Halcyon Repose


SCFC Youth Invitational

by on Jan.30, 2009, under Fencing, Photography

Full larger images and comments in the Gallery to the right.

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Fencing Tournament

by on Dec.04, 2005, under Fencing

I finally made it back from today’s tournament. I was placed 16th going into the tournament out of 52. We had lots and lots of new people, which is always good to see. I won all of the bouts my pools (beating a B and a D fencer) and was placed 3rd going into the DEs. But in the round of 16 I drew up this squirelly little punk who had a serious case of the disappearing target area. Actually I can’t complain too much. He played me beautifully. My frist attack he would suck in his stomach so that I would hit him (but not hard enough) and he would get me on the counter attack, and then the next attack when I go deep, he would step in and even though I could catch him on the flank, he would suck and twist preventing me from sinking the hit yet again. So many grazes and yet he cleaned my clock. I find it strange that even though I started out as a purely defensive fencer (parry and riposte) I seem to have gotten to the point that when I start getting flustered I am an all out attacker.. and of course that fell right into his game.

I salute him and I walk away realizing that I still did incredibly well in all my other bouts, I just have to keep fencing and learning and at some point my time will come.

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That Competitive Fire

by on Nov.08, 2005, under Fencing

Hardly anyone can live in America and not be constantly bombarded with sports figures in the media. In this day and age of Corporate America, people are spending 60+ hours a week at work so that their position doesn’t get outsourced to X third world country. These people turn towards sports for entertainment, and since so many people are willing pay for a short break away from their lives, sports is a big industry. The players get paid for their efforts, and the owners rake in the dough. It is no wonder that in order to survive and thrive in that industry, you have to have a strong competitive drive to stay above the waterline. A drive that pushes them to excel in what they do, and raise the bar higher and higher. Since this is such a large part of modern sports, you are constantly being reminded that they have this burning drive, this fire, that helps them succeed. A fire I have never really had.

For all of my adult life, I have dedicated a large chunk of my time to some form of martial arts or another. At first it was Shao-lin. As much as any martial art, it is about self defense, but for me it was also about pushing myself. Learning and growing as an individual and being physically active in the process. There was very little competition in our school beyond the occasional sparring match, which really didn’t require a lot of competitive spirit, seeing as how we rarely kept score. When I made the transition to fencing to help with my movement and footwork, I found myself in a sport that was all about 1 vs. 1 interaction. I could progress as fencer, learning new techniques, but at the end of the day, my success was measured on the strip.

I won’t say I was a prodigy at fencing, but my previous training and my natural ability did allow me to progress fairly far rather quickly. I continued to learn and grow as a fencer, and I even grew to enjoy the 1 on 1 of the sport. I read articles and books about how to push oneself to your limits, how to get into the competitive mindset, the one-mind, and I felt that I actually understood the basic premises covered therein. It all made sense and I constantly strived to perfect the techniques, so that my game could become the best that it could be.

But that was part of my problem. It was always about MY game. In kung-fu everything is very self-centered; it is all about learning how to control yourself, your body, and your mind. I always knew that my mentality on the strip was too self-centered, that if I didn’t win the bout, it was something I did, or the other fencer was just plain better. I felt that if I improved my game then next time I met that person on the strip, the better fencer would win. But even as I practiced the techniques and the physical actions, I continually met people who would tell me that I was technically the better fencer, but yet they would still trounce me when the time came to keep score. I recognized the fact that they had the “burning desire” to win, and that allowed them to step up their abilities and perform on a level higher than their pure technical skill allowed. Even as I recognized this fact, I accepted that I just didn’t have that burning desire to win, and I was happy with that. I work to better myself, and with enough practice I would be able to trump their enthusiasm with practiced skill.

Now we come to the present. This past week has been a crazy week. The stress was on at work at the beginning of last week, and as I approached the gym I knew that by physically exerting myself, I would be able to better control my stress levels, and with that thought in mind, I threw myself into my workout. I felt that the closer I came to physical exhaustion, the more mentally straight I became. Somehow I felt that this cleansing was but the first step on the road my self realization.

The week progressed as normal, but by the end of it I found myself in an all too familiar depression. When I was younger, I was always happy, I enjoyed every day of life, and lived it to the fullest. After a few events in my life showed me some of the darker aspects of life, I found that I would occasionally find myself in the midst of a depression. Nothing too bad and nothing that lasted for more than a few days, but these bouts still came far more often than I would have liked. I found that a majority of the time, these bouts were brought upon by money issues or lack of a relationship. The money problems have thankfully ended for the moment, and I hope that they are gone for many many moons to come, but the relationship issues continue to haunt me. The ins and outs are a matter for another entry in and of themselves, but needless to say that the fact that I have not had a date since I moved to California is pretty darn depressing, and we’ll leave it at that for now.

