Friday, October 24, 2008

The Sword

I was around 28 at the time of this photo. I studied martial arts for over 16 years. I do not remember when I stopped, as I tried to keep my hand in it. I had three small children and it was way past time to set it aside and concentrate on them.

I am holding a samurai sword in this picture. It was a military weapon from WW II. A man from Japan who was tracking down blades in this country that were captured during that war, looked at mine and told me about it. Sadly, it was not a valuable one.

Did I know how to use it? No....not at all. But I loved it nonetheless. I knew one Chinese Plum sword form ( forms are katas), but I never mastered it. I had always admired Chinese hook swords, but I never knew anyone that could teach me a form or about them, so I never pursued it.

I sold that sword to buy a baby bed for my oldest daughter. We did not have much money back in those days. Last Tuesday, she turned 26. We call her Cork, though her name is Courtney. ( It is a long and not so interesting story concerning her nickname.)

Courtney is my oldest child. In truth, I never know how to categorize that statement. She was not my first child. My first born was my son, Christopher Reese Kent. He only lived a few days.

The last time I held him, my hands began to tremble so violently that I was afraid that I would pull the tubes and IV from his small body. I had to call for a nurse to take him from me. That moment haunts me until this day. It was on Christopher's 18th birthday that I finally found the strength to go to the cemetery and talk with him a while. I could never make myself go there before that time. If there is a pain greater than the loss of a child, I cannot imagine what that would be.

When Anne was pregnant with Cork, I was a basket case. I worried constantly that she would suffer Christopher's fate. I had to act like I was okay. I had to be strong. But inside....I was a wreck.

Courtney was fine and I never have experienced a night like the night she was born. My Kung Fu school use to do security for rock bands when they came to the local coliseum. I was paid to see so many famous bands. That night I missed seeing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I told my wife after Courtney was born, " Ya know....I could still make that concert." She failed to see the humor in my remark and still brings it up till to this day. ( I was joking....truly!) It was no sacrifice at all....just like my sword.

Sorry.....Corks birthday and the picture made me wax nostalgic there for a bit. On with fencing.
Hey....swords....fencing....they are sort of related.

Monday: I taught our two beginners. The pretty ( though awfully skinny ) high school senior girl, loves it and wants to continue. Mario plans to bring a dozen cheeseburgers next week and make her eat them. around 13. He likes fencing, but wishes he could do it without sweating so much. He also seems particularly concerned with his hair.

I know that I am "old school". I know that I am a "retrosexual" to some degree. I try to balance being raised watching John Wayne movies with the way kids need to be treated now a days. But we have a few young male kids that I want to just grab by the shoulders and shake. I want to say, " Get over it and MAN up!". I want to say that.....but I don't...or not as often as I get the urge.

The kids fenced electric and had fun. Next week they will be introduced to the lesser weapons.

Tuesday: Cork's birthday. No fencing.

Wednesday: Another great group lesson with Coach Miller at the DFC in Greensboro. I think I enjoyed this the best of any of late. We did not do so many basic drills. We have hand outs written by Mike Nicholson that we are to study. Our drills were more actual fencing. One side defends you can counter......that sort of thing. Nothing unusual there. What made the lesson of value to me was beginning to learn about time in a bout. Not tempo....time. We would switch being the person that was down by two and had 10 seconds left to score.....then 30 seconds. I learned a bit about using the clock. For example: If I am down by one and there is 30 seconds left on the clock. I don't want to use that time to quickly. Be patient....I want to set it up and so it ends in a draw if I can. I do not want to leave enough time for him to score again. I want it to end in a draw where we both start on equal ground. Nothing wrong with getting two touches in that 30 seconds and winning either. But this is about control of the bout through time. I plan to spend time when I am bored trying to grasp how long thirty seconds is, without looking at a clock. Perhaps that is a skill that may be of use. Sounds easy....but it is not.

Thursday: I had a private lesson with Coach at UNC. It was a frustrating experience. All this time and I still have an awful time of coming on guard in six and returning to it. The problem is that I have done it wrong for so long it is part of my muscle memory and I am having to relearn it. Coach told me that for the next couple of lessons to have him put me in a good six a couple of times, so I can get it right. This is kind of embarrassing, but I have to master this small and so basic action. It is at times, so very disheartening.

Today (Friday): Woody's father is very ill. He needs to head to the coast to see him. Nicole is on the homecoming court at her high school. She kindly invited her fencing family to come see her.
No one is available to go but Henri and I, but we must cover the foil class for Woody. We are going to split up and most likely, I will go see Nicole and represent the fencing family and Henri will take the foil class. There are only a couple of people in that class.

I want to talk with everyone and make Friday night, a free fencing night as well as foil. We need this so desperately.

The week ahead: My trip to Mexico is delayed a week so I will get to fence in Raleigh this weekend. However, I will miss the Vet tournament next weekend, as I must leave for Mexico on Saturday. Happy Halloween Jim...not! I hate that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Work....This and That

Today is Saturday. I am at work. I am waiting on a water based UV
curable topcoat to dehydrate in an oven so that I may run it through a
UV oven. This is sort of a high tech approach to watching paint dry and
that is just as fascinating as you might think.

