Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I write with a heavy heart tonight. Heavy like a stone, dangling in my chest like that stupid tennis ball which hangs from the door frame. It was a frustrating night of practice; I was trying to concentrate on being relaxed and flowing and I failed on all counts. I want to feel like a whole entity rather than a collection of mismatched pieces, but I feel like I'm regressing rather than approaching this goal. All the confidence I've been trying to build for myself recently with the running and the yoga and the cute new sundress...It is all balanced precariously on the damn tennis ball. 60 hits a day we're supposed to be doing. I do that and more. My shoulder is warm and achey even now with the thought of it. What started as an amusement has become an uncomfortable symbol of my life. If I concentrate on the ball, I feel jerky and my hits are often off center, causing the ball to jump around unexpectedly. But if I concentrate on the movement - on the feel of my shoulder extending to my elbox to my wrist - cocked just so - I find that I can often hit the ball dead center without even trying that hard.

Can someone move the forest please...I can't see the trees.

Story of my life: details allude me, poking at the fringes of my consciousness and skittering away before I can trap them. It's why I'm so awful at directing bouts: my mind captures everything as one great abstraction. Trying to overcome something so ingrained has so far been fruitless so I am trying to work with it. Seeing my entire body connect with the tennis ball rather than just the ball itself. So far, the results are disheartening.

I approach the weekend with no small amount of trepidation.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Attacks...Out of Time

Upon realizing that it's been nearly one year since I made my first post to this blog, my heart literally sank. What has become of my year? I am dying in the suburbs and that's something I always vowed to avoid. Everyday I am becoming more normal and less interesting. It kills me. Why does it feel like yesterday that I was so happy in my breezy, sunny, beautiful apartment in my beloved city? God...

Well it was not meant to be a self-pitying post, but I had to vent a little. Here is the brilliant segue: My sense of time is rotten. I realized this last night in a lesson when the topic turned to training your opponent to react in a certain way. Repeating an action multiple times until they're reacting just the way you like, then...wham. I thought about this on the way home and had a hard time coming to grips with the idea. Certainly this is not because I disbelieve Maitre, but because - to me - 3 minutes just does not seem like enough time to accomplish this and still get in 4 more touches and/or avoid being touched as many times.

But this shouldn't surprise anyone, given that I become an unmitigated embodiment of urgency at every allez!. How many of my tournament bouts have honestly lasted longer than a minute and a half? That I am too aggressive and in too much of a hurry has already been established. Perhaps it is a natural inclination toward a quick and (not so) painless death. I suspect my subconscious feels this limits my exposure to humiliation.

Perhaps I can use this tactic of training my opponent to trick myself into prolonging bouts. Can I use it slow down the rest of my life? Doubtful.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
And shorter of breath and one day closer to death

-Pink Floyd

Thursday, April 13, 2006

An Exchange


It is late in the 19th century and the pursuit of fencing is fully developed as both a sport and an art. In a sprawling room with high ceilings and a glossy wooden floor, men in white jackets and mesh masks practice with the foil. Above, there is a gallery for viewing which is mostly occupied by ladies. One lady descends the wide staircase, one hand trailing upon the banister. She is slender, but not overly so as to make her appear frail. Her expression is cool, unmoved by her surroundings, suggestive of a mask to much more intense emotions. At the base of the stair is an older man, wearing the uniform of the amateur fencer. He is tall, but not so tall as to be imposing and he is handsome in a roguish sort of way. His eyes are drawn to the woman descending.

Man, inclining his head courteously: My lady.

Woman, curtseying upon the bottommost stair: Sir.You fence fine. I have seen you just now.

Man: Truly? It is kind of you to say: your propriety humbles me. Do you follow fencing?

Woman, remaining detached, matter-of-fact: I admit I do not. I have come to watch my brother. He aspires to fence as fine as you I suspect. Here he comes now.

She nods toward a young man who has emerged from the dressing area, but is stopped by friends before he can cross the room.

