Friday, February 17, 2012

Classroom session at practice

Posted for posterity, offered without comment for now.
I am to study this and attempt to make my fencing less disorganized.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Er, Hi again

*cough, cough* Man, this place is dusty.

Yes, I know I said I would start writing again after the summer was over, but...well, something happened this summer and it looks like I'm going to be redshirting this season.

Truth is, I am going to have a baby, so no fencing for me this year. I kept up with practice through August and part of September, but I'm out of it for now. In some ways, this forced break was welcome; I had been having a lot of mental hang ups and frustrations and didn't always look forward to practice. That's never a good feeling and not a good way to get better. So I hope that when I return sometime next summer it will be with a clear mind and a positive outlook.

But of course I miss it too. Practice has always been more fun than competition and I miss hanging out with my friends at the club. I miss bouting with people who I'm pretty sure can read my mind at this point and still managing to surprise them every now and then. I had been excited that there was another NAC I could attend in Atlanta but given that it's only a couple weeks before my due date, I'm going to go ahead ad say that's a no-go.

And I worry - I worry that getting back into shape and rebuilding muscle memory will be a daunting and discouraging experience. I worry that I'll fall behind and never be able to "catch up" to the people that pass me in the meantime. But I try and remind myself that I've got a darn good excuse for any and all slippage.

I'm not totally inactive. I've been swimming at the Y and walking a lot. I haven't actually gained any weight yet and I still feel capable of almost everything; I just get tired a little faster. Plenty of women bounce back quickly from pregnancy. I'd like to say that I'll be one of those without sounding foolishly optimistic.

So, that's about it for now. I don't imagine I'll be posting here too often for the near future, but fencing is still on my mind so who knows.

Good luck to all this season.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Blahs

I'm mostly writing today to say that I probably won't be writing much for a while. Whether it's the heat, the winding down season, or just one of the other billion things on my brain, fencing is just not one of my top priorities right now. That's not to say it's absent from my life; I plan on two practices a week, every week, all summer, and I will be at the State Games this weekend, but I am currently lacking the required level of fanatic fencing devotion to blog about it.

That said, I did want to comment briefly about this past weekend when the other club in our city graciously invited us to an just-for-fun team competition at their place. We were sorted into teams after arriving so that the teams would be as equal as possible. I was the middleweight for my team and I think I did my job fairly well. The best part was that it was a lot of fencing and a lot of fencing different people that I don't get to fence much or ever. I won a couple of hard bouts and I got my butt handed to me in a couple of bouts. It was a good warmup for next weekend I think and a good way to focus my mind on the things I need to work on at practice.

Lastly, I just want to say that I really REALLY want this shirt, but I'm afraid it's not appropriate for a 30 year old contributing member of society. What do you think? If you saw an otherwise respectable looking woman wearing one of these at Target or wherever, would you think "Geeze, what a poser"?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What if I don't have an ocean to practice in?

Came across this on accident today:

Fencing Workout DVD

I have to admit that I'm curious, but the dates on the website are from January and it indicates no official release date that I can see. Also, the listed exercises don't look much different than what we do at practice for warm-up most nights.

I do find it a little humorous that they haven't removed some of the default template content (the "lorem ipsum") stuff.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Voting is hard work

I'm mostly posting because I haven't posted lately and because it's the Friday before a three-day weekend. Who the heck is working?

I've been thinking that I ought to think about this whole USFA election thing. We got our ballots in the mail this week, but the discussion started on Fencing.Net a long time ago. I also got included on an email from a former coach who wanted to have his say about the slates, though it was pretty mild compared to the online discussions.

There are a lot of people who care about this about it violently. I, however, am not one of these people. I cannot convince myself that the USFA leadership has affected me much one way or the other since I've been a fencer. I pay my dues and in return I get a sub par magazine and a little card that lets me go to tournaments. This is pretty much all I need from the USFA. The NACs and Nationals are gravy, albeit expensive gravy. Of course, since I have been fencing for less than a quadrennial, I've only known the USFA under one administration, so I admit that my remarks are probably naive. And if I were a good fencer then I would be affected quite differently.

