Back in the saddle

As previously mentioned here on the Big Bad Blog, I have recently returned to the fencing fold. While I may be getting as much practice in as possible, the same cannot be said for tournaments.

To me, the fencing season consists of very few tournaments. These are the satellite World Cup events, held in London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, and the British National team competition. I try to do a warm up tournament before each of these, but I do not really care about my results in domestic tournaments in the UK — they simply do not matter.

The satellite World Cups are wonderful, however. While the winners of the competitions are often on par, ability-wise, with the winners of UK tournaments, the skill level does not bottom out in the same way. This takes away the easy bouts — which I do not really enjoy — making for thoroughly enjoyable competitions, even if my results do not measure up.

This past weekend was the Leon Paul satellite men’s foil event. Of the satellites, this is easily the most difficult of the lot. The reason is that there is a Junior World Cup event held the day before, and many of the athletes stay around for a second day (and a second tournament).

As a result, when I came to my pool, it was full of under-20s, all of whom were much better fencers then myself. I entered with a simple mantra: They’re all better then me. Good fencers — otherwise they would not be here for the junior event the day before — faster, and in better shape. My only advantage is that I have been fencing much, much longer. Remember this, be the wily old man, and I would see what I could do.

The plan worked for a little while — it got me through the first two bouts. Then I was derailed by a good fencer, followed by technical difficulties, followed by myself — I made mental mistakes in my last two pool bouts, and the fencers were simply too good to make such mistakes against.

However, it was enough to get me through into the elimination rounds as a low seed. Luck would have me matched against a clubmate in the first round — one who was having a better day than I was — and my day ended shortly thereafter.

From there I became a cheerleader, spectator and photographer for the remainder of the day.

While it was not technically my first competition since returning, it is the first that is actually part of my short-list. The next will have to be missed, due to work obligations, but I am looking forward to fencing in Copenhagen come March.

It’s nice to be back in the saddle, and to have a ranking again. Even if it is 484th.

A few more photos available over on Flickr.

The return of the fencer

This evening I came home to find a note in the mail — a package has arrived, and is waiting at the post office. Unless somebody has decided to surprise me with a package, it will be one of the two things I need for the upcoming fencing season, and ordered this past weekend.

For the past year, for the first time in almost twenty years, I took a break from fencing. Did not touch it at all.

I told myself that I meant to return to practice, but there was always an excuse: First there was the move. Then the new job. Then it was almost Christmas. Then …

Well, there was always another reason. Life is busy, and I like it that way. There is always a vacation and a business trip around the corner. I also like it that way. But the conclusion — that it’s a silly time to come back to fencing — was wrong. There was more to it. I stopped checking tournament schedules and results online, reading forums. I tuned out.

I think I needed it.

Over the summer the desire to fence has returned. I find myself missing it. I have a need to fence again — and it feels good to be refreshed. It feels exciting to return.

For some reason, I expect to feel out of my depth. I expect fencing to have somehow changed. There is no reason for this. I go to, and the discussions are the same (sometimes literally), as are the people. One year is not a long time.

There is an unfortunate side effect: the amount of new kit I need is staggering. Rule changes since I last fenced mandate a new mask, but I was prepared for that — I actually delayed replacing the old one on the basis of this rule change. And I have zero functioning foils. That’s right, zero. Also, no wire with which to rewire any foils. This might be the nature of the package lying in wait at the Wapping Post Office. In which case my excitement will likely be replaced by frustration, as I try to get reacquainted with a skill which, it could be argued, I never really had to begin with.

I can’t wait.