graculus: (Default)
Apologies to anyone who followed me expecting fannish stuff - it'll happen, as sure as eggs is eggs, but at the moment I just seem to have more to say about fencing than anything else. *shrugs*

The pointy end goes in your opponent... )
graculus: (coffee)
Anyway, today was competition day and I came last.

At the time it was quite frustrating to see how much better than me the other folks were, and it was definitely that, embarrassingly so at times, though I guess I should have realised something was up when people arriving for the 'nice little competition' I was promised started putting on breeches with the fencing world's equivalent of go-faster stripes and stuff with GBR on the back!

Now I'm home, I can see that three of the people I fenced were in the UK top 20 for that weapon and their age-group - one of them is the no 1 in the country at the moment. Unfortunately, she wasn't the one who handed me my arse in the elimination fight, but that's a minor detail in the greater scheme of things.

Anyway, I now think it's quite funny - I definitely hope I do better when I fight my first epee competition in a couple of months.
graculus: (coffee)
Next weekend I've got my first proper competition and I'm starting to get the jitters a little. First as in 'not just our club' and 'not just for beginners', this is anyone can enter and I could therefore get my arse kicked from one end of the competition to the other.

The frustrating thing is that fencing = learning a new skill as an adult, a new physical skill at that - it's definitely harder than I remember it ever being when I was younger and also much more frustrating at times. It's not so much a learning curve as a learning rollercoaster, one that doubles back on itself like crazy too, if I can stretch the metaphor. Usually we don't learn new physical skills past our teenage years, early twenties at least, and maybe I'd forgotten what a pain it is?

I've had a couple of sessions in recent weeks at the club where I was distinctly mediocre (that feels like a kind assessment) for no apparent reason - losing badly to folks who usually beat me, it has to be said, but against whom I pretty regularly get at least a handful of hits and who I occasionally frighten a little. Those kind of fights make me feel like I'm actually making progress and that all the effort I've put in hasn't been completely wasted. It's massively frustrating to be utterly unable to do what I know I should/can do because it's got to be me - meanwhile, in my head I know that next week I'll probably be better again but that doesn't stop me from feeling like crap about it, compounded by the fact that it's the wrong time of the month for anything to go awry.

There is, of course, no way out but through. I could really do with not coming last next weekend, though. ;)
graculus: (coffee)
Okay, so it was actually last week now I look at my old entries, but I knew it was somewhere around Easter that I started - yes, as of last week I've been fencing for a year!

I'm still attending the beginner's session and plan to do that until they kick me out because I'm still learning all the time. If When I get kicked out, my plan is to join another local club in addition to mine and get my extra stabbing in that way - how my club runs is that the beginners have an hour and then the more experienced folks turn up and, if we want to, we stay and fight as many of them as will agree. If I lose that first hour, I'm just going to have to make up the difference somehow and I'm also gradually accumulating kit so I'm pretty sure that will also give me more options than someone who needs to borrow everything.

I'm now also practising with two weapons regularly - the first hour is always foil, except for the week in February where our coach went 'shall we do epee this week?' and we all shrugged, so we did. Since then, I've been regularly fighting epee bouts in the second session and learning on the job (with advice as we go from other fencers and the coaches). Both foil and epee are about stabbing people, but the target area and the rules are different. The most recent advice I got from the coach was that I was getting too close and getting hit because of that, so I've got to try to hold back and watch a little more, which is completely against my nature!

I've also entered my first non-beginner's (foil) competition but I've got a while to panic about that/get ready for that. Because I've been fighting epee, I'm also thinking about doing an epee competition some time just to see how far I actually am from being competitive - there's one coming up next month I could do, though that's probably a bit soon, otherwise there's a well-attended one in October that would be ideal.

I've also met the first person at my club who completely bugs the crap out of me, which took 10 months so I suppose I should be happy about that. He's so full of himself and if he was as good as he thinks he is, then we'd have an Olympic contender in our midst! Also, I wouldn't be able to take points off him (which I do regularly), and though I haven't beaten him yet I'm pretty sure my time will come... given that I'm twice his age, I don't think I'm doing so badly. He also likes to muscle in on conversations, which is something that really winds me up - I was chatting with one of the coaches about local competitions, getting his advice about which ones to enter and which ones to avoid, and Dumbass decided we really needed his opinion too.

