After much though I have decided to take part in the Helsinki Open tournament (longsword) in January 2016. I have taken part in one competition, Swordfish 2008 (!). God, tempus fugit! Here's how I did (cringe)..
In short, shite! Still, it was a super experience and quite an eye-opener in terms of how to move, how to think tactically, levels of aggression etc. Basically nervousness took over and I just stood there like a lemon and let my opponent bring the fight to me, only reacting after he had attacked. Why? Because we had been taught that we should wait for a committed attack before parrying. Nothing wrong with that in a medieval duel context, not so useful in a modern tournament one. Hmm, back to training!
Fast forward a few years to a sparring camp in Jyvaskyla in 2014 (footage from 11:00 onwards).
Different scenario, much more relaxed and with friendly sparring with fellow THMS member Ikaros A. I moved a lot better and there is a sort of flow to the exchanges. There was still the tendency to stand too still for too long and to come to too close measure, look at each other and then see what the other would do. We didn't snipe the hands although we could have done so easily. Instead there are some feints in largo and pommel strikes by entering into stretto, including a bit of grappling. Still lots of room for improvement but it looks more like I want to look like when fencing Fiore. And the bout was FUN! I highly recommend attending the sparring camp in Jyvaskyla: good people, nice salle and a really good and useful way to test your fencing in a not-overly competitive environment. I also attended the camp in 2015 and it was also lots of fun. Such camps offer a brilliant opportunity for fencers of all levels to test their skill sets against other of varying levels. Do not worry if you think you don't know much and are nervous about sparring with someone of a higher skill level/experience. They will happily reduce the speed/intensity to suit you and very often you will get an informal coaching session! And they are also really nice folks!
In January 2015 a few of us got together and rented out the badminton court at a local gym to specifically practice sparring in full gear. It was funny walking through a gym holding swords and sparring gear and we got some funny looks from those people pumping weights! However, the staff at Sali 82 were very friendly and seemed quite happy that their badminton court was being used for something new. We would quickly warm up, gear up and set to. Two of our group were planning on taking part in tournaments and so were quite motivated, while others (including myself) were along for the experience. It was a bit tough adding an extra training evening to but overall a worthwhile exercise and well worth the effort. There was also the added bonus of kettlebells for use in the space we were in. Result!
It's now November and approximately 2 months until the Helsinki Open. I go to regular trainings and have started to do stretches, clubbells and kettlebell workouts most days. I also got a swingblade http://mblades.com/swing/index.html so I can do all the cutting practice I want without putting holes in the walls or breaking the lampshade. How am I feeling mentally? Good. Focused, but scared, very scared. I am afraid I will look a fool, that it will not even look like Fiore but some mad flailing. Do I expect to win bouts? Honestly, no. I do not expect to do "well" if that means winning points. I hope to hold my own and if I do that I will have done well. So, you might ask, "why bother?" It's a fair question. There are 2 reasons. First, it gives me the focus and drive I need to train as well as go to regular training. I enjoy the training too. I want to make it a good habit that will help to anyway keep me stronger, healthier and happier, not just benefit my fencing. The second reason is simply "because it scares me". I have been critical of tournaments before and following my tournament debut at Swordfish in 2008 this has been a background but ever present reason for being critical and not participating more. I need to put myself out of my comfort zone. The funny thing is that it's all in my head! I am pretty sure that I could go to the upcoming tournament and do really badly and actually no-one else will bat an eyelid! They have their own things going on that day and will not think less of me if I am not successful. It really is the taking part that counts. It will be interesting to see how my focus will be affected by the Christmas break!