Friday, February 24, 2006


Everyone wants to be like me:

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Prejudice for Pride

Thon hast learned, my little bud, that, whatever may betide, Thou canst win thyself no joy by passion or by pride. - Louisa May Alcott

In case you missed the story on your local evening news, as of the first Saturday of February, I have been fencing for one year now. Granted I don't know if a beginner's class qualifies as actual "fencing", but technicallly: one year. And I find myself wondering if there is some benchmark for this. What should I be able to accomplish now? Who should I be able to beat? Should I be rated? Oh man, I hope not.

One of my greatest fears is that one of my peers who has been fencing for less time than I will overtake me. Why? Pride of course. One thing that fencing has revealed to me is just how much pride I have and how easily it is wounded. If I had self-discipline equal to my hubris I would be practicing for six hours a day. The funny thing is I never considered myself a prideful person before I started competing. I was perfectly content to bout at the club and never even considered how much I needed to be winning. Even when the topic of competition would be raised I would demur, "Nah, competing isn't for me." Now my desire to maintain my place in the pecking order troubles my heart to and from most practices.

I ponder now if this is healthy. Perhaps. I am not competitive about anything else in my daily life so this is a nice spike in my otherwise flatlining meekness. But I am often chided by my significant other: If you're not having fun you need to stop. I retaliate that it's never fun to lose, no matter what you're doing. Besides, the good feelings by far outweigh the bad. And maybe the Type A side of my personality needed to be roused a little. Even now when I leave the salle, it's pulled the pillow back over its head and gone back to sleep by the time I get to I-95.

There's another tournament this weekend. The salle will have its largest representation ever and I can't lie: I have fretted some over how I will finish. But what would I be doing otherwise? Probably cleaning house and listening to reruns of This American Life. Fretting seems like payment enough for a healthy rush of blood.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

To martyr yourself to caution
Is not going to help at all

-Pink Floyd

Sit. Stay. Parry. Riposte.

Maitre asks if I feel like I am improving. I admit that I feel like I have reached a plateau lately. He is reassuring of course and says it is hard sometimes for the fencer to notice their own improvements. It is a kind response, but not altogether convincing. I cannot seem to pull off certain moves when it comes to a bout and the basics deteriorate when I lose focus.

So where does one look for inspiration in times like these? Well to her puppy of course. Where else? She is a stubborn thing and I fear, at times, not the sharpest tool in the proverbial shed. But when she learns a new thing, she seems to learn it all at once. (Last week she learned to bark at everyone who walks by our house and isn't that grand.) Like how we worked on "Lay" repeatedly, day after day, without the faintest glimmer of understanding. And then one day, she just did it, like it was no big deal. Now she does it all the time. She just lays down and looks at me expectantly, looking for the treat that she thinks should come with such a feat.

Perhaps this is how it will be for me. I see snatches of advancement sometimes. In extended parry exchanges, I always think "indirect riposte" but the connection from the brain to the arm never seems to make it all the way through till its too late. But it happened Sunday, and I was hardly even thinking about it. And I got the point. And a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. Which is almost as good as a jerky bit.