When ever I did get depressed, I would basically try to shut out the world as much as possible. Every little thing seemed to grate on my nerves, and I kept my mouth firmly shut lest I lash out at someone for doing something that wouldn’t even bother me on a better day. Typically during the day, I could lose myself in my work, forgetting my own problems, but once work ended they would come crashing back. At the fencing center, I would grunt my way through as many social interactions as possible and silently curse those tasks that built an invisible cage around me. Skipping those nights at the fencing center would have probably done wonders towards lightening my mood, but of course, being the guy that I am, I had to show up and help out. I couldn’t skip out of the center just because of some personal issues, so I would trudge along.

I would also avoid fencing during these times, as my fencing game would quickly spiral downward. I wouldn’t fence well because I was distracted and moody, and I would get even more moody and down on myself because I wasn’t fencing well. All in all it was a counter productive effort, and one that I would avoid. I would much prefer to lose myself in a game or a good book where I didn’t have to think about my life.

This past Friday was different though. In the midst of my depression, I decided that the one thing I needed to do, was work it out. So I took to the strip at the center, and faced each of my opponents with a recklessness that I have rarely shown or felt. I fenced not to win or better myself, but I fenced for own my mental stability. The results were astounding. Without the baggage of myself that I typically took to the strip, I was able to actually fence. I didn’t try to second guess my opponent and plan 4 steps ahead of myself till I found myself back at the same place I started from. Instead, I saw openings and I attacked. If I didn’t see an opening I forced my opponent to give me one. In the midst of it all, I felt a fire in my belly. I had no thoughts beyond the present, and the more I fenced, the hotter the fire burned. I made mistakes of course, but I didn’t let them stop me, I kept plowing through them and eventually came out the end of the night in a better spiritual state than I started.

As I drove home, I tumbled what I had learned around in my head. I do that sometimes, not actively analyzing it, but looking at the night from various views, and just sort of soaking up the results. I was hopeful that I was on to something, but I didn’t want to claim anything without working through it some more. This Sunday proved a good opportunity to test out what I had experienced. Since my depression was what sparked my original fire, I looked to that to rekindle it. It wasn’t that hard (still single.. that hadn’t changed), and I started my first bout of the day with a fire in my eye.

My first bout was with a teammate, and as much as I wanted to encourage him, I knew that if I went halfway, I would fail. My second bout was with a guy that I seen around the tournaments, but whom I had never talked to. We talked for a while and joked around before our match, but once I was back on the strip, I cleared everything from my mind and fed my fire. I cleared all my pool bouts undefeated. I was floating on air, every time I performed a move exactly as planned and received that reaction that I had planned for, I felt another piece of the puzzle click into place. If anyone has done anything to challenge themselves, I am sure they are aware of the click I am talking about. It is the click of understanding, or the click that what you know intellectually just made since on a more primal level. I clicked many times that day and on many levels.

The tournament started at 9am and at 5 we were still fencing the direct eliminations. I had battled my way to the round of 8 (the tournament started with 66 fencers), and I had started dragging on my previous bout. When I faced off against my next opponent, I found that I was totally overwhelmed. Why did I fail? Why did my new found fire smolder out against an opponent that I had never lost too? Part of the reason might have something to do with fact that I had NOTHING to eat the entire day. I had woken up late and I had not had time to grab a banana and meal replacement bar that was my typical fencing tournament fare. Due to the on and off again nature of the tournament, I never had time to break for lunch, and by 6pm I was running on fumes and I felt it to the core of my being. It also could have been that I psyched myself out for some reason. I am no stranger to that, but regardless of the reason, I still lost my drive as well as the bout. I still looked back over the days events, and was entirely proud of myself. I didn’t go all the way, but I feel that I had made progress on my mental game if nothing else.

Now I stand in the aftermath wondering how this new found fire will affect me. There are definitely downsides to it. I found that I was very irritable with others, and if a referee made a bad call, I was immediately voicing my opinion(s) to them. I even had to have my coach calm me down over a bad call that made no sense to me what so ever. I of course apologized to my opponents (and refs) at the end of the bout if I felt that it was appropriate, and there were no hard feelings, but still the fire not only burned in my stomach, but also in my blood.

When I saw the movie Wimbledon it immediately struck a cord in me. As a competitive fencer, I sympathized with how one bad mistake or wrong move could totally ruin your game and your confidence. Paul Bettany’s character meets Kirsten Dunst’s, and in the course of their relationship, he finds a new a confidence in himself and rediscovers the game that he had thought lost to him. As much as I identified with Paul’s character, it was Kristen’s character that seemed to come out in me on Sunday. Argumentative and caustic on the court, she explains that she has to be that way to play her best.

If it ended there, I could probably over look it all, but even after my loss on Sunday, I found that my fire was still burning. And the burning embers seemed to color view even today at work. Our department moved to a new building today, and in the course of the move, some of my items were lost. Normally this would hardly bother me. I would find a temporary chair to last till mine was discovered or replaced, and I would work with the one monitor I had, after all I didn’t HAVE to have two monitors. But today I found myself blowing up and cursing the movers for the first half of the day till things were sorted out. Every little thing that was wrong caused a new slew of explicatives to spew forth from my mouth.

