Archive for November, 2013


Old Friends

Nothing’s quite as good as hanging out with old friends, is it?

See, the thing about old friends is that over the course of the years you’ve known each other, they’ve accepted you for who you are. You don’t have to guard yourself around them. You don’t have to be careful lest you say something that will offend them. You can be yourself, and there’s nothing more liberating than that.

You always know where you stand with old friends. There’s no wondering about whether or not you two are close enough for you to ask a very personal question or share a sacred secret. You can tell them just about anything. You can share your feelings, your vulnerabilities, your fantasies, and your regrets without fear. With new friends you have to watch what you say. You don’t want to get too deep or depressing with someone you’ve just met or you risk scaring them off.

And you can actually fight with old friends. That may not sound like a positive point, but hear me out. If you have a serious argument with someone who you met five days ago, odds are you’ve just burned that relationship to the ground. New friendships, while exciting, are exceedingly fragile. You can trash one in a couple of moments if you’re not careful. But a friendship that’s been forged and solidified over years is by definition a strong one. True, old friends do fall out from time to time, but it takes a truly egregious transgression by one (or both) parties to take down a decade-long friendship. Even a serious argument between old friends will end in forgiveness most of the time.

And with old friends, the friendship itself becomes an object of enjoyment. With old friends you can spend three hours doing absolutely nothing but reminisce about old times, and it still feels like three hours well spent. Try that with new friends and you’ll run out of material within five minutes.

 

Old friends are familiar. They’re warm and comforting.

New friends are exciting. They’re a breath of fresh air.

If you’re lucky enough to have a mix of both, enjoy them and never take them for granted.

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New Friends

Making new friends is such a lovely feeling isn’t it?

When you first meet someone cool, you just hope that he/she will remember your name the next time you see them. But then slowly, imperceptibly you grow closer together. You start sharing your secrets. You start being privy to inside jokes. You make new memories together. It’s fun, it’s fresh, it’s exciting.

I wish I made new friends more easily, or more often. I love learning about new people, you see. People are interesting once you get to know them better. Did you know that the quiet girl in the corner is actually an incredible painter? Did you know that the slick-looking guy on the fencing piste is a talented dancer as well?

That girl is a former gymnist. That guy’s great at website design. That one’s secretly a huge nerd.

And on and on. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never met a boring person before in my life, and I doubt I ever will. I challenge you to befriend the most boring person you know and really get to know them. They’ll surprise you, I guarantee it. The only reason we perceive other people as boring is because we don’t know them well enough. People may be ignorant, stupid, or ill-mannered, but they’re certainly not boring.

 

I digress. The point being that I’m continuously fascinated by all of the little things you learn about new friends.

More important than the little things though are the Big Things. The Deep Dark Secrets. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows. When someone lets you in on one of these, that’s how you know you’re in. When someone first decides to take down their walls and let you in, it’s almost magical. It’s a moment that I never take for granted because I feel that it’s the moment when a friendship is solidified.

That’s not to say that friends have to share their close secrets with each other. Some of my old friends have never truly let me in, and I still consider them to be very good friends. But when someone lets you in on a secret that only a small handful of people know and trusts you with it, it’s special.

 

Now, allow me a moment of vanity.

It’s no secret that I love to talk about myself. I’ve done it nearly 600 times here, and many thousands of times outside of the Internet. I have innumerable stories about my life, ranging from my most glorious triumphs to my most embarrassing defeats.

I think my favourite thing about new friends is that they make all of my old stories new again. All of my old friends have already heard The Tale of the Infamous Woman, and That Time I Punched That Guy In The Face. They’ve been hashed and rehashed a thousand times, and they’re old hat to my old friends. But to my new friends, they’re fresh and exciting. I’ll never get more than a friendly smile and a nod from an old friend when I tell them how I ruled the playground with an iron fist in grade three with my Pokemon, but when I tell a new friend that story I might get a full out laugh. And that makes me oh so happy. Maybe it’s shallow, but I can’t help it.

