In the Air Guild: Faction Week 1

Today (ok fine, Thursday) I am a Page.

Thanks to the generosity of a patron, I was able to sign up to do Faction Night at In the Air Guild, the knife throwing place I wrote about previously.

As part of my ongoing attempts at improving my overall health, I’ve been looking for ways to participate in more social activities. I’ve also been looking for ways to get exercise that are low impact and also interesting enough to encourage me through executive dysfunction and pain.

Tonight was the first night.

The Factions are organized according to levels that maintain the guild theme while using terms used among Freemasons: Page, Journeyman, Master, Grand Master, and 33rd.

Over 7 weeks we will participate in a series of round robin matches – 2 rounds, each with 3 sets of 3 throws. If there is a tie, match is decided by a single throw.

My first experience with the round robin style of tournament wasn’t actually tonight, but happened last week at an open house that was being held as a fundraiser for a local woman who was in an accident. I did TERRIBLY! I was stiff and in pain, and frustrated for a variety of reasons. I couldn’t get my body to work the way I wanted to, I couldn’t find my distance. I think I might have had the lowest score of the entire group!

Tonight, my pain wasn’t great either. My crohn’s and other conditions have been acting up ever since I got back from BC. This has caused some of my tendons to seize up in such a way that my knee cap is pulled out of position, and my ankle is still and sore.

One thing I’ve really liked about In the Air, in the times that I’ve been there, is that they’re really committed to working with people’s capabilities. They don’t get hung up on exact technique as long as what you are doing is safe and works for you. Everyone finds their own rhythm, their own spin, their own distance ultimately, and if you can’t move a certain way, a new solution can be found. When I’ve brought up difficulties with certain movements because of my own disabilities, they’ve been very helpful in working with me to find something that works without causing me pain. I’ve heard from more than one person, that they’ve had throwers in wheelchairs, and that they’re of the opinion that everyone CAN throw, it’s just a matter of figuring how to do it.

From what I’ve heard, they apply a lot of this same ethos to their employees as well.

Some of the people involved in the round robin faction are people who’ve been involved with the guild from the start, back when it was a Meet-up Group that took place in various people’s backyards. Others are like me and new to the sport, having only tried it once or twice before.

Our coach and the host of the faction event was Edge, who is also the floor manager. When we first met, I completely misheard his nickname and thought he had said Hedge. I was pretty confused since up till that point, most people’s names had made a certain type of sense: Daisy loved daisies, Giggles alternated between being grumpy and really giggly, so where the heck did Hedge come from? We all had a pretty good laugh when he finally corrected me and Edge makes a LOT more sense.

He’s the kind of guy who occasionally makes me think he’s angry with me, while also being very encouraging, friendly, and giving good instructions and explanations. He reminds me a lot of my old singing teacher, in that regard.

When I first met her, she absolutely terrified me. I was convinced that she hated me and was disappointed in me. Ultimately, she became one of my favourite people. Her abrasiveness, while perhaps not the right tactic for some, was her way of showing that she believed in you.   She grated at you like sandpaper to polish away the grit and leave your talent sparkling, and she only really acted that way with the people she had the most faith in.

It’s a style of teaching that works well for me. The frustration to “show them” and prove myself helps me push past inertia issues. I’m a little more sensitive to perceptions of anger than I used to be; a function of the cumulative effect of years of emotional abuse from multiple sources. What helped a lot was after the first time he coached me, where he had pulled me aside to work with me and go through what I was doing wrong, when he approached me after the fact and made sure that that had been ok. He wasn’t trying to single me out, be harsh, or critical in any way. Rather, he had been hoping to help me so that I wouldn’t lose my enthusiasm by feeling like I wasn’t any good or what not.

I’ve also seen Edge use different, gentler, teaching styles with other students, which suggests to me that he tries to gauge the best approach for each individual person.

On to the event!

There were 13 of us in total and my first match was a little later in the rotation. We start off the event by reading the motto on our Faction Cards.

“Kings and Queens …”

The pacing of the poetry is a little hard to grasp, so we needed several tries to get it together as a group. I still think it would have helped if we had had just one person say it once and then have everyone join in afterwards.

It didn’t help that it was a Thursday night, after a week filled with snow, ice, and cold. Poor Edge had a hard time getting us to cheer as enthusiastically as he was hoping for.

In the Air has a bar and a bit of food available, the throwing spaces are arranged around the middle seating area. While you wait for your match, you can sit and watch while you have a beer and some pizza, enjoy a pop, have a conversation with some of your fellow faction members. You can also stand behind the wooden barrier and watch closer up as the competitors throw their knives.

The white outer parts are worth one point, the red is 2 points, and the black middle is 3 points. The points are counted at the end of the set, so all the knives have to stay in the board till they’re counted. If you hit a knife out, too bad.

I like to stand at the barrier, leaning forward, and watching how different people throw.

The skill levels of various participants varied wildly, which hilariously sometimes led to a newbie being paired against someone who had been around since the beginning. Everyone was highly encouraging, with good hearted ribbing between old friends and lots of support for people just starting out.

This is a good moment to talk about benevolent sexism. There was a thing that happened when the new thrower was a woman rather than a man. While the level of encouragement was the same, there was an attempt by some of the men to be almost coddling in their support in a way that whether they meant it that way or not, came off condescending.

Still it was obvious they meant well, and eventually it settled into a more comfortable atmosphere.

When I first started learning, I thought that the distance depended on how hard you could throw the knife. It turns out that it depends more on how tight your spin is. The slower the spin, the further you have to be to complete it enough to hit point first. Alternately, if it is tighter, you don’t have to stand as far.

My first match was a bit of a disaster at first. While during the practice session I had succeeded in finding my distance, suddenly I was struggling again. Something I realized, is that my pain ends up having a big influence on how far I throw. The more pain I’m in, the further back I usually have to stand. I also realized that part of my difficulty is figuring out how to pay attention to my body enough, to get a better sense of what I’m doing.

You see, part of my ability to tolerate the pain I’m in, comes from using a significant portion of my energy ignoring my body. Whenever something makes me become highly aware of the various parts of myself, I also become more aware of all of my pain. An unpleasant experience, to say the least. To get a good understanding of how I move my body in order to replicate a good throw, I would normally need to feel more of it. I would have to put myself in a place where I am paying attention to how my arm moves, where exactly my release is, how my body goes through the motions. In order to do that though, I would have to put myself in a headspace where I become hyperaware of all the different parts of my body that hurt. My muscles are seizing just thinking about it.

Luckily, they’re ok with my bringing in my camera so that I can watch videos of myself as I throw and so maybe the addition of the visual input will make it easier.

After a rough first round of the first match, I finally found my rhythm and succeeded in getting a few hits on the board. I still lost, and happily congratulated my opponent.

My next match was against someone who had been there from the very start, back when it was a group of people throwing knives in someone’s backyard. Of course, I didn’t know all this till after the match.

I decided not to really pay attention to my opponent at all. Regardless of how well they did, the only thing I could control was one well I did. So I focused on what I was doing, and to my surprise, the end of the first set left me ahead in points, and same with the two sets that followed that! I won the first round of the match.

I was so excited by that idea, that I didn’t do too great on the next round and lost that one. Now we were tied, and the match would be decided by a single throw. My opponent threw his knife before I was even done eyeing my target. He hit the red 2 point circle. I took a deep breath and threw. My knife flew right into the bulls-eye! I won!

The cheers of my fellow faction, excited at my beginner’s luck in winning the match made me feel like I was floating. I can’t wait till next week, when the adventure continues.

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In the Air Guild: Faction Week 1
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