Even though I feel that my loss of temper was not typically the way I would have handled the situation, I also wonder if this was not the more healthy way to go. Recognizing my feelings and even acting them out felt somehow right. It’s not like I was throwing stuff across the room or demanding to see the individual who was responsible for the mix up, I simply vented my frustration to those co-workers who happened to be (unlucky enough to be) around me at the time.

On some level it seems wrong that after such an outburst, I should feel even more peaceful and relaxed. I can still feel the fire burning in my gut, but I also feel a peacefulness that makes everything feel balanced out and even. As if I had made peace with myself on some level, and who knows, I maybe have. I have always tried to be the calm and tranquil river running through the forest. In all of the movies you see the reflective monks who have mastered themselves and who project their inner peace to others in an almost palpable sense. But now I wonder if not every aspect of their being is that calm, if they are only able to keep their composure because they recognize and acknowledge the fire that burns so brightly within them.

I don’t know, I but I feel that I still many things to explore down this path. I don’t know if it is ultimately the right path for me, but unless I try it, I will never know.

Music: Aqua – My Oh My

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by on Nov.01, 2005, under Fencing, Life

Crazy week so far.

It seems like I have been walking a tight rope bridge at work the past two days. Nothing too awfully bad, but bad enough that the stress was building up. Thankfully I was able to resolve the problems at work today (It is always good to see the customer happy, even if it was your mess up that caused them to get irate in the first place), and everyone was extremely happy on the forums as I left work. I can only hope that maintenance tomorrow goes nice and smooth, and that the rest of the week flows smoothly as well.

After work, I headed to the gym for a much needed work out. Not only have I not been able to go for the last few weeks, but I was in serious need of the stress relief. I hate being as out of shape as I am, but I have to keep a nice steady pace lest I reinjure my back. I am all paranoid about it now, but of course in this instance I feel that my paranoia is justified and actually required to keep me up on my feet throughout the competitive fencing season.

Afterwards my gym visit I am now nice and relaxed, and I am working on plowing through all the photos that have piled up on my camera. Who knows, maybe I will actually be able to get to one of the wide variaty of side projects that have been piling up on me lately…

On the lighter side of things the fencing floor should now have the last coat of varnish on it. And so we complete yet another construction project at the fencing center. It always amazes me that we continually get emails from other fencing centers asking for advice after they see the photos up on our website. It’s always strange to think you are good at something, because deep down I know there are plenty of people who have much more experience, but the clubs contacting us always ask the same questions we asked as we started our projects. The only difference is that we had an absolutely wonderful pool of members with a wide variaty of talents which allowed us to really bang out some amazing things. From the fencing floor, to the overhead mounted reels, we truly are thankful for everyone’s contribution. If another club isn’t as lucky to have the expertise necessary to undertake their own projects within their club, then we are always glad to answer any questions and lend them the experience that our labors have given us (read: school of hard knocks).

Current Music: The Eagles – Take it Easy

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Long Beach

by on Oct.02, 2005, under Fencing

Serenity was absolutely phenomenal. Go out and see it. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the tv show, the movie still packs a punch. As always, Joss’s writing is biting and leaves a lasting impression. The dialogue is witty, and the cast pulled off another excellent job.

The Long Beach Invitational went well today. I fenced horribly, but then I haven’t competed for around 2 years. I hated that the first tournament of the season was such a strong one, but no helping that, I have a few more tournaments before I can hope to back up to where I was. This was my obligatory “you haven’t fenced in a while, so you have to get your arse kicked” tournament… hopefully I have gotten that out of the way now.

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How do you get out of a parking ticket?

by on Sep.30, 2005, under Fencing, Life, Music

Now that I have bared my soul, on to the rest of my gritty life.

Apparently I have a whole block of my life missing. I say this because I received a letter in the mail two days ago from the LA Sheriff’s department telling me that I am past due on paying a parking ticket. A ticket I received at 9am August 29th. Not only was I apparently not at work that morning, but I was in a part of LA I have never been in before.

Assuming work calms down tomorrow, I will be giving them a call to let them know that apparently there has been a mistake. I’ll tell them what happened, or what didn’t happen as the case may be, and I will listen to them tell me that there is nothing that can be done and I will have to pay the ticket. I mean there is my license plate number in the letter along with a rough description of my car, and without some sort of concrete proof, that will probably be all she wrote.

This is just totally crazy, the sort of thing you would expect to see on some cheesy TV show at 10 o’clock at night. Regardless of how crazy it is, I guess it is better to pay the $45 ticket than to have that go on my “permanent record”. Crazy…..

On the lighter side of things I actually got my Death Cap For Cutie tickets.. So very very happy.

The Long Beach Invitational tournament is this weekend. I have actually signed up for the first time in 3 years. I don’t expect to do great, as I spent all summer recovering from a sprained back, but gosh darn it, I plan on enjoying myself.

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