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.


Anonymous said...

VERY INTERESTING! I just did a course in stage combat; we learned fencing principals, but the idea was not to get a touche, it was to make it look like we had. I'm an actor in training, and what I've learned is that in order to act truthfully, I can't "muscle" it. Like, if I try to control my product and over-muscle a movement, my voice, or my feeling, it will ring false like a piece of metal with a fault inside. But when I become grounded, and "become one with the blade", a scene flies with emotion and power, rips through both me and my partner. It's all about understanding your instrument. I was taught that sentiment de fer meant being able to feel your partner's move through the connection of the blades, and when I'm working with another actor, I think of sentiment de fer all the time. When we're locked in on each other, if I'm paying attention entirely to them, with my brain out at the tip of my blade between us instead of in my head where my ego can corrupt things, I can feel their intentions and reactions through my "blade". This may be a weird metaphor for most people. But your post really spoke to me! This is exactly what I've been learning in the last week or so.

Courtney said...

Thanks for commenting - I was so glad to hear your thoughts! Trying NOT to get a touch while making it look like you actually have sounds even harder than sport fencing. I hope you continue to enjoy what you're doing - I don't get to fence much these days because of other obligations, and I do miss having that time during the week where you really get to exercise that physical-cerebral connection.