The good fencers have a lot more on the line and thus may make their decisions with more fervent check marks. But I'm of the mind that the nominating committee exists for a reason and is not made up of just any ol' schmoes. They already did the hard work of deciding on the best candidates for the job and I'm all about letting someone else do the hard work.

lolcat - this not so hard

Friday, May 09, 2008

Numbers Game

Hello, I am an epee fencer, and...I am an askFRED addict.

There, I said it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step right? And I am admitting to you loyal readers, all dozen of you, that I went slightly nutty earlier this week waiting for the results of Sectionals to be posted. Of course I knew the final results, I was there till the end of the my event, but I just wanted to look at the results, to revisit my bouts and everyone else's. I find numbers comforting in their plainness and somehow find solace in the fact that you can't argue about simple facts on a page(screen). I agonized somewhat over a few "ugly" touches that I got last weekend, but now when I look at the results of those bouts, there's nothing to see but a final concrete score: all touches were equally um, touched.

For validation of my unhealthy obsession, I tried to search for some qualified person's opinion on whether or not reviewing statistics is a valuable tool for athletes. I didn't come up with much, though I'm sure this is as much due to my search-short-attention-span as anything else. Thus, this unqualified blogger is left to make her own observations about the good of staring at numbers and, as I have been known to do, make spreadsheets of them and apply dubious formulas to come up with new, even more dubious, numbers.

I can't convince myself that this is a bad thing, except that it's time spent I could be doing other, more productive, things. I also can't provide any proof that the time spent has done me any good (besides the aforementioned number-induced comfort). I don't think there's anything I can do at practice with the knowledge that I win X% of my pool bouts and Y% of my DEs; though certainly bad percentages must engender a desire to work harder. What I could use is information such as how often I win (or lose) touches on counterattacks, second intention, etc., but I don't yet have the self-awareness for recording this level of detail.

Great, just what I need - one more thing that just takes practice.

Monday, May 05, 2008

2008 Southeast Sectionals

This past weekend was the Southeast Sectional Championships in Columbia, SC. It's the first year I've been to this type of event so I didn't have any particular expectations, though I did expect attendance to be higher. With seven states to pull from, there were only thirteen women in the senior epee event. I suppose it is largely due to the fact that Nationals are on the other side of the country this year and a lot of people, me included, have already written it off. Last year, with a much closer Summer Nationals, there were 23 competitors. Still, there were entire states which had no representation.

Regardless, the thirteen of us that did show up gave a good accounting of ourselves I think. I felt compelled to fence my very best all day without exception and I got to test myself against women that are As, Bs, and Cs which is one of the main reasons I wanted to go.

I was glad to be placed in the "big" pool of seven and I was feeling pretty good, despite having gotten up at 5 am. I had two coaches, my husband, and other cheerers-on to give me confidence and keep me relaxed. I tried my very best to exercise my mindsets and mantras as a means of remaining level and cool and the result was what I think may have been one of my very best pools ever. I was 4-2 with a +11 indicator. My losses were 5-4 and three of my wins where 5-1. My losses, to two very young, very fast girls, were both frustrating . At 4-4 I felt in both cases that I could have gotten the last touch. On the other side of the coin though, I am also proud of the fact that I even got to 4-4 because they were both very good fencers that I probably could not have hung with a couple months ago.

So, overall still happy and feeling good at the end of pools and I was surprised to see that I was seeded 4th. There were lots of upsets going on in both pools I think. In the first round DE I was up against a girl that I had beat in the pool 5-1, but I started the first round too cautious and slow and at the first break it was 10-6 for her. Thankfully, I had some good coaching at the break and at the end of the second period it was 13-11 for me. I grabbed my last two points pretty quickly with fast straight attacks in the third period. My coach told me he saw three completely different fencers in the three periods and I need to sit back and consider how to get rid of the first and be the second two more often.

