Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Imagine this...

I don't get angry when I lose - certainly not. I get angry when I lose because of my mistakes instead of my opponent's merits. That seems reasonable right. Because what I love is the discipline and the finesse and if I get skewered in the chest because I'm thinking too hard about something else - well that's just frustrating.

And that's the other thing, I haven't decided yet if I think too hard or I don't think enough. Last night I tried to quiet my mind in a bout by drowning out my thoughts with a bit of upbeat music (Glad Tidings by Van Morrison, if you must know). Well, that didn't work either. It's finding that balance.

Finding that balance is everything. Physical balance, I'm pretty good with - thank you yoga - but my mental balance is equal to that of a bloated hippopotamus on rickety scaffolding. I cannot find any quiet in my own head. I lay awake last night well past midnight thinking of everything, but mostly fencing. I try music, I try praying, I try visualization, but I can't shut my head up. (I haven't tried drugs yet, but I've heard good things.)

Oh yes, visualizing. That's a term I've heard repeatedly in any sport I've done. "Visualize the entire race - decide where you'll start your kick - see the other runner's sucking wind in the last 200 meters." "Visualize your shot - feel it leave your hand - watch to the hoop - get the rebound!" And now, for fencing, visualization is also touted to be a helpful as well. So I try it - I begin a bout in my head. I execute some fine disengages, breathtaking lunges, but eventually my rabid, untameable imagination takes over, which means the bout usually ends up in a fist fight or even in a more heated engagement, the details of which are not appropriate to discuss in mixed company. I mean, because, let's face it: fencing is sexy.

So - visualization - that's something I'll have to work on. Along with keeping my toe pointed straight, more striking lunges, distance, tempo, strategy, parries *here, the orchestra swells and we cut to commercial*

The point here is that I am very aware of my limitations and what I need to improve upon. But I still need to find a way to improve upon them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Skill Application - or, Please Parry

It is rather obvious to me that one of the greatest obstacles in understanding how fencing works is transferring knowledge from practice and drills into an actual bout. I can do drills and do them well (I think) all day long. 1) Memorize a pattern. 2) Do it slow. 3) Do it fast. Even when working with a partner it's no problem.

But see, where fencing deviates from other sports that I have been involved in is that the drills are a far cry from the real thing.

If I want to improve my flyball-catching skills then someone hits me fly balls over and over and I catch them. In a softball game the balls will come at about the same speed as they will in practice.

If I want to improve my field goal percentage in basketball, I'll make a 1000 shots a day. And in a game, the hoop is still in the same place and the ball is still the same size.

(Of course there are other factors to consider as well and I admit to over simplifying to help me make a point, but who's writing this thing anyway?)

But in fencing...Well, you know right? Different opponents who have different target areas and different action and reaction times. Which brings to me to today's title (at last). Sparring against other beginners is frustrating. How am I supposed to learn to be all tactical and whatnot and learn to apply the move I just learned if my sparring partner doesn't react to it?

Look - I thrust, you parry, I parry back and hit you real quick!

No parry.

Now, I understand this is the nature of learning and I do not claim to be innocent of this inaction myself. But this is why it is infinitely more satisfying to spar with a coach. But I think I will save coaches for tomorrow when we also delve into how it is that coaches seem to be such handsome people - and are, of course, impervious to flattery.

update on my right foot: it still won't point straight.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Starting Somewhere

Since I cannot help but think of this sport all day anyway, now at least my thoughts won't be lost. Whether that's good or bad is yet to be seen - I'm guessing neither.

Why did I choose the title "Derobement"? Well, not because I wanted to expound upon the move or even because I find it interesting.. No, simply because I thought it would be a funny title for a fencing blog. Double meaning. Get it? Don't worry - I'll probably think up something better soon. I guess"Conversation of the Blades" is too predictable?

The real purpose for this blog is because I have become completely obsessed and consumed by this sport and I need an outlet. My relationship with the sword has become complicated as I both love and fear everything about it. Perhaps I fear it because I recognize that it has the power to completely overwhelm me and maybe it's already happened. I hunger for mastery while proficiency is still a distant horizon. But there is a wall - even before proficiency may be reached - I become unsure of myself at the call of "Allez" and that's what I need to understand and overcome. I am by no means a stranger to fear and indecision in any part of my life, but if they can be conquered upon the piste, then that will be enough for now.

In the future, I promise not to be so melodramatic and write more about the sport itself. I hope you (whoever you are) can forgive me this one lapse.