Thursday, March 30, 2006

Courtesy...A Knightly Virtue

After reading a knights journal, I have decided to give myself a job within our club. I will teach (or at least try to) our kids and adults to thank the directors at their tournaments.  I know I thanked mine for pools at Divisional, but I do not think I thanked any of the other refs; armourers; registration people. There were at least two who were sick and the hours were long and hard. It was a couple of looonnnnnggg days.

There is more than one reason for this.

1. It is the right thing to do. So many hard jobs, that are so desperately needed and you are more likely to hear someone complain than to thank someone for their efforts. We should have club thank you cards made up, to send to these people with everyone’s signature. That most likely will never happen, but it is a good thought.


2. At some point in my first eight classes, I can remember Sally telling a bunch of “noobs”, that this was fencing etiquette and was to be respected. (Words to that effect.) As Sally is taking a year sabbatical, I will make this little job mine. Not mine alone, but one I will pay more attention to as a way of honoring my coach who will be far away.

Now....for other things:

Of late, I am reminded of a current television commercial or "Ferris Buluer’s Day Off". "Life comes at you fast." Or more to the point, "fencing comes at you fast." There is so much going on, it boggles my mind, and I am only slightly involved in some of it. Divisionals; Coaches College and Sally’s sabbatical. There is the upcoming RYC tournament that we need to get to work on. Then there is the big one! The thing that could be the greatest thing we ever did as a club, or the thing that kills our club. It is scary and it is cool. And I can’t write about it yet. We must talk to our Leadership Committee first. Hey...nothing may come of it.

We had a coaches meeting in a really great little Irish pub last night. What a great place for a fencing club meeting! Good stew as well. I think I will take my " cuppy cake" there this weekend.

Editors Note: No...We don't use that kind of sickening sweet baby talk to each other....unless we are joking. It had to be said.



Sunday, March 26, 2006

Women of Steel

I am never more amazed than when I am correct in my predictions. I am amazed by it, because it so seldom happens. However in the case of NC Divisional Women's Epee I was almost 100 percent on the money. I have rarely been so proud of people. I think in some ways I was almost as happy as they were.

This was a D1 event with 21 fencers. ( As best as I can remember.) Kathy Walters took first place and a shiny new "D" home. Coach, armorer; armorer for the USA international teams and WC. She has been working hard and over come hardship and illness to do this.
It is kind of like a "Karate Kid" movie plot. Maybe "The Little Armorer That Could" would be a better title for this movie. I knew she would  get her "D," I just did not know it would be this soon. It was just awesome.

Nicole (14 years old) took second place and now has her "E" polished and sitting on her mantle. She also took about a half dozen pictures of teenage boy fencers home on her Mom's digital camera. This girl has earned her "E'" twenty times over. Ist place in JO qualifiers in her age group and second in an older JO qualifier. I did not know until this Divisionals but this little girl has a reputation in our Division. Pretty cool for such a sweet kid.

The truth of the matter is that in my prediction, I saw all the top 3 places going to our Women fencers. I was not wrong, there was just a fluke. We did not talk about it, because we love her so much, but she should have been there. We all know it and if a coach has a student there in the top three then, in fact, she is there. My prediction for talking the top 3 spots was correct, it will just have to wait until 2007. I will never predict the order, I just know they all will be there.


I think our club had twelve fencers at Divisionals on Saturday. That is a lot for us. We had  ten fencing epee (Four in Women's and six in Men's) and two fencing sabre. ( Foil is today, which is Sunday.)

Our Women took first and second in epee. It was truly awesome. Kathy and Nicole were on fire yesterday!!! There is a lot to say about this, but I think I will make that a separate post.

Two of our guys did pretty well in Men's. I need to see the results posted, but I think Tommy (One of our young "E" Fencers (Tommy) made it to the top 16 and Warren (a man my age) got up the roster pretty far as well.

Generally, in tournaments, I finish around the same area as Tommy and Warren. Sometimes higher, sometimes a "smidgen" lower. That was not the case this time. I was awful. It was truly embarrassing. Do not get me wrong, I know that Tommy has surpassed me and I will never match him again. That is just a fact. I love that guy like a brother and I am happy for him.