I clung tightly to those second two fencers in the round of 8 when I was slated against the A who had beaten me in the pool. This girl is awesome - her attacks and hand movements were deadly fast, but I still felt like I could hang with her. I'm glad I had gotten to fence her in the pool and knew what to expect. I felt great in the beginning; never discount the great mental boost that you can give yourself by getting the first touch. After that the score stayed really tight - I think I led twice and scored on a fleche and a toe-touch - more mental boosts for me. At the break it was 12-11 for her, but I think the break was detrimental to me - giving me an entire minute to cogitate on the necessity of my getting single lights from here on out. I rejoined the fight with a sense of overwhelming imperative. I have to attack and I have to get the touch. Such was the weight of this thought upon my mind that I forgot pretty much everything else, including moving and actually attacking. So it was that the last three touches were scored in the manner that my coach has been warning me about for weeks. I got in the bubble and I stopped. And I lost 15-11.

My final placing was 6th because of another upset, but I'm cool with that. I feel like except for those last three touches of the last bout I fenced pretty awesomely. I also qualified for Div IA for the first time and was awarded a giant hunting knife which I will try to take a picture of and post. I'm a little scared of it. The top four got awesome samurai swords so that's my goal for next year.

This tournament, more than any before, has left me with a lot to think about. I've been reliving those last three touches all weekend. Also, the gold medalist was one of my 5-1 victories in the pools so I can't help but think what if I had been on the other side of the bracket and fought her in a DE? I guess the what-ifs keep it fun, keep me returning; no one likes to leave questions unanswered. Maybe I can answer them next year.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Debasing fencing masks...and toilet seats

This is a real life Fight Club (pre-dating the movie) in Silicon Valley. A lot of the protective head gear they're wearing is fencing masks, which rather offends me. While I've always secretly wanted to know how I would fare in a fist fight, these guys seem more than a little ridiculous. To me, this video just reinforces the dignified, but dynamic and strenuous aspects of fencing. Fencing is in itself a fight club - albeit one with strict rules and plenty of protection. As our coach said to us only Wednesday night: You always want your opponent to leave the strip feeling like he's been in a dogfight.

Oh yeah, and how can something be "semi-lethal"??

Thursday, May 01, 2008

No Sprechen Fechtsport

Last night practice was solely a preparation for Sectionals. We fenced a lot of bouts, mimicking both pool bouts and DEs not so much to practice fencing, but moreso to practice mindsets. And maintaining a proper mindset, for me, is at least as challenging as maintaining proper form. It was a great, well-timed practice but it is the practices that challenge me the most that usually leave me the most frustrated. My frustration actually came to a head last night and I swallowed my pride and I just said to our coach, "I don't get it. I can't see what you say I should be seeing." Of course he was kind and reexplained things to me but I felt a bit deflated for the rest of the night.

Something that he's been drilling into us, me especially, for a while now is that the way to fence is to move in and out of the bubble. You move in the bubble, look for opportunities and move back out. In and out. When you move in and see an opportunity for attack, you take it - quickly! - and then get right back out, whether or not you were successful. So I'm in there looking for these opportunities but I don't really know what it is I'm looking for. I'm trying to create reactions in my opponents, but I don't really know how to identify these reactions or what to do with them when I get them. So I get in the bubble and I look for...something...and I forget to get out. I enter the sacred bubble temple sending prayers to the fencing heavens that they may grace me with a sign of exactly what it is I'm supposed to be doing in there. But the heavens are silent, or the devotee is blind and deaf; either way, I'm just not getting it.

I resign myself to the fact that this must be a function of time and experience and that slowly the great Truth will be revealed to me. The funny thing is, some of my most successful attacks are when I quit thinking about this most important tenet and fall back upon my animal instincts (rabid bunny mostly). At the Sword in the Stone, my single lights against the A fencer in my DEs came when I just went after him, throwing in a few beats and double disengages when they seemed appropriate. Maybe I do see the opportunities - sort of subconsciously - and it's only when allowing my brain to get in the way that I botch it up. Wouldn't be the first time my brain has let me down.