Anyway, minor irritations aside, a year in and I'm still enjoying stabbing people and intend to carry on doing it for as long as physically possible.
graculus: (Default)
I really don't know. I can see a bunch of folks resolutely declaring that they have no intention of shifting off LJ and others moving over here, but maybe this isn't quite as much of a devastating blow to fandom on LJ as it would have been five or ten years ago. The days of the massive communities which were the heart of any given fandom seem to be in the past, unless there's stuff going on (which is quite possible) in fandoms I'm uninvolved with to give the lie to my opinion.

For myself, I really don't know either. I'd backed up to this account so my personal stuff isn't an issue, but I'll probably end up going over to LJ and having to agree to the TOS one way or another - I have a couple of communities which are slash-heavy but also not active for years, so perhaps it's time for some housekeeping. And then there's Danielpix, which I stopped posting to in January but feel differently about because of the significant part it played in my life for so long and the sheer size of it. Because it's picture-heavy rather than written, I doubt it's in such a vulnerable position unless LJ decides to start going after people for copyright violation, I guess. I'm tempted to just archive it, by removing everyone's posting rights, because deleting it seems wrong somehow.

In other news, I have escaped being saddled with the most annoying guy on my course as we get ready to do small group presentations. Just a couple more sessions of tedium and then I'm done for the year! And an observation tomorrow, which naturally comes when I'm tackling how you plan writing, possibly the most dreary part of the curriculum. Pah.

Better news came around when I told my boss I was probably going to need some more Saturdays off because I wanted to do some competitions - I've entered the first proper non-beginners one, which is in July but on a Sunday - I was pleased that her immediate response was 'well, I believe in work-life balance' and then she suggested we just list the course as less classes overall for the year and adjust the dates as required. Naturally, the competitions are not quite spread out evenly, because I'm roughly looking at one in early November, another early February and one late March, but that's also not too close together either. We're starting to plan next year's classes, so at least I should know within the next month or so what I'm likely to be asked to do from September, even if the exact Saturday dates may need tweaking once competition dates are finalised.
graculus: (Default)
I have an assignment due in tomorrow, so of course I'm dicking around online instead. ;)

It's not too bad, I've done most of the work but just need to pull it together and then find some references to back up why I've done what I've done. It's all about using technology for learning, so I've been running an Instagram group with one of my classes and that's provided a lot of source material to talk about - they also gave me some written feedback about their experiences, since I'd deliberately chosen one of my smaller but more adept classes to do this with!

From conversations with other folks on my course, the general feeling seems to be that pretty much everyone is bored, not just me, so that's kind of a relief I guess? A number of the sessions seem to be 'research this while you're here and tell everyone else about it' which seems kind of lazy when used as a method repeatedly. Do some bloody teaching, earn your money! We're almost at the end of the first year, thank the elder gods, though I still have two observed teaching sessions to get through. Those are a pain, not because of doing the teaching but because of all the paperwork I have to provide justifying why I'm doing X rather than Y or Z, with references of course!

In terms of work, I'm rapidly heading towards the Easter break with just 2 weeks left - one of my classes finishes next week but the other two don't and I've also got exams to do for my own class and a few for other people. And then a couple of weeks off, coincidentally when my fencing club is also closed! *runs around waving her arms in the air*

I think I'm also about to make myself a little unpopular with my boss as we're heading towards the time of year when she timetables the classes for September onwards. As I'm sure you can imagine, there's not a massive queue of people wanting to teach on a Saturday morning and I'd kind of felt last year that it was my turn to do it. It didn't make much difference for me in terms of any other commitments, so why not? Because fencing competitions often seem to put women's foil on the Saturday, that's why not! Aaaargh. In the coming academic year there'll be at least 2 extra Saturdays I won't want to work and that means either finding extra dates to accommodate the replacement classes or finding someone to cover those dates but also hoping I don't have to cancel any because of sickness. Naturally, those competitions have also not yet finalised their dates for 2017-18 because why should they?
graculus: (Default)
Okay, so time for a recap on yesterday's first competition - those of you reading the previous posts may recall that, in a moment of masochism, I'd signed up to do both the beginners (fencing less than 12 months) and intermediate (less than 3 years) categories and therefore committed myself to a day of jumping about and waiting about, not necessarily in that proportion. I'd been dosing myself up with cold medicine most of the week as I'd started sneezing and that seemed to work to keep me from coming down with something just in time for being inside a fencing mask for a couple of hours!

