Tuesday, May 30, 2006

s t r e n g t h

As part of her graduation gift, I bought for my sister a small polished riverstone which had the word "Strength" carved into it. I thought this a fitting wish and sentiment for someone just beginning in a new world. But if one could be anointed with such a ballast by the bestowing of so small a gift, then for myself I would buy a dozen and line my pockets with them.

Strength and I are strangers; that is, a strength of mind: I have all my life sought to make up for my lack of mental strength with that of the physical realm. Long hard labor is not a problem, having a disagreement can be debilitating. If my partner and I have an argument I am always the one to give in first, preferring resignation to tumult no matter where I feel the fault might lie. Where this overarching weakness intersects with fencing is...well, everywhere. If I fall behind, if my opponent has unconventional attacks, if for any reason I become uncertain, I lose all confidence; I am quickly steered to the depths of self-doubt by my opponent. Efforts to gain control of my own mind are as successful (but persistent) as a bulldog facing off against Godzilla.

Here she goes again with the 'woe is me' palaver

Strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians xii.

Can I then, baptized by my own fire, come out on the other side stronger than I would have if I had been gifted with a normal allotment of self-confidence? Well, that's what it says in the Bible, and who am I to argue?

Monday, May 22, 2006

My dreams are always full of weaknesses. Constantly needing to defend myself: I never find the strength to throw the punch, I never find the speed to escape my pursuers. I'm sure this probably means something.

My ripostes are getting quicker. My stop hits beat the tempo to the punch. It's not perfect, it's just the first step on a roadway which yawns away into the distance.

On the piste, reality may actually become a welcome vacation from myself.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The islands

I haven't had a concrete idea of what to write about like I normally do, thus the paucity of posts. Of course, in the attempt to think up a topic, one question invariably enters my head: "Am I over thinking all this?" However, I think the very existence of this blog makes that a rather open and shut question. I do wonder if other people spend as much time analyzing and agonizing over themselves as I do (masochistic narcissism?), but knowing either way wouldn't change anything.

I do want to muse a little over a bout I had a few weeks ago at the last Open. In the foil event, I had a bout in my pool against someone who is a very good fencer, possibly one of the best fencers I've ever fought. And while I did lose 5-2, that is not so badly as I have lost to terrible fencers in the past. And it was just downright fun. This is because said elite fencer did everything right, just like I've been taught to expect and how I've been taught to respond. It was GOOD fencing, not like what it often feels like at these events: fending off some barbarian so lacking in tactics that they would seem more adept at wielding tree trunks than foils. There were some rather exhilarating extended blade exchanges and I was able to keep up for many of them. I might even have surprised my opponent a little bit on the two touches I did get. And the next day, when I got a touch on a well-timed reassemblement during an epee bout....

My self-satisfaction was noticed in the retelling the day after and a rather dulcet phrase was coined by Maitre: "Island of Perfect Execution." The idea is that we begin accomplishing things as individual bits of perfection, one by one. Sometimes they might slip by unnoticed but eventually there will be many that when strung together they form an archipelago of perfect execution (my words)...which means you're actually doing some excellent fencing.

Here's to the islands (and a glass-half-full-post for once).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tourney Reflection v. 9

3 minute heart attack

More bitter perhaps than the fighting in the foil bouts Saturday afternoon was that which came afterwards in reflection Saturday night. Yes, I know that I am ruled by my irrational emotions, on the strip just as everywhere else. Yes, I know I am not making as many attacks as I should be. Yes, I know I act demoralized when I lose or make a mistake. Here is the point: on Saturday I was a wreck. Ashamed of how little I had accomplished, how much I had NOT improved since the last tournament...two tournaments ago even. Every problem I have is mental, whether it be fear of doing the wrong thing, or plain confusion at how fast and easily I can be unraveled by my opponent. Like I told my teammate on Sunday: Foil, to me, is like having a three minute heart attack.

I submit to you then: epee. Sunday was the first time I had flown solo in epee; the only other time I had competed at all being the Team Qualifiers. Epee was like a pleasant vacation; like a cool glass of tonic and lime on a Polynesian beach. Mind you, I still had my ass handed to me, but it was in a relaxed fashion and I didn't notice quite so much. Why the divide between two weapons, less than 24 hours apart? I suspect maybe it is because I do not expect so much of myself in epee, having not trained so long at it. Or perhaps it is just the natural pace of epee, being slightly slower than foil - in general. It takes longer to lose, and thus is not quite so hard on the senses. Either way, there were no fights Sunday night. My bravery was not called to stand trial and I may have enjoyed a fizzy beverage.

So is it the end of foil? If only I could let it go that easily. I've been discussing this with my Pride and I don't think he's going to let me just walk away. But maybe I can work out some sort of arrangement with my Guts and have them make an appearance at the next foil competition.