None of this is to suggest that I see old friends as somehow inferior to new friends. That’s not the case at all. There’s that beautiful familiarity with old friends that no new friendship can possibly capture. That indescribable comfort.

But there’s an undeniable excitement with making new friends that’s unlike anything else in the world.

Owned

Hoo boy.

Perhaps the first competition was just a case of beginner’s luck. Competition #2 didn’t go nearly as well.

As I mentioned before, the event was a team relay. Each team would send a fencer into combat for a bout up to 5. Afterward the next member of each team would swap in for a bout up to 10, with the points from the first bout carrying over. Thus, if the first bout ended 5-3, the first team would only need to score 5 points while the second team would need to score 7 points to win. This would be repeated for a total of nine bouts, with the final bout being up to 45.

Once our matchups were posted, a female sabreist who was helping us out looked at us grimly. Apparently we’d been exceptionally unlucky in drawing our opponents.

The first team we faced was the University of Toronto’s B team. It was a B team in name only though, as in reality it was hardly inferior to U of T’s A team. The #2 ranked sabreist in Ontario was on this team, as was one of the better sabreists who I recognized from my ill-fated venture into U of T’s fencing program three years ago. To make a long and painful story short, we were absolutely outclassed. In my first segment which came up when we were down 5-1, I managed to put up 4 points on my opponent before he could score his five, but that was the most success I would have all day. In retrospect I should have done better against this opponent – he was the one weak link on this team.

In the end, we lost by something dire like 45-14. The last point had me up against the #2 ranked fencer in the province, and I stood no chance. On the final point he did some crazy jumping strike to show off. Highly unsportsmanlike, but not illegal. To his credit he apologized afterward, but it was still a lame thing to do on his part. Congrats bro, you defeated the #123rd ranked sabreist in Canada (I’m nationally ranked now, dontchaknow).

The second match was against Western’s A team. I really don’t have anything positive I can say about this matchup. It made our first match against U of T look impressive by contrast. We lost 45-6. By the end I was extremely frustrated, and that didn’t help my performance at all.

I admit that I lost my cool at one point. My opponent had hit me unnecessarily hard in the face. The masks we wear are made out of solid stuff so it’s not like I felt the impact at all, but he hit me hard enough to knock my mask loose and that set me off. As I walked back to my starting line I kept thinking ‘Fuck the next point. I’m just going to belt this guy as hard as I possibly can.’ And so as soon as the referee said “Allez!” I sped towards him and put all my force into whacking him. I lost the point (he tagged me first), but I won the moral victory as I saw him shake out his shoulder prior to the next point.

Third and final bout was a must-win against McMaster. We didn’t win. I think we put up 12 points.

The one piece of good news is that we didn’t come in last place overall. That distinction went to the Queen’s D team. Upon seeing the final rankings, me and my fellow C-teamers burst into a chorus of “We’re not the worst! We’re not the worst!”

There was fun to be had, but it was a long and frustrating day. Let’s hope the last tournament before Christmas (November 30th) goes better.

Double The C, Double The S

And that’s the way you spell success. Along with another “s”, a “u”, and an “e”, of course.

I achieved everything that I set out to do in my first fencing tournament, and then some.

In the first phase, I went into every bout thinking ‘Just one point. Just one point.’ And when I scored the first point, I would think to myself  ‘One more point. Just one more point.’  Evidently this mindset worked as I was indeed able to score at least one point on everyone I faced. It was easier said than done though, as just about everyone in my group was much better than me. My first bout was against my team captain actually, so I went in knowing that I was screwed. I lost 5-1 in the end.

Second bout was against a guy who I felt like I could beat. I’d seen him get absolutely demolished in his first bout, and so I went in confidently. I ended up taking him 5-2.

The five bouts that followed were all against people who were better than me, and I lost all five with scores varying from 5-3 to 5-1. On one hand I never really threatened to win any of the others, but on the other hand I never got shut out, which was what I went in there hoping to accomplish.

With my 1-6 record I ended up ranked 41st after the first round. My elimination bout was slated to be against the 24th seed.