Man: I know of him - he is a fine athlete, if my opinion is to be trusted. What of you - have you held a blade? There is a class for ladies in the mornings. If you will not think it untoward of me, I will tell you that your figure would lend itself to the piste.

Woman, not necessarily taken aback: It is rather untoward of you sir, but I will forgive you as you have steel in your hand and I do not. I myself have not held a weapon nor do I have any wish for it. I prefer the pen.

Man, intrigued: A poetess? But you must try. I daresay you will find the language of the sword as elegant as any words upon a page. Though I can admit from firsthand experience that a blade cannot wound so deeply as a woman and her pen when she tires of a gentleman's attentions. He smiles weakly

Woman: Tell me then, Sir, why I should choose the lesser weapon? Were I to try and fend off suitors with a sword, I daresay it should only encourage them.

Man, impish: You have put your finger on the very reason, my lady. No man can resist a woman who can defend her own honor. I tell you it lifts a great burden from our shoulders! Here...

He takes his foil by the blade and lays the guard across his extended forearm, offering her the hilt, as it were

She regards him silently, inscrutable, then takes the proffered weapon. She holds it at arm's length, the point towards the floor

Man, smiling: Do not be afraid of it. You hold it as if there were a snake coiled about the tip. Like this...He lifts the blade and with it, her arm. I defy you to say that the feeling of a sword in your hand is not a satisfying one.

Woman: I will not presume to say anything of the sort then. For I would not challenge such a mandate and raise your ire. You might have one of your lady friends from a morning class throw down her gauntlet at my feet. And if I am to be deserving of a challenge, I'd prefer to go straight to the source.

A quick flick of her wrist and she has the point pressed to his chest, indenting his fencing jacket.

Man, raising an eyebrow: You have deceived me lady, for you said that you have never held a weapon yet I perceive that you have.

Woman, smiling coyly: Perhaps I have sir. But I did not deceive when I stated that the pen was my weapon of choice. A word of warning that an authoress may only be trusted with dubiety for her business is making up stories.

She returns his weapon to him in the same way it was given to her

Man: Touché, my lady.

Woman: You may however trust when I say that I have enjoyed your company... But here is my brother.

She takes the arm of a younger man, who acknowledges the older man with no small degree of reverence. The pair departs.

Man, quietly, echoing: Touché.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tourney Reflection v. 8

...So began the season of epee

...Because we qualified for Nationals in Senior Team Epee. In the interest of fair disclosure, I will admit that all teams entered in senior women's epee qualified for Nationals by simple numbers. Top four qualify and we were fourth...out of four. But three more points and we would've been 3rd. I have to admit that team competition is much more exciting than individual competition, and thereby more fun in many ways, even in the 2 matches that we lost by a rather...large margin.

But this means that from here until July, it's all epee all the time. That's a fact worth mentioning since epee has always just been a side amusement when I could not find a foil partner. Sunday was in fact the first time I have competed in epee, not counting the Salle ladder. Given this fact I was not altogether displeased by my own performance. Ignoring the sound, and expected, thrashing we received in the first match, we were more evenly matched in the second round, with another team which had only one "normal" epeeist - the balance of the team being easily coerced foilists - just like us. I won two out of my three bouts in that one, keeping our lead rather handily as long as I could. By the time I came up the third time, I could not catch up the deficit and faced the toughest opponent.

Saturday was less fun than Sunday, as we were knocked out after the first match and therefore were the only women not to qualify. However, I did perform a rather stunning balestra-lunge (if I do say so myself) and got the touch! It certainly surprised my opponent. And, being in the final bout of the match, coming in with a score of 14-41, threw all concern for propriety and what others were thinking out the window (how could anyone possibly think worse of us than they already did?). And there followed what my spouse described as the most amazing fencing he'd ever seen me do. I felt good too: light and fast and confident. And naturally, I have no idea how I can duplicate that in the future. The final score was 20-45. In an individual bout, I would've won - and against a rated fencer. That's only the second time I've ever done that. Here's where I wave a wee little flag for myself.

...Summers came and went, but the summer of 2006 was referred to as The Summer of Epee long after it was gone