Monday, June 22, 2015

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry: "A man has got to know his limitations."





(Editors note: This entry in my journey may sound like whining. However, it is not meant to be. It is more about coming to grips with aging and how to keep some small amount of dignity. It is also an attempt to figure out what role ( if any) this sport that I am so passionate about should have as my life moves forward.)

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry: "A man has got to know his limitations."

I fenced in the State Games this weekend. It was a tough field. I estimated that I would finish in the bottom 25%. I finished dead last.

( Yet another editors note: You may notice that I did not have a positive perspective going in to the event. I did not visualize myself winning. That kind of thing is only good in certain situations. I am a realist.)

Now to keep a little "face", I did have a pool from hell and the four other vet fencers ended up in the same pool together a few strips away. I went out in the first DE to my teammate who won for the second year in a row.

I do not know what to think. I have not finished DFL since I first started fencing. I have always told myself, that I would fence as long as could give a decent account of myself or that I wasn't a joke on strip. This weekend, I was a joke.

I got several comments at the games. Things like: "Your getting a little age on you." and " I think it is just awesome that you are still out here competing."  I never know what people mean by that.  "I think it is just awesome that you are still out here competing." could mean " You poor old dear, you don't know when to quit do you?" or they could really mean what they say. Who knows?

So, now on with the purpose of my journal entry. What do I do? I do not want to quit fencing. Not yet. It is so much a part of my identity, that I would be lost.

I use to think a lot about how I would measure myself as a man as I aged. I am a fighter. As I age/have aged I am no longer strong or tough.  Right or wrong, somehow that was a measure of my manhood. If I have reached a point in fencing where I cannot give a decent account of myself, how can I  consider myself a fencer.?

 ( Yet another editors note: It is getting kind of old isn't it? In the paragraph above I said, " I am a fighter.". You may think that sounds like a cool thing. Yet, if I could live my life over, I would toned that part WAY down. It caused me more trouble than it was worth.)


From whatever actor played Billy the Kid in  the movie "Young Guns", " A man has got to test himself every day."

So what to you do when you can't give a decent account of account of yourself and you may have hit joke status? Do you quit fencing and go in search of another passion? Do you stop competing? I know a lot of people that do this in fencing. They seem happy. Yet unlike Billy the Kid, I do not believe that you have to test yourself every day. But I do believe that from time to time, a man must test himself. Now here is the rub for a late blooming vet fencer. You can compete with kids 40 years younger than yourself or (for the most part) you can compete with vets that have 40 years more experience. It is a rough row to hoe, either way.  ("Rough row to hoe" A Southern expression meaning difficult.)

"I am what I am, that's all what I am." Popeye

. The season started off fairly well. It progressed to a bit below mediocre and then to rock bottom. The end came swifter than I imagined it would.

I have no clue how I should proceed in fencing or if I should proceed at all

Also, once again, recording this and reading it helped not at all. I also feel no therapeutic benefit from this , as I understand you get from keeping a journal.


Maybe take some time off? Explore some of those other things I want to do? Just take some lessons and keep your hand in it for a while?  I am sure an answer will come to me, but it is taking it's own sweet time getting to here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Get a Grip




Last night I fenced (a little) in Chapel Hill. They have put in all metal strips, but not all the reels are up yet, so it is hard to get a strip. It is nice now, but will be even better. My training partner and I  have not been going there (Chapel Hill)  regularly as we were coaching. So when we take a private lesson with Coach ( Dr. Ron Miller Head Coach for UNC Varsity Fencing Team ) we are last in line as the regulars have the right to earlier spots. This time of year, the gym should close at 9:00"ish". Coach had a lot of lessons and I thought we would not get our lessons in. Coach was tired. He was having some bad leg problems and was in pain, yet he stayed way after closing to see that Henri ( my training partner) and I had a lesson. And it was a good one. He is that kind of man. I have said it before, but it bares repeating. I have never left from being with that guy without feeling grateful I know him.

During my lesson, coach traded weapons with me. He made me use his weapon. ( How he can hold a blade with that size grip and his massive hands is beyond me.) I had a large grip on my weapon. He told me that it was only because of my good index finger I could hit anything. He made fun of me carrying all that iron. I am a cowboy fencer he said," Yippy yi yay". Okay.....I had an idea the grip was to large, but when I cram my hand into a medium grip, I can't let go/relax the "aids" to do a flick. Not that my flick is any good, but it might be someday.

I recorded that part of the story, so I could record this one.


Eight years or so ago, when I first trained with Coach, he didn't like my grip. He wanted me to cut off some of it, so my thumb would be hard up against the bell guard. Sounds simple. However, when you cut off that part the grip, the square part of the tang and the round threaded part of the tang no loner match up. If you have no experience trying to do this (like me) you have just entered a kind of "grip modifying hell". I filed and I Dremeled.  I bought Dremel tool bits to replace the ones I wore out. I filed and I Dremeled,  Hours and hours on this grip were spent. Twice I had lessons with it with Coach. He thought it needed more modification. I filed and I Dremeled. The next lesson, Coach took my blade in hand and paid it the highest compliment he can bestow on a weapon.  " I could fence with that." Mission accomplished Jim! A week or two passed. I was back for another lesson. He took my weapon from my hand and told me I may have cut a bit to much off the grip. I am not sure exactly what he said, as my mind and soul were flooded with despair.

It was at this point, I decided that I would just use a medium grip for the rest of my fencing life. It will just have to do. I deviated from that with the large grip. It was a mistake. I will always listen to Coach and gain knowledge by doing so. However, were grips are concerned I am going to have to find some sort of compromise. I will change the cant if he suggest that. I will say that even though it was late when I got home, I did not sleep until I took the three weapons I had with large grips and changed them all to medium grips. I slept the sleep of the righteous.


PS I still have that grip I modified. I think it may work for a youth weapon, if my grandson starts fencing.