First Strikes

In the blink of an eye, I was put on the strip. There wasn’t enough time to prepare a plan. Hell, even if there was one, I doubt it would work. Without knowing what exactly was going on, I put myself in a messy en garde position as I was trembling with fear. As the referee shouts “fence!” I freeze. Shuddering with the fear of losing in my mind. My opponent staggers forward, his presence emits an incredible aura of intimidation. His wingspan and height could be compared to that of an NBA player in his teens. I retreat, paying no attention to the distance between me and the end of the strip. The distance grows smaller and smaller and in a flash, I lose the point. I was incredibly shaken at what just took place. Was there a way around it? Could I pull off a win? These questions of failure constantly rose in my mind, knowing I didn’t stand a chance. In the end, I scored two lucky points by sticking out my blade and hoping my opponent would run into it.

This was my first varsity match against another school. I was subbed in during the third round, where most teams do so in order for their future starters to get experience. In my mind, this was a devastating loss. I lost my first ever varsity bout because I was too frozen by the fear of losing. I felt regretful that all my training, practice, and drills just went out the window the moment I stepped onto the strip. It was as if I forgot everything that my coaches had taught me and I was trying to survive in the wilderness.

About a week later comes the Cetrulo tournament. After about 10 grueling hours, during the second round was my time to fence. This was my second time getting subbed in after men’s foil did not have a chance for top placement. As we fenced other substitutes, I was placed on the C strip. I was starting to get nervous again. I didn’t want to lose. I stepped onto the strip, sweating from nervousness. My stomach was being turned upside down. I felt like I would bring the team shame, until my captain told me, “Yo, Matt, try some new stuff. You have nothing to lose.” One of the many wonders of my captain was relieving that immense pressure. I can feel the pressure being lifted. I went over all the drills in my mind: feint and disengage, slow, quicker, quickest, leap into advance lunge. I ended up winning that bout. However, I did lose the next two bouts that followed. This new mindset allowed me to have a much easier time knowing that there was nothing to be lost. The losses were merely lessons to further improve my fencing. 

My first season of fencing was filled with a ton of losses on the varsity strip, but I still loved the sport. After all, I was just starting out, so losses were to be expected. I see this kind of mindset in many new fencers that I have observed and some that I have even fenced. They are too scared to make any actions and lack the confidence to stand up to their opponent. Then they become discouraged after they lose the bout. To truly fence is to fence free of all hindrances; to fence your absolute best, regardless of your opponent. To rephrase the words of my captain,” I believe fencers should always never be afraid to try new things, whether new or veteran.”

-Matthew Yap