I guess the important point for the day is that I'm looking forward to Sectionals this weekend; I'm going to exercise my mindsets and just try to have fun. I finished the practice last night with one of my most fun touches ever - a fleche disengage. Fear the bunny!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Double Feature: I

Well I've got some catching up to do. I've been to two tournaments in the last two weekends, but I had a vacation in the middle so I wasn't around computers too much. It was quite nice, but if you've been holding your breath for my next titillating blog post...well you can exhale my friend.

Now, get ready for two...TWO tournament reviews in one.

Last Saturday, which seems like last year to my travel-addled brain, was the NC Div II/III Qualifiers. In 2007, I finished third place and back when I was writing out my goals for this season they included finishing first this year. I was still pretty comfortable and confident in this decision at the start of fencing on Saturday. I was lucky enough to get a lesson from our club's new international man of fencing-genius which made me relaxed and eager to get to the actual bouting. I did pretty well in my pool, but was frustrated by the bladework of one of my opponents which gave me my only loss: 4-3 in "overtime". I believe I was seeded fourth after pools and still felt good mentally, though the facility was so hot I was feeling physically a little ill. Luckily, I was able to mostly ignore that and I made it through my first two DEs without too much trouble, including a much more graceful handling of the girl that beat me in the pools. In the round of 4, I was up against the one girl that really worried me in the whole competition, who I have seen at some competitions but never actually gotten to fence. Turns out my worries were well-founded because I wasn't able to get around her strong counterattacks. During the first period I tried several things but managed very few points. In the second period, I was better at keeping the score down, but still couldn't get very many touches of my own. So the third period opened with a wide gap in the score and I was feeling a little desperate and losing my temper (at myself). I started doing crazy things, trying to get any points I could, and you can guess how well that worked. So, I tied for third, again, but that's okay, because I lost to a good opponent, who did take first. I qualified for Nationals (which I won't attend this year) and renewed my cute little E.

Overall, it was a good, satisfying tournament, in no small part because I received a lot of great coaching and encouragement from my teammates. I was able to perform much more closely to my best than usual because I was reminded that I could. My clubmates too had some great results and I was glad for the little bits I got to watch on Saturday. You guys are the best.

Double Feature: II

So that's that (see previous post). Then this past weekend there was a smallish tournament at the club which I was a little iffy on, but I woke up feeling good on Sunday so I decided to do it. Turns out it was bigger than I expected, about 17 people. It was a strange sort of day, everyone seemed real low-key, including myself. I warmed up well, but in true neurotic-style I blew my first pool bout which I should have won. Though I won two others (including a very tense and exciting bout against one my clubmates) I had a crappy place in the bracket and had to fight the same clubmate again in the round of 16.

This was an awesome bout and spanned most of the nine minutes though I almost blew it in the first period, facing a score of 9-3 at the break. Somehow, miraculously, I was able to get my head around what I was doing (or rather, not doing) and closed the gap in the second period. At this point, I was just so proud of myself for figuring out what needed to be done and then doing it, that it was a little victory just for me. In the third period we were neck and neck all the way till it came to 14-14. It was a really emotional bout and I think I lost my cool a little too much once or twice, which I felt guilty about immediately. I don't like showing that side around people I respect, was a learning experience. And it was a victory, for my teammate, 15-14. But that's okay, it was such a good bout and I think we both did great. Not a great finish, objectively, but I'm still mostly happy with what I accomplished.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, I had to skip practice last night, which I was really looking forward to. But moving forward, I'm all about practicing the parry-riposte...especially the riposte. I just hope my week and a half off does not kill me on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Comfort Zone, or Lack Thereof

I honestly am looking forward to Divisionals this weekend. Women's Epee is actually a relatively strong event compared to the other women's events this weekend, though it doesn't look like it'll be as strong as last year's. Still, as per usual, I am fretting a little bit about how I will do.

funny picturesI haven't felt like my fencing was all-together in quite a while. While struggling to improve my form and tactics, I seem to lost a lot of "comfort" with my body on the strip. It's like I have to instruct each limb separately which, as you might imagine, can seriously impede one's threat level. Practice has left me with a low-level of frustration lately. It's not a serious, mood-altering frustration that makes me want to throw my mask; it's a low-level pulsing sort of frustration that hovers just under the surface of my brain and just makes me want to sigh. Why is this so hard? I do understand that it will just take time and eventually things will begin to feel in harmony again.

