspectives (three, if you count the ref). MY success must necessarily imply someone else's failure, and if he or she reads my notes, there's gonna be a difference of opinion. ... But that's just me. If I posted my personal journal, the notes in which I name people, I'd be pissing off almost everyone I know.

re Contway, "the only guy who respected me enough to actually work out a strategy": Possibly. But don't get stuck on the respect angle. We can categorize really good fencers in two ways: those who think tactically and those who believe in their refined technique. Contway, by your estimation, is the former; the other guys seemed to be mainly the latter -- they will do what they have been trained to believe works best, regardless of what might make more tactical sense, and they'll do the same thing against EVERYONE.

And finally a quick note on all those "serious" snooty male fencers: Some are truly jerks, may Gawd bless their shriveled black hearts. But a lot of them manage performance anxiety with social distance, sometimes with angry overtones. It helps to reframe your perspective that way (or at least it does for me): You're not fencing stone-cold killers; you're dealing with other insecure people. Once you re-humanize the enemy, he (or she) becomes less intimidating and you can refocus your emotional energies elsewhere.

Elizabeth McClung said...

B. V. Brus - as for posting names; generally on the blog when posting real life stuff, I try to keep the posts centered toward the positive while being realisitic - For instance, I did not post at length using the name of the male who demanded multiple weapon checks and asked the ref to reverify every point because the WOMAN he was fencing had gotten three points on him (oops, guess I did talk about it). And since these are open sporting events, and I was not the only person "covering" the Seattle open (I talked for quite a while with a photojournalist there), I suppose everyone can't be happy, but since I am not a malicious person (at least not normally) usually everyone is (even Brita Goldie after we cleared the air).

As to the "serious" fencers and respect - I think some may bristle because this is a female view of thier world - of the 9 of us, most of us were treated by our opponents with complete dismissal as soon as they saw the boobs - some quite vocally so. And, for many women, the social aspect of a tournament is important - this is not to say it larking but many/most women want to know how the others are, and then, if they want to focus they will say something like, "I'll talk to you later, I've got to go get ready" or, "I really want to watch this match" etc. Linda, on Sunday, as a new fencer had most opponents compliment her as they shook hands - or introduce themselves. Why a guy walks around stone faced or act unresponse is thier issue - it is just when you are surrounded by a few dozen of them it is kinda noticable.

Anonymous said...

There isn’t a nicer group of people than those at Salle Auriol Seattle. They are true ambassadors for the sport of fencing; every person makes an effort to promote the sport in a positive way - from the A-rated fencers to the beginning students, and from Leon Auriol to the parents and coaches. Fencers from other clubs in the Seattle area also participate in the camaraderie. After all, there are precious few fencers in the world. Fencers need to stick together and support the sport!

I have never encountered or experienced the misogyny or disrespect toward women you allude to. Perhaps that is your expectation in life coming to fruition rather than the reality of how other people think.

The members of Salle Auriol Seattle are generous teachers; fencers such as John Varney, Anna Telles, and Travis Exum (among others) - all of whom bring vast experience and a depth of talent to the strip - are happy to teach and fence with any beginner. Even a tournament bout with fencers of that caliber can be considered an opportunity to learn.

It takes many years and much practice to become a good fencer; there is no short route. It takes talent and drive to become a great fencer. SAS has in its ranks many good fencers, a few great fencers, and an entire club full of kind welcoming people. I am lucky to count them among my friends.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Mr. Anonymous:

I have, as you would notice in the many previous posts about the SAS in seattle, always been positive about the club not only for thier assistance in equipment and other matters in making it possible for fencers from a distance to participate fully but in hosting so many female oriented events which are simply not available where I am.

However, if you are here to boost SAS as a club, it is probably best not to do so in the same breathe as either implying I am a liar or that I should not be entitled to express the opinion of my experiences on my own blog.

As you seem unaware, fencing is a male-oriented sport, as the numbers on any events list will tell you (or a glance around the gender of the coaches, even at a women's event) and even at the Battle of Seattle, there was about a 2-1 ratio, admittedly much higher than the 9-1 ratio at the Dynamo event a few months ago or the 13-1 ratio at Oregon's River Run Open. Let us consider a review on the book printed a few years ago The Woman Fencer: "As in many other sports, women are often marginalized in the fencing world. To one degree or another, women fencers are second-class athletes -- when compared to male fencers. Consider the fact that women have been fencing actively since the nineteenth century, but "THE WOMAN FENCER" is the first fencing book aimed directly at women."

This is why Canada for instance is working on programs to encourage more women to take up coaching.

It is too bad that, as you have been up to now unaware of the problem, you haven't been able to be part of the solution - hopefully that will change.

If you believe statement like "It takes many years and much practice to become a good fencer; there is no short route." to be a good way to bring people into fencing or as a form of encouragement to fencers for their participation then I really do recommend you leave that practice to others. As for great fencers, while I have many people I like and admire at the SAS (like Alex or Anna), but as for Great Fencers, one definately springs to mind: Marla Clem for reasons that go beyond pure technique - but then, Terry Fox wasn't a particularly fast runner - but he was a Great one.

kiteye said...

I'm going to have to disagree with your perception of fencing being a male oriented sport. Being a female fencer myself, I can't say that I've encountered gender bias in the sport. I fence with plenty of men and women when I practice at my club, and I've never heard any of the men (or women, for that matter) say I will be unable to succeed due to my gender. Perhaps part of this is because I so firmly believe that my gender has nothing to do with my success or failure in fencing. I guess I also think about the women's saber team from the last olympics. Weren't they the only US fencers to bring home gold? If that's not women fencing successfully, well, I don't know what is. And I'm not trying to be snide, or provoking by posting this. I really enjoy your accounts of fencing, because it was obvious by your performance at the Battle (I was there) that you are quite a competent fencer, and all you need is some experience to get your game where you want it to be. I predict that next year you'll be quite a ways farther up in the points list in the epee events.

Elizabeth McClung said...

It is interesting you mention that, since the 2004 olympics was the FIRST olympics to allow women to compete in sabre - however in Epee and foil, women are no longer required to wear the legal length fencing skirt as they were in the 1950's. Should women be ALLOWED to fence sabre? That is now, thanks to 2004 a moot point, however, I have heard coaches and others state that women shouldn't (with much the same rational that women shouldn't be part of military reinactment societies). The historical viewpoint of the sport of fencing is a male one, and though more and more access for women is available, much of the structure and numbers still reflect that. I did not write the book The Woman Fencer, nor the review - but the book does identify, from one couples 30 experience in the field, 8 points that most women have to personally address regarding internal and external gender expectations.

These are different than saying whether women can or cannot succeed - I am a Canadian epeeists, I already know women can succeed in this sport - and I also know that (if you refer back the post on the BMI) that most women enter the sport for entirely different reasons for men; which have not yet been brought fully into the sport. As for my own experience, as I posted in early posts, when you are big, tall and powerful looking the experience of having most of the males in an entire club openly rooting for a male training partner in a bout to "preserve the male pride" is not an uncommon experience (nor either is the problem of getting particularly teenage male fencers to actually BACK UP when fencing a female - an event I witnessed on Monday at another club and as one of the "experienced men of the club" put it, "Well, yes, he would back up against ME, but her or you.....")

Thank your belief that next year I will be surpassing the A ranked US female in the mixed tournament - but right now, my most continued pressing concern is getting a coach and some individual instruction