Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Talent is nurtured in solitude; character is formed on the stormy billows of the world.
Johann von Goethe

This weekend we cleaned out our garage. The floor is wide open and there is a nice clear space on the wall, just waiting for a target. I think it is a commonly accepted statistic that the majority of fencers have only a few things that they do really well. I've decided it ought to be my goal to figure out what those things are (or what they will be), and learn to execute them perfectly. I foresee hours of repetitive point control drills and thousands of advance-lunges.

The crux comes, however, when it is time to prove what practice has wrought. Damn those character-forming stormy billows.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Patience? Not one of MY virtues

Nationals, nationals, nationals. Tired of hearing about it yet? I wish I could stop thinking about it - dreaming about it. So I'm going to keep writing about it for a while. If you're bored, feel free to pop over to ICHC till I get done.

I just finished listening to this interview with Soren Thompson. He is exactly the type of fencer I want to be. Granted, I have no delusions of fencing anywhere near that level, but I want to occupy the same mind space. Among other admirable confessions, the thing that he mentioned that most struck home for me this week was his recounting of a recent team competition. Soren describes how his team slowly builds a lead and concentrates on not making mistakes, instead letting the other team make mistakes.

What a brilliant f-ing idea! How many bouts last weekend did I take the lead in early on, only to lose it, and the bout, in a blink? At least three, maybe more. And the DE that I lost 15-13? Yes, I was in the lead more than once and then, poof, bye-bye.

Perhaps you cannot sense my incensed mood through this 2-D medium. Take my word for it: just thinking about it makes me so angry. I wish that I'd had a bit more presence of mind on Saturday to record exactly what caused me to lose the lead, but I know that each of the following culprits was to blame at one time or another.

1) "OMG! I have the lead. Quick, close it out!" Followed by leaving my brain at the on-guard line in favor of spastic flailing.
2) "OMG! I have the lead. Quick, stop everything you've been doing so far (that's been working) and freeze up!"


My Black Eyed Dog

I had planned for a couple light weeks of practice this month because I am feeling a little burnt out after Miami. However, upon hearing of my results, K. was quick to express his displeasure at my placement and set out to make Tuesday night's practice a rather miserable one. My legs are still sore. No more practice this week. Next week is up in the air.

I know that I could be more in shape than I am, but my physical state is not what is keeping me back. It's not even my technical skill, because; heck, I bet 50% of my touches last weekend were hand/wrist/forearm shots. No, my proverbial roadblock is my Crazy.

I see my Crazy as a skulking beast, small but heavy, running in circles around me and slicking my path with a cool slime of doubt. Every step is taken with trepidation and even the slightest stumble sends me back several paces. It's a dangerous spiral and I went for a helluva ride last Saturday.

I suppose that the upshot is that I am very aware of this problem and that in the waging of the war against my Crazy, I am beginning to win every so often. It actually took physical effort (jumping, jogging in place, various noises of frustration), but after my third bout/loss in Div 2, I shook free from the dark cloud. It couldn't save my placement, but it was a small personal victory.

He who overcomes others is strong. He who overcomes himself is mighty. - Lao Tzu

Monday, July 09, 2007

What a long strange trip.....

I've been thinking for quite a while how I wanted to write about my trip to Nationals, or if I wanted to write about it at all. But I think I can only help myself by doing so. And the results are a matter of public record anyhow.

Generally speaking, I will never return to Miami again. The humidity, the run down, dirty streets, bad food, the automatically applied gratuity and bad service, and the thumping bass till 5 AM all combined to make an absolutely miserable experience outside the doors of the convention center.

Inside the convention center, it was not so bad. The tournament seemed to be well run. Events started promptly and it wasn't too long a wait till DEs. Our Div 3 pool was actually the last pool to start, but we had a good time chatting until our 12 year old ref (who I saw later deeply involved in a game of Halo) showed up.

On a more personal level, the events became a struggle; a battle not between two ends of the strip, but between my mind and my body. I began the event confident and excited. This carried through my first pool (Div3) with four wins and two losses. But after a narrow loss in the round of 64 things went quickly downhill.

Gathering for the Div2 pool was apparently on a completely different planet. There were no friendly words, no good-natured ribbing. A row of cold, blood-thirsty opponents lined up against your intrepid kite-flyer (me). After losing (quickly) 5-1 to the girl that eventually won the pool, I was shattered. My tenuous confidence is easily rattled, and not easily settled.

It is endlessly frustrating that some of the things I value most - strength and an unflappable composure - are so slippery in the unsure fingers of this nascent epeeist. However, in the spirit of every problem having a solution, I'm sure I will continue to relive each nexus and turning point of last weekend, both mentally and on "paper" in the hopes for a happier return next year.