But I am left wondering what to do in the meantime. Faced with an important tournament, should I fall back on my "comfortable" fencing style where I am confident, but essentially reliant upon counterattacks? Should I try to be the new fleet fencer that I want to be: dancing in and out of the bubble, but losing mental acuity in the meantime? I thought I was trying to be the latter at SitS but was informed afterwards that I still looked like my old stiff self most of the time. I guess we'll just have to see. T minus 1 day and counting.

Friday, April 04, 2008

After Practice Nutrition

So two nights a week I go straight from work to practice and work my butt off. I then arrive home around 9 pm, starving. I usually feel guilty about whatever it is I eat, no matter how healthy said food would have been around at an earlier hour because Everyone says you shouldn't eat late at night. So for help and reassurance, I turned to the nutritionist behind one of the blogs I read, Limes and Lycopene. Kathryn was nice enough to answer my question on her blog. The short of it: it's okay to eat late! Phew!

What to eat when you get home late

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The results are in

SitS Results

Well despite my best efforts (<-- sarcasm), my 30th place finish still garnered me the honor of top-placing female in the Open Epee event last weekend. There were 12 women out of 45 competitors and we're all in the bottom 30% of the results? That's more than a little disappointing, not just as a competitor, but as an conscious member of the fairer sex. Where are the bloodthirsty battle-maidens of yesteryear? The cagey and conniving iron ladies? The sinewy and nubile minxes on a mission? Where??

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sword in the Stone in the Rearview

Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways.
- Samuel McChord Crothers

After weeks of building myself up for this event which I perceived to be both huge and terrifying, I arrived Saturday morning to find it neither. Epee was just over fifty people, but the strips were spread out over two gyms so I never really felt the press of a large tournament. I did my warm up and got in a decent practice session with one of my teammates and was raring to go right on time. Of course, this feeling had ebbed slightly when fencing did actually begin almost an hour later. As a general impression, I was not impressed with the running of the tournament. Little things were skipped over: no one ever checked to see if I was wearing a plastron or asked to see the armorer's mark on my mask. Our pool was half-reffed by a "trainee" who very obviously had never picked up a rulebook. Turned backs went unnoticed and the clock alternately overran - or didn't run at all. When the refs starting calling fencers for DE bouts (remember we're spread over two gyms) it took everyone by surprise and it was mostly by accident that I stumbled upon the posted brackets and was thus able to find my strip on time. But enough - that was my personal experience and I know others found it a well-run tournament. At least it didn't drag on forever like some others - we were out of there at 1:30.

Perhaps if my own performance had been up to par, I would be more forgiving to the tournament organizers. But, as my sage blog advised me Friday, I make no excuses for my poor showing; I was just fencing poorly. I went 2-3 in a pool where I should have been 4-1 or, at worst, 3-2. This seeded me 30th going into DEs and while I made it easily out of the round of 64, I came up against the third seed, an A, in the round of 32. And that was it for yours truly.

So about that poor pool showing? I continue to have trouble dealing with styles that I have not seen before. I have always struggled with tactics and, especially under the stress of a tournament, my mind grinds to a halt and I am left rather dumb except to fall back on my old habits of pure reactionary fencing. Old habits produce old results. A 2-3 pool is like going back in time two years.

What to do? It's a hard thing to practice, but I resolve to be a more mindful fencer, to exercise my tactical mind as much as my body. I think at the next tournament I'm also going to draw the tactical wheel on my hand so I'll have a crib sheet when my mind goes blank. And now...I'm done agonizing over Sword in the Stone (or SitS, to those in the know). Divisionals are in two weeks and I mean to redeem myself.