Why did Jim Suck? :

Was it bad luck in the pools? No....not really. I did have guy that took first in my pool, but I got 2 or 3 touches on him. ( They were doubles...but touches nonetheless.) The other four guys (all modesty aside) on a good day....I think I could have beat them. Our at least....more of them. hard luck story on the luck of the draw.

It was me. My head was not right ( of sleep....over analyzing the tournamnet....etc.) and I was doing something REALLY stupid. I was mimicking Tommy.
He often starts his attack in low line and uses his disgustingly fast and flexible teenage legs to drop under his attackers bell guard. I think this is a good tactic for him. When I use it, I put to much weight on my front leg and pretty much nullify my ability to move quickly in either direction. I need to slap myself and keep my weight centered. I am not only old..I am stupid. There is to much to explain about all the things I was doing wrong, but I think I am aware of most of them and will try to correct them.

Any Realizations Jim? : big one. I think I may have an inflated opinion of myself as an epee fencer. ( Okay...That is natural. We all like to have a high opinion of ourselves, but I try to temper mine with realism.) I thought that I could be a "D" fencer in epee. I guess if I found the right little tournament and I was having a great day, I could get a "D" rating. However, I would not be a "D" fencer, because I am not a "D" fencer. I got this unrealistic idea because of the last six tournaments I fenced in. Four were mixed. One was Veterans and there where only five people in the epee part. The circuit in Raleigh is one I cannot figure out, as I placed actually a bit higher than I thought I would, factoring in my rank; age and the level of competition. I am not close to being a "D" fencer and does not upset me and I am not all uptight about it. Must be my new meds. I can't believe I might actually have a mature attitude about this. Nah....that can't be it.

What are you going to do about it Jim?:

I have a physical with my doctor tomorrow. The first thing I need to do is make sure it is not my health that is screwing me up and these damn new meds that seem to make my mind a bit strange.  Okay...stranger than usual.

After that I really don't know what I can do about it. More thought is needed. Sadly, I just got a call from my boss and I have to go into work ( That is REALLY unusual.) I will not be able to go to Divisionals and watch our foilist. Damn!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This Saturday is NC Divisionals

This Saturday is NC Divisionals. I am thinking about this almost constantly. I tend to do that with most tournaments, but this one seems to be particularly thought consuming.

I think this is for a couple of reasons:

A. I still do not feel right. I am trying to put that out of my mind.

B. Dressing out in sabre Wednesday, I saw a fat old man in the mirror. The mirror caught be off guard. I generally hold my shoulders back and suck it in when I know one is coming.

C. Divisionals is one of the ways I will measure my progress in fencing. What if there is no improvement? What if I do worse than 2 years ago?

In most cases. this kind of thinking disappears after the first touch in the first pool. way or the is just getting down to business and all these type of thoughts leave until after the tournament.

I am looking forward to seeing the kids fence.......and our girls. Now, the fact is, in some cases I should not be referring to a couple of our "girls" girls. One is 35 and one is 28.
The correct way to address them would be as women. ( So, I have been taught.) me....they are girls. I mean no slight to them in this regard. I mean just the opposite. I mean it with affection. If this offends someone...please feel free to be offended.

After the Men's Epee, I am fencing in a team event. There will be four teams at the time of this writing. Ours, will have two guys that are over 53....and two teenagers. We are all "E" fencers. The guys we are fencing are "C's and "D's." I like to think we have a chance to win....even against one of them. However, if I was a betting man, this is NOT the way I would bet. I think most fencers are romantics. That is what fencing is...a martial art for the romantic. These other teams will only see us as a team they beat. I see us as valiant. There is no hope....yet we are entering the fray.

We are a small club. I just realized the other day that we try to keep it that way,dueto a lack of space. If everyone came on epee night, there would be 26 fencers. No way could our space handle that. We are around 48 people. I understand that a fourth of them are Veterans. That has to be the highest percentage of Veterans in our Division. I do not know what that says about us, but I think it must be something good. There are around an equal number of little kids that are to young for Divisionals. All this being said, we have over a dozen fencers that will fence in Divisionals. I see that as pretty gutsy as well.