It was really nice having other folks from the club there after I'd pestered/begged persuaded them into signing up too, though the guy who was doing men's foil definitely had a tougher hill to climb - there were 4 times as many men as women signed up. Overall, it was mostly foil, a few men's epee but no women's epee at all and absolutely zero sabre, though apparently this is pretty common for this event since (according to my coach) people tend to come to sabre after trying the other two weapons first. I'm not sure whether the others enjoyed it as much as I did, so I guess we'll get a proper post-mortem on it when it's club night again on Thursday...

Anyway, there were 7 of us in the beginner women's foil, including 2 from a local university where they can apparently fence every day if they want to. I ended up 3rd in the pool anyway but lost in the semi to another student, so that was my first medal of the day. In this one, the two aforementioned students came first and second.

The intermediates turned out to be 5 of us, the four medallists from beginners and one other. I came 3rd in that pool too, having got the measure of one of the students (who I'd nicknamed Hoppy McStabbypants, as she pretty much relied on one attack, an odd hop-lunge combination) who only just beat me 5-4 this time. I also beat the fencer who'd beaten me in the beginner's semi 5-2, which I was very happy about. That pool position meant I was getting a medal anyway, but I won my semi fight this time (15-12, so it was a pretty close one) and got into the final, I did quite well for the first 3 minute period, finishing that just 9-7 down, but then didn't get back into it after that pause and lost 15-7.

It ended up with the same woman winning both beginners and intermediate, though neither victory was by any means a walkover, which also means she can't enter either competition again next year. I was a bit underwhelmed by how she yelled if she got a point against me, which I thought was a bit sad given the level of the competition - dude, it's a regional low-level competition, not the Olympics! I'm sure it was meant to intimidate me, but I just thought it was kind of pathetic.

After that, I went home with my medals and practically inhaled a greasy cheese-laden pizza, as I'd barely eaten anything all day, and then fell into my nice warm bed with a book. And now I ache all over, but not that much more than I usually do after a club night. All in all, I'm pretty happy with how I did and also that the work I've been putting in at the gym in terms of my overall stamina paid off - the issue in my final fight was with my fencing (loss of focus, I think, as much as a skill issue), rather than me puffing like a steam train, which would have been the case even a couple of months ago!

The overall verdict? Yes, I think I'll compete again but it's about finding the right event so I get more practice fighting people rather than getting annihilated early on. More practice first, though, and more time in the gym.
graculus: (Default)
Sorry, this blog is probably going to be quite fencing-heavy for a while now. *shrugs* For some reason I'm finding it hard to concentrate on books and nothing has really grabbed me, while other than the [community profile] picfor1000 challenge I've signed up for again, no writing is going on. I've started booking my trip to Finland this summer, so perhaps more on that later?

So, an update on the club competition - my team lost by one hit. I'd been told it was close but hadn't realised quite how close it was! I could have been sharing the very ugly team trophy this time around (and yes, it's really hideous, it's a glass thing of indeterminate shape rather than a proper cup or something) if not for that one hit.

The regional comp is now a week and a day from now and I've finally succeeded in my quest to get some of my fellow newbies to enter too. I'd been badgering them for weeks, as I didn't really want to go on my own (not that I wouldn't, but I'd rather have company!) and finally a combination of pleas and pestering has carried the day. So there's going to be 4 of us in all, maybe even 5 if someone else gets his arse in gear in time. \o/

Of course, since a foil competition is coming up soon, our coach decides that last night was an ideal time to start teaching us epee instead. Which is basically 'where would you like to stab your opponent today and it's okay if he stabs you at the same time, it totally still counts'. None of this ridiculous right-of-way and who attacked first business, so much easier to referee in that you just see whose light goes on. I'd been thinking about doing epee some time this year anyway, since there seem to be a lot more competitions, but I wasn't really thinking quite yet!

Anyway, more news after the competition next weekend. ;)

As mentioned above, I've also started booking stuff for my trip to Finland in the summer. As well as going to Helsinki for WorldCon, I've booked a hiking trip beforehand (including bear watching) and then a few days in Turku as well. So far I've booked internal flights and my Turku and Helsinki hotels, so just the main flight and Turku-Helsinki train to go. Though at the moment July seems a long way away and I'm currently trying to decide if I want to go anywhere before then, even if just for a few days.
graculus: (Default)
Yesterday, it was our club competition, which was a new and interesting experience for me. I realised that one of the reasons I'm enjoying fencing is that it's just about me, rather than me-as-part-of-a-team which had been my main experience of sport before - I'd also played tennis before, but only on a casual basis, no real competition. But while yesterday was technically a team competition (of which more shortly), it was also about me fighting the other beginners - three of them, anyway, since there were only four teams - as well as being part of a team.

