Monday, March 31, 2008

Sword in the Stone in the Rearview

Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways.
- Samuel McChord Crothers

After weeks of building myself up for this event which I perceived to be both huge and terrifying, I arrived Saturday morning to find it neither. Epee was just over fifty people, but the strips were spread out over two gyms so I never really felt the press of a large tournament. I did my warm up and got in a decent practice session with one of my teammates and was raring to go right on time. Of course, this feeling had ebbed slightly when fencing did actually begin almost an hour later. As a general impression, I was not impressed with the running of the tournament. Little things were skipped over: no one ever checked to see if I was wearing a plastron or asked to see the armorer's mark on my mask. Our pool was half-reffed by a "trainee" who very obviously had never picked up a rulebook. Turned backs went unnoticed and the clock alternately overran - or didn't run at all. When the refs starting calling fencers for DE bouts (remember we're spread over two gyms) it took everyone by surprise and it was mostly by accident that I stumbled upon the posted brackets and was thus able to find my strip on time. But enough - that was my personal experience and I know others found it a well-run tournament. At least it didn't drag on forever like some others - we were out of there at 1:30.

Perhaps if my own performance had been up to par, I would be more forgiving to the tournament organizers. But, as my sage blog advised me Friday, I make no excuses for my poor showing; I was just fencing poorly. I went 2-3 in a pool where I should have been 4-1 or, at worst, 3-2. This seeded me 30th going into DEs and while I made it easily out of the round of 64, I came up against the third seed, an A, in the round of 32. And that was it for yours truly.

So about that poor pool showing? I continue to have trouble dealing with styles that I have not seen before. I have always struggled with tactics and, especially under the stress of a tournament, my mind grinds to a halt and I am left rather dumb except to fall back on my old habits of pure reactionary fencing. Old habits produce old results. A 2-3 pool is like going back in time two years.

What to do? It's a hard thing to practice, but I resolve to be a more mindful fencer, to exercise my tactical mind as much as my body. I think at the next tournament I'm also going to draw the tactical wheel on my hand so I'll have a crib sheet when my mind goes blank. And now...I'm done agonizing over Sword in the Stone (or SitS, to those in the know). Divisionals are in two weeks and I mean to redeem myself.

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