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.


cobalt said...

That picture is awesome, I love the use of the sun reflection in there...

I can't even fathom losing a child. Hell, I get a little worried any time my fencers go on a road trip after what happened to Stas a few years back and what happened to the William and Mary fencers. You're a good man to keep your strength through that.

Regarding the newbies. Go ahead and tell 'em to man up. This day and age, no one else seems to be doing it. It's more important to set a standard of expectations than cowtow to some teenager's wants. Maintain the crowd you really want. One can be strict without being abusive.

deb said...

Dear Jim, It was so good to see both Henri and you today. What an unexpected pleasure. Catching up on your blog tonight was a pleasure. I am so glad that you're back. Thank you for sharing both your pleasures, your pain, your accomplishments and your perceived defeats. When Charlie finally decided to arrive he was 2 1/2 weeks late. I never really got to hold him, they took him to intensive care and there he stayed for over 10 days. Those first few days were agonizing, but we never thought that we were going to lose him. I can't imagine how my life would have changed had we. I'm sure that with each of the births of your children that you feel doubly blessed. Deb

kathz said...

I wanted to post earlier in response to what you wrote about your son Christopher but at first I didn't know what to say - which isn't a good reason - and then I was ever so busy.

I think it's good that he's remembered on this blog because his life was important and because he will always be part of you.

I lost a baby by miscarriage eighteen years ago - that still hurts although I'd only known I was pregnant for a couple of months. It would have been immeasurably worse to lose a child.

I think you were right to sell a sword to buy a baby bed for your daughter; the photo is now also about you as a father.