The term spaz is clearly derogatory, used to describe someone not in control of their actions. As a younger man, this unfortunately described my general approach to life — respond immediately to pleasurable stimuli with far more enthusiasm than thought. And while I like to think that I’ve learned to control myself emotionally (I submit as evidence my being married for nearly two decades to a wonderful, beautiful woman who appears to be sane), I still have not controlled the physical impulses that lead to bad habits in fencing.

My coach talks about the Engineer and the Robot. “Your Robot’s programmed incorrectly — your mind knows what to do, but when you get in a competition you give energy to the Robot inside you, and if you’re Robot does the wrong things. You have to be the Engineer — reprogram your Robot, force it to do things it doesn’t want to do. That’s why I want you to walk through your drills, show them to your Robot until it understands that’s what I’m supposed to do. Once you have your Robot reprogammed, it will do the right thing when you give it energy.”

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