We are neither a big or high powered club, but I have to say that I am proud of our group.

I hope I give a good account of myself at Divisionals for them.


Monday, March 20, 2006


I went to the doctor today. The nurse took my blood pressure and it was 190 over 100. She left the room and I started figuring up life insurance and 401k for my family. What notes I should give them and if there was time. I also thought about fencing in Divisionals, if I lived that long. (Dying with a sword in my hand.....I can think of a lot worse ways to go.)

The Doc comes in and talks with me. She looks at my arm and she looks at the blood pressure thingie. She looks at my arm and she looks at the blood pressure thingie. She looks at my arm and she looks at the blood pressure thingie. "Let me see if I can find one of these with a BIGGER cuff",she says. She pumps it up and my blood pressure is a little high......but nothing like the 190 over 100. I got some new meds (free samples) and I have a physical next Monday. She does not see it as a big deal and......................She said I can fence this weekend!!!!



Jim the Impaler is back in the game!!!!! YEEEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Saturday, March 18, 2006


This week, I did not fence sabre. I took my daughter to fence epee and I directed. I will not compete in the tournament today. ( For more than a couple of reasons.) Crap! Crap! Crap!

For the last couple of years, I have been taking blood pressure meds. It was not real high at all, but with the new changes in the kind of blood pressure they want now, it was a good idea to start taking them. About a week ago, I decided to stop taking these meds for a few days and see what my blood pressure was. Maybe I did not need them anymore. Well....I did. So I started taking them again. This week, I found that even though I was taking them, my blood pressure was high. Friday it was WAY high!!! I don;t feel right either. I am a strong guy and I don't feel strong.

So.......I need to get this fixed before next weekend, as it is the divisional tournament. That may be impossible, but I will try.

I hate writing about this problem. I hate showing weakness. However, this is a journal about a man my age and fencing. This is part of the story. I just hope it has a happy ending.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

shazna02....Hello Elizabeth

Elizabeth: ( I could not send you an email or post on your blog...sorry.)

  Thanks for your comment. I never really thought anyone other than a friend or two and some people from my club would read my journal. Interesting to find that you do. If you go to archives and go all the way back to my first entry in November, I have a pic there on my first entry.

I have never even seen a fencer who was six feet eight inches tall. In my notes I had these comments from the USFA discussion boards. They helped me a few times lately. A person that tall has a HUGE advantage and you may never beat him. One thing I have found is that tall guys, often never learn to fence well....they just count on being tall and fence like a newbie all the time. Go for the hand under the bell guard and straight in...over and over...don't stop.

Here is some other advice.

Best of luck!


  Fencing Taller Fencers    From USFA Boards

Note: These are not my writings, but those I copied off the USFA web sight. I had them in my notes and copied them in an effort to help this young woman. Sorry, I did not have the SN's for those that actually posted this good advice.

First, outthink him. Fencing isn't only a physical game.

Second, preparation and attacks to the hand are all important for smaller fencers. Your epee's are the same length, and that helps even out touches to the hand. Therefore attacks and preparations to the hand are key. They can get you easy touches and draw predictable reactions from you opponent.

Third, move. A lot. Being shorter, doesn't necessarily mean your faster, but your change of direction is. Getting him off balance is key to making successful attacks

Fourth, taking the blade isn't so much about strength as leverage and timing. Before you attempt to take, make sure the blade is there to be taken. Make sure you take the blade properly, and control the weak of his with the strong of yours. Strength won't matter then.

Fifth, when you try score to the body either on attacks or counters, close hard and fast. Try to use fleches, and get him when he's taking his step forward. If your go slowly you just allow him more time to use his strength and height to his advantage.

Oh, and as a taller person, I love infighting, especially against smaller fencers. I love standing tall, and making the flick to the back. So, use infighting with caution.

