Sunday’s tournament in Canada was my first in over six months, but my experience was still very much like it had been in past competitions. Started nervous and tentative, and became even more so when I saw the youth and speed of my competitors. Responded by trying to go faster, which is always a mistake for me; my speed’s good enough for competition, but if I make it the basis for my approach, if I try to match the speed I see in my opponents, I’m not going to have success.

Coach tells me I’m better at being a thoughtful second in command, not an alpha dog. Let my opponents be the alphas; use my analytical skills to counter their speed.

Lost all six of my pool bouts, which really wasn’t that big of a surprise but, considering the lack of skill I saw in a couple of my opponents, a little disappointing. My coach (who had competed in a different event the day before at the same tournament) was with me the entire time, and kept telling me to get a better angle on my extensions — arm wider than my body, thumb rotated out.

Fortunately my opponent in the first DE didn’t have the speed I saw in the pools, so I was able to relax, and focus on coach’s advice. And as the bout progressed, I saw it working — I was hitting with my lunges and ripostes more than I was missing. A great bout with a fun opponent; we tied at 13, and got nailed with a remise off a missed a riposte. But this time, I kept myself from panicking; my approach in this bout had been working, and I wasn’t going to change with the bout on the line. Snuck in a disengage to even the score at 14; my opponent and I returned to our starting lines, and saluted each other. “Great bout,” I tell him. He agrees — and laughs when I follow with “But I’m going to get this next touch.”

We meet at the center (keep the arm wide), and I catch his lunge; I riposte, not sure whether I land it, and we hit each other with remises. The referee calls halt, and as I look at him I have no idea how he’ll call it. Guess my first riposte landed, because I get the touch.

So I get my one victory. And what make this more significant than the others, was my ability to implement my coach’s instructions. In other words, I learned something this weekend, something I can’t say that I did in my bouts earlier this year.

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