Preview

1 Jan

My goals for fencing and this blog for the coming year are much different than those I established for 2014 a year ago.

Nothing about results. I’m a fencer who likes to blog, and the amount of touches I score, bouts I win, or posts I load will change those two facts.

I didn’t get back into fencing after a thirty-year layoff to chase numbers, or a ranking. I came back because I finally listened to the voice which had been whispering to me that I never should have left. And when I came back, I began this blog because that’s who I am — I write about the activities that fuel my motivation.

I’m looking forward to writing about my 2015 accomplishments in three hundred and sixty-four days. My only expectation is to be surprised, to be taken in a direction that I can’t possibly anticipate on this New Year’s Day.

I’m eager to write that blog entry.

Review

31 Dec

A year ago at this time, I set goals for my fencing and this blog in 2014. A quick review shows that many of those goals were missed.

Wanted to fence in eight tournaments, but only participated in six. Had I not served as an emergency referee for the September meet, I probably would have found a way to work in another competition in November or December. Did expand my horizons by traveling up to Canada last month.

Indicator’s still in the negative double-digits, and I have yet to score consistently with parry-ripostes.

Twenty-three blog posts were seven short of my goal.

Not happy with the results, and seems to me that taking three months off from the sport over the summer really limited what I could accomplish over the year. There’s going to be times over the summer where competing and drilling won’t be practical, but taking an extended break is a mistake I don’t plan on making in the coming year.

One

11 Nov

Sunday’s tournament in Canada was my first in over six months, but my experience was still very much like it had been in past competitions. Started nervous and tentative, and became even more so when I saw the youth and speed of my competitors. Responded by trying to go faster, which is always a mistake for me; my speed’s good enough for competition, but if I make it the basis for my approach, if I try to match the speed I see in my opponents, I’m not going to have success.

Coach tells me I’m better at being a thoughtful second in command, not an alpha dog. Let my opponents be the alphas; use my analytical skills to counter their speed.

Lost all six of my pool bouts, which really wasn’t that big of a surprise but, considering the lack of skill I saw in a couple of my opponents, a little disappointing. My coach (who had competed in a different event the day before at the same tournament) was with me the entire time, and kept telling me to get a better angle on my extensions — arm wider than my body, thumb rotated out.

Fortunately my opponent in the first DE didn’t have the speed I saw in the pools, so I was able to relax, and focus on coach’s advice. And as the bout progressed, I saw it working — I was hitting with my lunges and ripostes more than I was missing. A great bout with a fun opponent; we tied at 13, and got nailed with a remise off a missed a riposte. But this time, I kept myself from panicking; my approach in this bout had been working, and I wasn’t going to change with the bout on the line. Snuck in a disengage to even the score at 14; my opponent and I returned to our starting lines, and saluted each other. “Great bout,” I tell him. He agrees — and laughs when I follow with “But I’m going to get this next touch.”

We meet at the center (keep the arm wide), and I catch his lunge; I riposte, not sure whether I land it, and we hit each other with remises. The referee calls halt, and as I look at him I have no idea how he’ll call it. Guess my first riposte landed, because I get the touch.

So I get my one victory. And what make this more significant than the others, was my ability to implement my coach’s instructions. In other words, I learned something this weekend, something I can’t say that I did in my bouts earlier this year.

Three

8 Nov

Competition season should finally start tomorrow. This one’s a large tournament in Canada, at Brock University outside of Toronto — my first international meet. Doubt I’ll be pulled in to officiate at this one.

Got my goals down to three single words:

Compete — push myself to get the most out of my abilities and skills. Always fight for the next touch, regardless of the current score.

Learn — come up with a plan, execute it, and observe what about it works. Identify the flaws in my game. Make adjustments as the day progresses, to give myself the best opportunity for success.

Enjoy — appreciate the fact that at 52, I’m able to compete with athletes who are only a few years older than my children. And don’t just compete with them; interact with them. Fencers are the most creative, intelligent, wonderfully offbeat people I’ve ever known, and being part of this culture brings me much satisfaction.

No goals regarding wins, touches, placement, or indicator. At where I’m at now in my fencing career, those kinds of foci lead to frustration. I’m going to lose a lot of bouts tomorrow — but if I can stay focused on my three goals, this can be a very positive step forward.

Pokey-poke

9 Oct

Didn’t compete at that tournament a couple weeks ago. A ref canceled at the last minute (migraines are a terrible thing), so Coach asked that I focus on officiating and helping run the bout committee.

Had fun, much more than I’ve been having at tournaments I’ve been competing in lately. Felt useful, like I was contributing, even when performing a mundane task like mask check (pokey-poke, pokey-poke, how’s it look inside, we’re good, here’s your bunny stamp). Didn’t have to prove anything to myself, demonstrate that I belonged; I could relax, do what needed to be done, and enjoy being among these people, this culture that I admire and find so fascinating.

My refereeing is getting better, the calls more accurate and delivered with better clarity and confidence. Had only one call disputed, and that was mostly due to a poor explanation (it wasn’t preparation left – attack right; it was attack left, withdraw, counter-attack right). Need to learn the rule book, get some more experience, then become an official official.

Still having difficulty getting back fully into training and competing mode. Think I need to get in a tournament and get my butt kicked — get my juices flowing.

