An Unusual Practice

I had a private lesson with my fencing coach this morning, a session unusual for two reasons — it was my first since June, and my first ever outdoors.

When COVID-19 lockdowns began lifting in late May, I returned to the fencing club for group and private lessons for about a month. Then our state’s infection numbers increased sharply, and masks were mandated throughout the state. Being so close to people breathing heavily didn’t seem like such a good idea, so I told my coach I’d be away for a while.

However, I did commit to practicing more at home. At least once a week, many times twice, occasionally a third. My goal was to keep my skills from deteriorating, and today’s lesson promised to test whether my approach worked.

My coach lives fifteen minutes from my house, and her home has a small park with an asphalt basketball court that is rarely used. The morning was warm and muggy from yesterday’s rain, with abundant sunshine from a mostly cloudless sky. We worked on beat attacks, where timing is the key to success. On defense, beat the opponent’s blade in the middle of their advance; on offense, beat the blade as you complete your advance. Finish the beat with a lunge, adding a disengage if necessary. It’s not a skill I worked on at home, so my timing was hardly perfect. But in regards to core skills — hand position, balance, lunge form — my coach was very positive. All that work at home seems to have paid off.

We’re going to make outdoor lessons every week so long as the weather holds up, which may mean I’ll be working with my coach on that basketball court all the way into November. Maybe by then the COVID-19 situation will have improved enough for me to feel comfortable returning to the club.

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