I decided during these dry times, that I would start on my journal
entry. Work is increasingly getting between me and competing in
tournaments and fencing in general. I was looking forward to competing
in a tournament in Raleigh next week and veterans tournament in Durham
the following weekend. I will be in Mexico both weekends, though I have
not lost ALL hope in competing in the veterans tournament. I will
attempt to get my work done earlier and change my flight. If the
costumer and my boss will cooperate, I have a chance of pulling that
off. I hate this. On the other hand I am grateful I have a job, when so many
people do not.

I had hope of competing in a tournament in Virginia or at KOS tomorrow.
However, I am not sure that at the time of this writing ( due to the
last few days at work) that I would be up to it mentally or physically.
I will decide tonight.

This week in fencing was okay. My lessons are good as all Coach Miller's
lessons are, but I am not getting to fence hardly at all. I have got to
figure something out in this regard if there is to be any hope of

This week I was also thinking about the Division. I think Greg Sparr is
doing a very good job. He is an excellent and prolific communicator. (
not TO prolific ...I would say it is the perfect amount.) I assume that
most people feel the same way I do, as I have not heard anything
negative. If there was much to complain about, I would have heard about
it by now. In this Division, that is just about the same thing as
saying, " Good job Greg!" So..............Good job Greg!

I coached our two beginners on Monday. I think it is going well, but I lack
patience. Not patience in the sense of " you keep doing that wrong over
and over again", but patience in the sense that I want them out on the
strip fencing........NOW! Go have some fun....see what this all
about.....fall in love with it! Next week after some foot work and some
review I am putting them on the strip. I think the young man is hooked
already. The pretty young girl is doing fencing as a high school senior
project and will only be with us two more times. Still, I want her to
leave knowing what it is like and having some fun. Having fun should be
the goal of most fencers. I try to make it my goal. Speaking of fun,
Mario is going to hemorrhage when he gets back. Hiya ...Mario! Rather
than an introduction to each weapon with bouting at the end of the
session, my approach is....There is a sabre......I would introduce you
to it.....but I don't know Mr.Sabre.........this is a is a
training weapon to get you ready for epee....they both require you to
understand ROW and I am only mildly acquainted with Mr. ROW....also it
would require me to waste my time and yours trying to find lames and
such that fit your small little grab the GOOD weapon and
lets get on with it!

I am waiting for my water based UV curable topcoat to dehydrate again.
Once I was an artist in the world of furniture finishing and well known
for it. Sadly, as the industry has all but left the United States, I now
work on kitchen cabinet finishes and wood flooring. Interesting at
times, but not nearly as creative. ( Note: I know almost anything about
finishing furniture...wood flooring....or kitchen cabinets with stuff
you get from a hardware store. What I did was industrial and my
companies make their own products. That is where my experience lies.)

I have been thinking a lot lately as to why I keep a journal. As my
previous journal is disappearing, except in the bowls of this one, I
often think about it. I know why I got started. I was mimicking Woody.
About four and half years ago, I did not know what a "blog" was. I read
Woody's and began to know more about him than my own brother. It was
kind of an empty knowledge. I knew that I was learning a lot about him,
but I knew that he knew almost nothing about me. In time that changed or
is changing.

Editors Note: I will get back to wondering why I keep a journal in a
moment. But at the moment I feel the need for a healthy dose of "
journal drift".

A lot of fencers keep meticulous records of their bouts at tournaments.
I think for many that is a good practice. I have seen people add to
their records " where" they got hit on the strip. I often think that is
a bit overboard. I know where I get hit on the strip. Some place middle
or a bit over on my opponents side generally. Though I am gifted enough
to be hit damn near any place on the strip. I figure most of my actions
take place in the middle or on my opponents side due to the fact that my
leg speed is not as good as many. Though my hand speed and
reaction timeis still pretty fair.......if I focus.

Okay....back to wondering why I keep a journal. I thought of this more,
when I was considering a pen and ink journal and making it more clinical
and technical. I still think that would be fun to do. Matt Cox saw that
my journal was no longer going to be available and was kind enough to
create a place on his web site where I could continue. His effort was of
course not just for me, but for any interested party. I thought that was
very kind of him. I wrote back and told him that while I deeply
appreciated his efforts, I wanted to remain obscure. He wrote back and
told me that I was not nearly as obscure as I thought and that he knew
many people that lurked on my blog. That was kind of a shocker. I
thought I had a fair idea of who read my journal. A few friends...a few
fencers......sometimes...fencer friends.....sometimes the person just
goofing off and looking around. When I switched to this area for
recording my journal, I tried to Google it to see if I could find it. I
couldn't, but I found my old one immediately. I also found that parts of
it were on a fencing web site in Hawaii. Who knew? IZ rules!!! the

So do I keep a journal for other people to read...or for myself. Does it
bother me that no one will be able to find my entries here? Not really.
I think most of my friends know I have moved and that is what matters. I
know that I record this for my friends and anyone else that is
interested enough to read. (Poor souls) But I know now that I keep this
for me as well. I just had the opportunity to DL my old journal to this
one. I read about my life fencing for the last two years or so. I was
very moved by the experience....the good times...and the not so good
times.....came back in total clarity. It was awesome. I would encourage
any fencer to keep some sort of journal. If you stay with the
sport....if there are people and times that you never want to
forget.....this is a heck of a scrapbook!