All of the following:

- Take the blade, even re-take the blade as necessary while gaining distance.
- Vary your distance and the length of your lunge so you're not predictable
- Set up your attack from the right distance
- Invite a stop thrust or make short attack that is parried, and make parry riposte of their stop or riposte.
- Develop really good advance-advance-lunge, balestra-lunge
- Accelerate in a compound action (get faster as you progress)

It's about bridging the distance (if attacking) so you can hit

With the tall ones, the main thing is to have extreme tempo changes. Very slow while setting up, so they get comfortable and scoot in closer while almost getting dazed. Then finish very quickly, so they're taken by surprise, and can't get the stop-hit or counter in quickly enough. Take your time with them, and don't rush it.

Also a parry-riposte with displacement of some sort right before they hit you works well too.

Speed. Get inside the opponent's guard fast. Requires excellent
footwork and timing.
* Timing. Never a bad thing for a fencer of any height.
* In-fighting. See if the instructor will show your son some in-fighting
techniques. I usually go with flying-8 and low-line 4 for shorter people.
* Defense. He'll have a smaller target area frustrating others. Get
those 4's and 6's perfected now.

Useful strategies for the short fencer include:

1. Draw the opponent's attack, then move away so as to stretch the
opponent all the way out and cause him to fall short. Then take over
the attack (maybe with a beat or other action on the blade) before the
opponent can recover and get away.

2. After doing (1) once or twice, draw the opponent's attack and
suddenly close in, parrying or avoiding the blade, creating a surprise
infighting situation at which you have the advantage. Having succeeded
with this, go back to (1). Never let the opponent know whether you're
going to go away or attack the preparation.

3. If the opponent pursues you without committing to the attack, keep as
tight a distance as you can manage without quite letting the opponent
have the distance to finish the attack. If the opponent grows
frustrated and commits anyway, good; that should be easy to parry. If
not, watch for opportunities to make a beat attack into the preparation,
or to close in with an evasive counterattack.

4. You can still make your own effective attacks, but you may need
multiple footwork -- for example, double-advance-lunge -- and you have
to be prepared to deal with a counterattack as you're on your way. If
the counterattack wouldn't hit you in time, ignore it; otherwise, justturn your attack into a beat attack.

5. Make heavy use of countertime -- inviting your opponent's
counterattack so that you can parry and riposte. Whether you score on
these ripostes or not, if your opponent becomes nervous about
counterattacking, his reach advantage is nullified.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Epee...on a a Warm Spring Day

Epee: I fenced okay. Not great...not good...but okay. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Epee is like a weekend. You look forward to it all week. I do not know if it is because it is on Friday....or if it is because of the nature of the weapon, but the class is always more laid back. It was relaxed and it was interesting. Divisional gossip is always entertaining.

I had a problem with a couple of young fencers. I got beat by one in pools. This kid is like a spassy energetic puppy with almost no fencing skill at all. Okay Jim...if that is true...why did he beat you? I think it is because of several things.

1. Fencing anyone that fences like a noob is hard. They are unpredictable.

2. Natalie told me in my CALL class that I fenced better, the better my opponent fenced. I think that often this is true and, sadly, the reverse is true.

3. These types of fencers are so bad, that you do not concentrate. You think it is a "gimme" going in. The truth of the matter is that it just does not make sense.

The other kid was smart. He remembered that I beat him to a pulp, last week because I waited to get him when he was coming in. So...he did not attack and turned the tables on me. I beat him, but it was not the thrashing Woody thought he needed. Fortunately, Woody handled the thrashing himself.

This was like a class min-tournament and I won. Obviously, that made me feel good. This might give me a little mental boost for the tournament next week. ( Provided Foil doesn't take it away.)

2 Final Things:

1. I noticed that Nicole's un guard (and Jordan's as well .....for that matter ) .....that their arms drifted in so that the outside of their forearms was visible and target Must tell coachs....must......warn fencers! Ohhhhh gahhhhh Ohhhh gah...Danger......Danger!

2. Woody and the Short Fleche: When you have a 300 pound man fleche you at short cannot power that moment to the side with the strength of your arm. At least ...I can't. This is a reminder for me.