Sunday 5th February
Today I stabbed a lot of people.
I can’t even begin to tell you how made up I am. Today I did hardly any words as I had a fairly big swordfighting tournament. It was a trial run for one of the major emerging UK tournaments, designed to not only give fencers tournament practise but also give judges experience. It’s billed as a fun, light-hearted tournament, but when you’re on the mats against someone it’s impossible not to get hyped up and take it seriously.
As I’ve mentioned the first half of this year is about me taking a step back to change my style of fighting. This in itself is a huge challenge. Offensive fighting is not natural to me and it goes beyond just technique all the way to mindset.
I’ve kinda resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to do crap for 6 months before I see any improvement but that it’s an investment long term. And so today driving a couple of hours to the venue I was mentally preparing myself for having a ‘bad’ day. The challenge as I saw it was not to get frustrated when I was sloppy or ran onto people’s blades.
However, I made a decision on my battle tactics (I posted it on Snapchat beforehand to hold myself accountable). I’ve found that as I’ve got stronger, trying to fight at 100% physical effort leads me to over-extend and chamber my moves. It often takes me a couple of fights to get into the swing of things but I think that’s because I then slow down. So my word for today was ‘effortless’. Experience tells me that when you heft a sword, if put real effort into it, you’re fighting against your natural body mechanics and so you are much slower than if you go slower and let your body do all the work.
So my plan was to fight at 80% effort whilst being 100% offensive… and boy, was that a good plan!
I won my Rapier & Dagger pool. Yeah, I got a lucky pool but I fought really well against very capable opponents. I don’t tend to keep a note of scores, finding it a distraction, but I think I won every fight convincingly. I wasn’t even sure I was through to the semi-finals until I got someone to actually confirm it two or three times to me
The afternoon was the Sword & Buckler competition and there I didn’t do so well. I don’t think I’m as good a fighter with sword & buckler, but I’d made the decision to have 2 bowls of porridge in the morning and forego lunch. In the past, I’ve eaten and felt bloated. I had thought about having an energy drink or something but those can upset my stomach.
It wasn’t that I was hungry or even tired, it was that I lost mental focus. That made me sloppy. From the outside it probably looked like I was fatigued but I had 2 fights back to back, a 2 minute break and then another 2 fights for the Rapier & Dagger final and I was still able to dance around whilst dripping in sweat. Physical stamina does not seem to be an issue for me.
No, the problem was the lack of mental focus meant I wasn’t fighting 100% offensive with 80% effort. To be fair to my opponents, I probably would have still lost, but I think it would have been very close.
I’m not upset though. I’d gone in expect to get completely destroyed. After all, the current training situation means that I’m at a disadvantage. – I’m getting less training due to teaching and trying to fight in a different style. But I came 4th in Rapier & Dagger and that’s pretty damn respectable when the quality of the fencers was very high.
This is the product of a lot of hard work and dedication. I had to rebuild muscles that had atrophied, I had to combat nutritional problems that made my gut constantly feel I’d swallowed glass, I had to work out ways to properly protect legs that feel like they are on fire most of the time. I’m not expecting pats on the back, but I know just how hard I’ve worked for this so I’m not going to apologise for feeling incredibly proud of myself and what I’ve achieved.
The exciting thing is that most of last year’s hard work was about getting me up to a level playing field. Whilst I’m sure there are many, many more disappointments and setbacks to come, this is the year I make serious, serious progress. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about that.
Progress won’t always be about winning competitions but I think the biggest mistake anyone can ever make about me is discounting my lofty aims. As people have said to me time and time again, I take an impossible goal and keep going until I achieve it no matter how long it takes. It’s taken me a long time to accept this as a fact. Fuck modesty, it’s the truth. My success doesn’t mean other people’s failure. Doesn’t mean I’m going to do well in my next competition, doesn’t mean I’m going to get a decent book deal, it just means I’m starting to believe in myself because I realise that I have the legacy that proves it time and time again.
As you can tell, I’m pretty pumped about coming 4th!
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