The Zone   11 comments

“Since when did you remember how to fence?”

I shrugged. I don’t usually go seventy-five percent against Wistric—even the slow, schlubby teacher-Wistric who shows up at Thursday practices. But in my last dozen or so passes everything was clicking. I wasn’t getting intimidated, my actions were small and subtle, and I was wasn’t falling into my usual screw-form-I-have-speed bad habits after two tempi in measure.

The fight became perfectly intuitive. Everything was clear. Counterguard, find the sword. Action. Counteraction. Finish. It was neither premeditated nor rote. The perfect response simply materialized, effortlessly, each time.

“You should fight like that all the time.”

Ay, there’s the rub.

Getting to that mental state happens more frequently now than it used to. But it still requires too much build-up to reach quickly, and too much focus to sustain for long. What’s worse, it seems to be brought on by the opponent. Wistric’s shoot-from-the-hip style tends to draw it out (perhaps because I don’t have time to think). But against a more defensive fighter? Or even—a very inexperienced fighter? It’s miles away. The pace of the fight kills any momentum I gain, and I’m back to overthinking everyone’s actions.

Dame Roz says I mirror my opponent’s fight, rather than imposing my own; a problem endemic, she says, to teachers. I think there’s some validity to that, although I’m not sure why I do it or how to stop. Seems to be a catch-22, really—I need that tachypsychia/flow/”the zone” to dominate and dictate the fight without getting killed, but I can’t get into that state unless my opponent is cooperating.

The more I study the Italian system, the more I am convinced that it requires a constant awareness and use of hairsbreadth distinctions of tempo and measure to perform correctly. If I only possess the necessary acuity in moments of intense and perfect focus, am I lacking in automaticity? Do I have too much mental energy tied up in performing processes that ought to be thoughtless, and thus, not enough left over for the requisite fine observation, interpretation, and decision-making?

Or am I simply not sufficiently mentally prepared before the fight begins?

And if the latter, how can I fix that? Regulated breathing seems to work for Wistric and Connor, but I seem to need a shot of adrenaline to achieve comparable focus.

It is the greatest delight to taste the acme of my ability, where I feel myself a match for anyone, but it’s frustrating for it to be so elusive.

As a relevant footnote … does it help to fight for someone else? Not the perfunctory “queen and country” sort, but the “this is my inspiration” variety?

Posted January 29, 2013 by Ruairc in Musings

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