The next tournament I attend, I will be writing my entry as I drive
home. It is a very reflective time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Thought

Monday: Henri and I are coaching the beginner class, while Mario recovers from foot surgery.
We only had two new people, so they are getting a lot of attention. We worked together on a lesson plan for the 4 week session. It was interesting to do so and I enjoyed personalizing it. I was very satisfied with our approach until one of the students came in late and we had to split up to catch her up. I hope to be on track tomorrow.

Wednesday: A good group lesson with Coach Miller at the Downtown Fencing Club.

Thursday: I was very tired for some reason, but had an excellent private lesson at the NCFDP in Chapel Hill. I am entering a new phase of lessons and there will be less talking. Actually, there "should be less talking" if I don't error greatly. I often like to guess what Coach Miller is ACTUALLY thinking. I wonder if he thinks, " Well......The poor bastard is not going to get much better technically.....lets just move on." On the other hand, he complemented on the way I lead drills on Wednesday night and on my fleche.

I often wonder what it is like to see fencing from Coach Miller's perspective or from any good high level coaches perspective. I imagine that I look to them like someone that has been fencing a few months looks to me.

I am doing fine on lessons and I love what I am learning, but I am just not getting a chance to fence enough. I think that is true for most of the folks in Greensboro. We must find a way to rectify this situation.

Saturday: There was a tournament in Fayetteville I had hoped to attend, but I had tried to organize a DFC road trip to the Renaissance Faire and this was the weekend we could get most people to go. I was a really nice day for it and I enjoyed it.

Sunday: There is a Women's Epee Tournament at UNC. At least of a couple of my teammates will be competing and I would have loved to go support them. Sadly, there are things I should be doing here, though in truth all I have done this morning besides clean and wash some clothes is work on my journal. MUST....get ....busy!!!

Next Weekend: My wife is out of town so I can fence guilt free in any tournament I want.

There is one in Greenville. ( A 6 hour round trip drive.)
One is in Virgina. ( A 5 hour round trip drive. )
One is in Charlotte. ( A 3 hour round trip drive. Sadly, it appears no one is signed up for that one.)

I will give it some thought.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Moving Day

Well, I am back the case may be. I have been keeping a journal concerning my journey in the world of fencing sense the summer of 2005. It had been on AOL Journals, but they closed that area down ( or will October 31st, 2008) and after some deliberation, I moved.

I think I have all my old journal in the archives of this one. The truth is that this really is like moving into a new house and all my stuff seems to be in boxes and I cannot find things. I will unpack later.

After all this time keeping a journal elsewhere, I believe that I will repost my first entry. It may expalin some things

When I turned 50, it was rather bothersome. I was going to the gym regularly, but I felt like I was training for no purpose. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as I was getting older. I was feeling sorry for myself, because I had no passion. Sense I graduated from college, I have always had a passion.

Some lasted more than decades and some just a year or two. By passions, I mean martial arts, furniture, working out and art. Those were big ones. Smaller ones like dabbling in languages or Napoleonic history came and went, though the little ones still surface briefly from time to time.

As I turned 51, I was beginning to think maybe this is what growing older is like. No passion. Just take your self home every night and plop your big butt in front of the TV or computer. Then I took a CALL class at UNCG. An introduction to foil fencing.

Suddenly there was the fire! I loved it. I was terrible at it, but I loved it! It was like a fast paced video game with sweating and being out of breath. It was like combat without pain. ( A few bruises once in a while and a shot to the groin could be a bad day.....but basically no pain, except for some sore muscles.) My mind was consumed by it. I read everything I could find about it. As soon as the course was over I had joined a local fencing club. I felt alive again.

After four and a half years, it still makes me feel alive. It is still my passion and obsession.

So much has changed in that time. Four years after taking that introductory class I was helping to teach it.

I have learned so very much and yet I know so little.

This is my introductory post for my new location. After this I will record my days and weeks in fencing as I have always done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Last Entry

I just got back from Mexico to find that AOL is closing it's journal area.

So my journal will no longer be here.

I have not yet been home long enough to have decided what I will do in the future.

Will I look for a free place to continue, or will I just keep a personal journal with pen and ink?

I think I started this in the summer of 2005.  If I do not do something like this, I think I will miss it. However, a nice leather bound journal would be "way cool". Perhaps I will do both.

~ snaps a sharp salute.....shakes hands and exits the strip ~