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.

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