Thursday, April 26, 2007

Title Track

Yes, I've been writing in this blog for two years and now at long last, a post about sentiment de fer. I have been thinking about it since last practice. During the lesson, our coach spoke about something which is totally obvious, but perhaps does not receive enough consideration. That is, despite all the footwork we do, all the strategy, tactics, and conditioning. Despite fancy bladework, second intentions, and sweat-wicking stretchy FIE uniforms, what the whole sport boils down to is: does my point land on my opponent or does his point land on me? The "point" (haha) was driven home later the same night when our most veteran epeeist was giving me an impromptu lesson. Frustrated at my apparent ineptness he grabbed my tip and compelled me in his booming voice: "Brain should be here! Brain is here!" It actually worked and the rest of the lesson went better.

Thinking about how to be more aware of my point is what has reminded me of sentiment de fer. That feeling of being one with my steel. Because really, the point is a rather ungainly thing. It's dangling out there, 110 cm away from me controlled by, essentially, two fingers; all the while you are moving and your opponent is moving. Always knowing where this little 1/2" piece of metal is in relation to your opponent and being able to place it willfully onto clear target is really the culmination of being one with your weapon. It really is a marvelous marriage between the human brain and body.

Unfortunately, this is not inborn and, for me at least, it's not even like riding a bicycle. You can't learn it and then just keep it forever. Every hour that I fence is an hour that I am trying to tighten my feeble grasp on such a rarefied idea, and constant diligence is required not to let it slip away. There are nights when I feel completely devoid of my sentiment and there are nights when I feel like I have reached a new level of awareness.

Observing fencers who have truly made their fer part of them is really is a beautiful site. The result is a fluidity and an effortlessness of movement that is best appreciated and most coveted when you are on the receiving end of one of their touches.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Third is good

Despite my placement at the end of the day, I never really felt like I was on top of my game Saturday. Whether it was a product of the opponents that I faced or just an unprepared mental state, I'm not sure. Fighting only other women at a local level was a new, frustrating experience. Until my final round of the DEs I didn't feel pressed to perform much at all. Instead, I felt rather lulled into a wait and see sort of mode . I fear this may have been the main ingredient for a wicked spell of cloudiness that brought about my loss in the round of four. My eye was off, my timing was off and I just couldn't get a good mental hold on what needed to be done to win the bout. It came down to 13-13. No one thing had been consistently successful and I was feeling a sort of agitated desperation in the final time period: I should know what to do to end this. Two quick touches later, it was over and I garnered myself a third place finish.

Don't misunderstand, stepping back and viewing this objectively, I recognize that this is a very noble spot in which to finish and I am well-pleased. But, that last bout was so close, and even to the very end, I thought that I'd be able to figure her out and pull it off. But then it was just over, whether or not I wanted to keep fencing, I no longer had that prerogative.

This weekend I had been crediting my torpor, somewhat affectionately, to a loss-induced broken heart. But after the news from Virginia Tech today, that description is just so. so. ... far. away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Selling the Sport

In an effort to make this blog a little less self-centered, I bring you the following commentary...

Last week on television, I saw a commercial put out by the NCAA featuring fencers. It was a great commercial and can be viewed here: (go to TV Spots and click the one with the fencer - duh). This is part of a series of commercials, each featuring a different sport, promoting the fact that the NCAA prepares students for life. Kudos to the NCAA for choosing fencing for one of them (the other two were basketball and field hockey). I hope that, like myself, it stopped many people in their tracks and made them say: "Wow, that's a beautiful sport." Because it is, but it is hard to impress upon people sometimes and it would be grand if the spot prompted at least a few people to pick up the phone and call their local club to learn about it.

Fencing, when executed correctly, is marvelous to watch. I do admit to getting a little weak in the knees and fluttery in the chest when a handsome, white-clad man performs a perfect lunge or snaps into a fine fleche. So I make this plea to the USFA: If you got, flaunt it! Let the people know that they too can partake in the graceful assault. They don't have to be fancy, high budget TV commercials. A beautiful still shot targeted to the right audiences could do wonders. Let more people know that fencing is an accessible and thriving sport and that anyone can get involved at anytime.

And where are the fencing personalities? Admittedly, the masks make it more difficult to identify potential heroes, but I hope the USFA uses the upcoming Olympics to get a few fencer's names on the lips of the public (maybe we can rename one of them 'Tiger' - that seems to work). Surely it's possible. Myself, I have zero background in short track speed skating, but at this point, I'd know Apolo Ono if we happened into the same Starbucks. It's all just marketing, and I don't mean that as cynical as it sounds.

Fencing is filled with dedicated, devoted players, but currently the "national association" seems more like a patchwork of insular geographies. Some flourish and some barely survive. Provide some professionally designed marketing materials to local clubs to use at demonstrations and in their windows to provide a streamlined, unified front for all fencers. Put bumper stickers in our yearly registration packet. Make the USFA logo a recognizable symbol so people don't mistake us for US Foosball Assocation. There must be one...hi foosballers!...get your own damn logo.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Mortal Coil

Or, Literary Cross-Referencing

Would that I could shuffle off said coil and return to that coil of yesteryear. Yea, the coil that was lean and strong and never got tired; felt weightless and looked good in cutoffs. But nay, I have taken up this new coil, which weighs upon me and makes me sore and tired and desirous of Advil.

Coil, I name thee albatross! I carry you as penance for watching cable television and cooking with butter.

Weighing me down, this coil is the brand that burns red hot when I cannot lunge fast enough or grow weary too soon in an evening of bouting. Burning so that all may see what a cumbrous coil I have reaped.

Ware, Coil! For I sow new seeds. I eat many vegetables and yea, even do I jog a little. Your day will soon turn to twilight and in time even that shall wane.

I shall lunge and recover and lo! I shall redouble and I shall be as graceful and strong as the African swallow.

Coil, be not proud, for coil thou shalt be shuffled.

Oi. With apologies to Shakespeare, Donne, Monty Python and....oh, everyone.