We're a three-weapon club, so we have folks who fence foil (like me, though I'm probably going to try at least epee at some point), epee and sabre, with some fencing all three though most folks have a preference. The competition was for randomly-chosen teams of three with one person fencing each weapon. There's a coin toss to decide who gets to choose order of fencers in each bout and all the teams fence each other, with the first match being first to 5 hits, the second match first to 10 and the final being first to 15. So, for example, the final match we fought, our first fencer lost 5-2, I fought next and put us back in the lead at 7-10, and then our final fencer fought and we lost 15-13 overall.

And then there's some arcane calculations that decide which team has won overall, which I won't try and explain since I don't really get it. Anyway, we won two of our matches but lost the third and came second even though we beat the team that won. I just wish there'd been a couple more teams, since I could happily have fought a few more people!

I'd decided that the best defence was a good offence and had been fighting quite aggressively all the way through, so now have the bruises to prove it. I have a particularly fine mark on my upper sword arm which I think will be with me for a while and another couple on my legs. I know I probably wouldn't have got away with it with more experienced fighters (so that's going to be different for the real competition in a few weeks) but it was definitely effective, if only in putting the wind up the others.

The regional competition is a month away, so more time at the gym and more practices between now and then, not to mention that I'm also still trying to get a couple of other folks to enter that one too, so I'm not wandering in there on my own. Not that this is going to stop me, but it'd be nice to have company...
graculus: (Default)
An update to this post: My boss has kindly rearranged my class schedule so I can enter the regional beginners competition in February, so that's going to be my first ever experience of fencing outside the club environment. I'm trying to get my fellow newbies to enter too, so I'm not completely alone there. I've decided to bite the bullet and enter both the beginners and intermediate categories, as it's only a little more expensive and I figure every bit of experience helps!

We have our club competition in a couple of weeks, so at least I'll get an idea of how it all works before rolling off somewhere for the real thing. That should be fun, as it's a 3-weapon random team competition. Us newbies are fencing foil and we get paired with two other folks (one fencing epee and one sabre) at random, best team all-round performance wins the thing.

Like most sports, I guess, I go through phases of thinking I'm getting better and then realising I'm possibly not. I don't have much of a frame of reference since it's been a while since I played organised sports and then it was team sport rather than something individual. In the last practice before Christmas, I ended up fencing one of the coaches and it was pretty brutal - I kept going, though, even though it was all but hopeless on my part and did eventually score a point off him! And then I quit the match, because I was knackered and the experience wasn't going to get any better (for me, at least). ;)
graculus: (Default)
Help me, flist, to make up my mind about something...

So, I've bought my first pair of fencing breeches with my unexpected backpay, which was great - I recently also bought some new court shoes (since tennis or squash shoes basically double as fencing shoes, for half the price) and some nice dark blue socks to match them. I'm now about 6 months in to learning to fence and enjoying it a lot, though I'm not always sure whether I'm actually improving. Part of what we do on a Thursday is that the beginners fence for an hour and then, if we like, we can stay on and have the opportunity to fight the more experienced fencers.

Anyway, in January we've got the annual club competition and for over 14's that's a team one - it looks as though how it'll shake out is the beginners all fencing foil and the more experienced fencing either épée or sabre, so a team will be a randomly-selected group of 3 with all weapons represented. I'm a bit nervous and this isn't helped by it being on a Saturday afternoon so I'll basically be finishing work at 12.30 and potentially fencing at 1pm.

But that's not the dilemma. Nope. I've also been given an entry form for the regional beginners & intermediate fencing competition, which is in February. A beginner is someone who's started fencing since August 2015 so I'd qualify for that and the intermediate is a longer period, so ditto (and for the next 2 years by my reckoning). I could borrow the relevant equipment from my club so that's not an issue but I would need to get the day off because, again, it's a Saturday but it's in the next town and I'd need to sign in for beginner's foil at 9.30am. It's probably not going to be a massive competition - last year there were 5 women beginners at foil.

Here's the thing: if I don't fence the beginners competition in February, I won't be eligible for that category any longer by the time it rolls around again, I'll have to go up to intermediate. If I wait to see how well I do in our competition, I won't be giving my boss enough notice to get cover for the one in February. If I do enter the beginners competition, I could still get my arse handed to me and finish bottom of the list.

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