Since my last post we have (as a group) added a second night to our weekly schedule. The sparring quality has been excellent, less padding and a conscious effort to only make strikes that can be landed cleanly, avoiding double hits and after-blows, has made for some fine technical fencing.
We went to Limerick on Sunday to support the Green Ribbon mental health week by giving a fencing demonstration and talking about HEMA to the public. We were set up in the Milk Market in a ring of empty stalls for safety. Even though the space wasn’t ideal for sparring we managed to get an extra three hours of practise in! The day was good fun, lots of chat and promotion of the club and the art in general. We spoke to a good few people from various youth services and outreach programmes about what we do and the positive influence martial arts, discipline, study and building communities of like minded people.
On the league front the Horned Crown is fast approaching (3rd of June if you didn’t already know). It looks like two other fencers from the club will be coming along. It will be great to have a bit of a team. I’m really looking forward to the road trip and the tournament. During the club sessions and my own solo drilling I’ve really been trying to focus on steel longsword rather that other swords although I can’t resist the lure of sabres for too long.
What I want to be able to do is hit the first fight of the day ‘running’. The first bout tends to be a bit of a technical write-off for me as I struggle to get my head into sword-fighting mode; especially if I’ve just driven for a couple of hours. The result of that first fight can have a really drastic effect on your eventual placing when the size of the pools mean only 5/6 bouts to qualify. That makes it vital to arrive focussed and make the most of every single fight. In my case it is mostly about keeping my natural tendencies to chat and ADHD my way through the warm-up in check. I’ve found that watching a couple of You Tube videos about techniques I have been practising gets me thinking the right things. At the Blademaster’s cup last month I made a particular effort to start thinking about my stance, footwork and the drilling that I had done in the previous week as I got near to the venue. As I warmed up I made sure that as much as possible was done with a sword in my hand and most importantly I kept the chat about general geekery (that we all love so much) to an absolute minimum until lunch time. I won my first fight of the tournament and proceeded to make it through to the eliminations so it made some difference.
Knowing your own personal weaknesses when it comes to mental preparation is vital, work out what it is that distracts you from the game at hand and intentionally work to control it. The nerves and excitement of a competitive event are difficult enough to overcome without adding optional distractions into the mix. I still managed to be friendly and talk about Anarchism and Warhammer before the tournament began I just didn’t let it get so involved that I lost my focus. I was there to compete, to score points with quality fencing, learn what I can about what works and win if possible. Concentrating on this will produce positive results.