He was tall. Really tall. And while height isn’t as big an advantage in sabre as it is in other disciplines, it still meant that he would be able to hit me before I was in his range, which called for extra caution on my part.

‘Just one point.’ I told myself. In the knockout phase bouts go up to 15 rather than 5, so realistically I was hoping to score more than just one point, as 15-1 looks a lot worse than 5-1. But I took the bout one point at a time. I was relatively relaxed. No one was expecting me to advance beyond this stage after all, so there was no pressure on me.

But then I scored the first three points of the match, and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I could win this. I lost focus on the point at hand and started to think ahead too much. As a result, I dropped the next three points and the score was even at 3-3. From then on it was a close match, with no one having more than a three point advantage at any time. I was ahead for the majority of the match, but I was unable to gain a comfortable advantage at any point.

I led 12-10.

Then 12-11

Then 13-11

Then 13-12

And then we were tied at 13. I knew this would be a vital point. Whoever scored next would have two chances to win the match, and whoever was hit would have to score two in a row. A critical juncture.

I lost the point.

I swore at myself under my breath. I’d been up 13-11! Allowing three points in a row is never a good thing, but there’s a big difference  between allowing three points in a row when you’re winning 3-0 and allowing three in a row when the score is 13-11. And although I hadn’t gone in expecting to win this match I knew that I couldn’t lose now, having been so close to victory. I scored the next point.

14-14. La Belle. I saluted my opponent and the referee as is customary when a bout comes down to a final point.  The name for this comes from the French tradition, where the winner of a duel would win the lovely maiden. Although there was no maiden present, a berth in the second round was enough to motivate me. I was vaguely aware that a few of my teammates were cheering me on, but I was completely focused on the next point. ‘Just one more point. Just one more.’

“En garde. Prêt? Allez!”

I advanced toward my opponent. He retreated. Just as I hoped he would.

I knew what was he was thinking. As he retreated, he was keeping a careful eye on the distance between us. When the distance was such that he was close enough to hit me with his long reach but far enough that I could not hit him, he would strike. He’d tried this four or five times over the course of the match and had succeeded in catching me off guard a few times.

This time I was ready. And I used a simple tactic that I’d done a hundred times before in practice, but hadn’t really made enough use of in this match. I slowed my advance. Accordingly, he slowed his retreat. He was waiting for me to get into his range.

And then I exploded forward as quickly as I could. The idea was to pass through the “Danger Zone” where he could hit me but I couldn’t hit him as quickly as possible so that he wouldn’t have time to react.

What happened next was something of a blur. I hit him, on his right shoulder I believe. He hit me as well. The referee called a halt. I turned towards the electronic scoreboard. The red light was on. My point.

I shook my opponent’s hand, and saluted both him and the referee. I said “Fuck yeah” under my breath. Then I turned towards my teammates and gave a little fist pump. Everyone was shocked and thrilled and proud of me, and it felt damned good.

I didn’t have much time to whoop it up though before I had to face my next opponent though. The #9 seed.

Now for this match I really had no expectations, and that was probably for the best. To my credit I scored two of the first three points and took a 2-1 lead, but that was the last time I’d come even close to mounting a challenge. I gave up seven points in a row thereafter, and at that point it was pretty much over. I managed to made the score a slightly more dignified 15-6 in the end, but a slaughter’s a slaughter.

Still, I wasn’t down at all about losing. I’d come farther than I’d expected to, and in fairness the other guy was the better fencer by a mile – there’s a reason he was ranked 9th and I was 41st. After the match I was still grinning from ear to ear.

As a result of my good showing, I got bumped up from the “D” team to the “C” team, and got myself a little mention on the Queen’s website. So that’s cool.

Can’t rest on my laurels though. The next tournament is tomorrow. It’s a team-based competition, so my success will largely depend on my fellow “C” teamers. Hard to set any expectations for this one as I’m not really sure what it’s going to be like over there, but I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable day.

And as an added bonus, extra hour of sleep tonight! Woot!