Observe

27 Sep

First tournament of the season this morning. It’s been difficult to get to the club consistently, or practice on my own, or even work out regularly since I returned last month, so I’m expecting my results to be as uninspiring as they were before I took my leave in the spring.

Success today will not be measured by wins and losses, or my indicator, or my standing at the end of the tournament. Today is about observation — can  I see anything before it actually happens? Can I analyze what I see and make the correct decision in response? Can I execute that decision?

Tournaments are always a struggle between obsessing over results and learning. At the end of last season, I became too focused on results, allowed that to be the barometer for my success. This season I want to change that focus.

More

15 Sep

Felt good to take the summer off from fencing, but feel much better about getting back to the club. Needed to step back from the frustration I was feeling in the spring, wait for my appetite to return. Charged into an open floor night at the start of the month, took my first group lesson this evening. Thinking about private lessons from coach. First tournament of the fall is a week from Saturday; gonna get my butt kicked.

Need to adjust my focus, what I’m looking to get out of this sport. If this is about wins and losses, indicators, pool rankings, USFA ratings –it’s going to be another frustrating season. Seems to me there’s more that this sport has to offer, things it’s able to teach me if I just broaden my perspective. This sport fascinates me, and I got back after three decades away to discover why fencing never lost its appeal to me, why quitting always felt like tossing away the phone number of a good friend, someone who knew me better than I did. It’s that more that I want to strive for this season, not on achievement, or advancement.

Bowling

6 Jun

How a couple hours at a company outing changed my perspective on my fencing career.

One of my unfortunate character traits is an outward impatience for obligatory social events. In other words, I suck at pretending to have a good time. So when our company announced a bowling party on a Friday afternoon, I was initially more dismayed at the mandatory attendance than I was relieved to have the afternoon off from work.

But I might as well bowl, right? And it’s not like I hate bowling. Was in bowling leagues in Chicago, ten years. Got to be pretty good, with an average approaching 190. Let’s see how much I remember.

Was all over the place my first game, barely broke 100. Then early in the second game, the muscle memory comes back. Slow and fluid approach, arm slowly back, slide and release, just a little twist of the wrist. And I’m hitting the head pin 8 times of 10 (yeah I’m on the Brooklyn side too much, but better that than missing the pocket), picking up my spares, hitting the 170s. Not bad for someone who’s bowled all of a dozen times since leaving Chicago 13 years ago.

So I’m leaving the lane that evening, marveling at how my game seemed to have come back so easily. And sometime in those musings, I think about fencing, and my frustration at my lack of progress after three years back in the sport.

Wasn’t always a good bowler. First few years in the Chicago league, Had around a 130 average. Can’t remember how long it took, but it was many years — five perhaps? — until I felt comfortable enough with my skills so that I could stop tweaking my approach, thinking about my hand or foot position, searching for just the right speed or force or hook. At some point, I felt my form was good enough, and easily repeatable, and it was then that I finally started bowling, not thinking about how I should bowl.

It was around then that I finally cracked the 150 average barrier — half way to perfection! Then I topped 160, 170, finally passed 180 my final season. Took years to get comfortable, but when it happened, my game blossomed.

Oh yeah, this is a fencing blog. Bowling skills don’t completely translate to fencing — nobody’s trying to stab you as you approach the pins — but both sports require a relaxed focus, a comfortable control of the body. Took me more than three years to learn those lessons in bowling — why should I think my fencing knowledge would come any sooner.

I’m frustrated. Taking the summer off’s not only a good idea, but more or less mandatory. Need some distance, get my hunger back. Made a commitment back in sunny Hawaii to fence in eight tournaments this year. So in September, it’s back to the club — and work on my fencing like I did on my bowling, back in the day.

Inverse

10 May

Today’s tournament was different in that I actually started better than I finished, the inverse of my usual experience. Got to 4 touches in my first pool bout, against a D rated fencer who typically slices me up real good when we spar at the club. Felt good about having such a close bout, then I faced a kid who I really should beat, handily. And wound up losing 5-1, because I did my insanity fencing again — I kept lunging at him, he kept hitting me with the parry/riposte, and I made no adjustment (counter-parry, perhaps?).

So I’ve got another o-fer, with a negative thirteen indicator. Ended the day feeling frustrated, and worse, alone.

It’s time for my summer break. Coach wants to have a tournament in June, good for her. Think I should sit that one out. Spend more time at home, work in my yard, let my body heal. Come back in the fall, enter a few tournaments (need three more to reach the goal I had set for myself on New Year’s Day). Go back to my Hawaiian beach at the end of the December, then think about where I want to go next in this sport.

Peak

9 May

Had a conversation with my coach the other day about my goals for the coming year. Replied with pretty much the content of my post in this blog on January 1 — compete in eight tournaments, get my indicator into the negative single digits, work on my skills. As I’ve come to expect, she offered her own opinion.

“You’re energy’s going to ebb and flow over the year. You won’t fence at the same level at every tournament — you need to identify the ones where you want to peak. That will probably be the D and E tournaments, not the opens.”

Makes a lot of sense, but I’m not going to act on the advice until the fall. Have another tournament, a D, tomorrow, and my energy’s definitely been ebbing of late. Body’s feeling the wear, and the warm weather’s calling me outside. I’m not practicing, not working out — a few months off, and the energy should start flowing again.

Coach says she’ll have another D or E in June. Might show up for that one. Or maybe tomorrow will be the start of my summer vacation from fencing.