Thursday, April 27, 2006

Zen Arrow

Everything fascinates me about fencing, however at the moment the thing I find fascinating is the thought process. More importantly, the thought process when you are fencing your best.

My new friend in the UK, finds that she can channel anger (in some form) to make herself fence better.  I have read about another person who posted on the fencingnet discussion boards, who evidently did the same thing. I can never do that. I need to be as emotion free as possible.

Evidently I have two ways mentally to do my best in a bout. One is to be in a state of flow. This is also called being in the zone. It is (to me) where there is little awareness of conscious thought or emotion. I have only experienced this twice in fencing, where it lasted the entire bout. I had it happen more than that in martial arts, but that was over an 18 year period of time. A high level fencer wrote in the fencingnet discussion boards that he found that he was most often in the zone" when he was fencing an E fencer."  I understand his point, but I believe that he merely hasn't hit one of those times yet...or can't.

The other is total concentration. This is also hard to verbalize. It is like solving a puzzle, only the information needed is coming in at a blinding speed and you are willing yourself to keep that information coming and each physical movement is based upon that input. Until the point where you close distance or your opponent closes distance. Then the whole Zen arrow thing takes over, like being in the zone.

Of course, as Sun Tzu wrote "the best way to win a battle is to be strong." Perhaps if you are technically a strong fencer and you are physically strong in all ways possible, perhaps these types of things are less noticeable...or needed. Or perhaps the thought process is so different from person to person that it is not truly something that can be discussed.

My head is starting to hurt just thinking about it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stuff in Reveiw

Friday I was given a key to the equipment lockers. It is, perhaps, our clubs highest honor.
( Read that last sentence with a snicker and a smile.) It truly was meaningful to me. It also means that I will be taking on more responsibility.

No further developments on the possibly of our club and Jen and Mat Cox joining forces, though we will be running some events together.

Epee was good as usual. Foil was pretty good as well. We worked on an old technique. "the press." I had actually used this successfully in epee fencing Eddy (A KOS fencer).
He is a D fencer and really nice guy. I always look forward to seeing him at tournaments.

Speaking of KOS, I missed their tournament this weekend as I had to work in preparation for the Furniture Market. In truth, I could have made it to the unrated sabre event, I got out of work at noon on Sunday. But with the price of gas and the fact that I was physically tired beyond the telling of it, I decided just to head home.

I have been working out in the gym. I need to concentrate on cardio. I must work on my endurance. I am taking a few days off and plan on hitting the endurance thing heavy.

There is a meeting at 5:30 tonight (before sabre) to get things organized for our RYC tournament. We will meet at Europa Cafe. I wonder if I could talk anybody into playing hooky and just staying there and drinking some wine. Probably not.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Confidence and Concentration/Focus

I am exploring one of the physiological areas of fencing for a while. ( At least until I come to some sort of conclusion.) Note: A conclusion is when you get tired of thinking about something.

In epee bouts last Friday, I became aware of how confidence and concentration effected them.

I fenced a kid, that I can easily beat. I had no focus or concentration in the match. The score was close and I was working on toe shots. ( I am poor at those and it seemed sporting.) It went la belle. He won. ( I must make a mental note to crush him next week, so he does not get the big head.) Lack of focus and concentration on my part.

I fenced another kid, who has been beating me for a long time. ( Though I have beat him our last four bouts.) My concentration and focus were total. I won.

I believe that I can only hold that level of concentration and focus for a certain amount of time. Can it be lengthened by practice, like running increases endurance?

There can be NO emotion in it. It has been my experience that when you are trying to beat some SOB that desperately deserves it, that type of concentration is counter productive.

How can I crank up the focus when it is a club match and unimportant to me? What can I do to turn it up at tournaments? Did I just imagine the impact of this in my Friday night bout?

I need to explore this for a while.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Bug Lady Speaks

Often ,when I am fencing a fast flexable kid, I feel a bit old. That feeling passes quickly if I beat him. Today I found out why.

There was a  streak of light and a swirl of glittering dust....then I heard these words:

"And, although you declare yourself to be old, you are like the "Lost Boys" from "Peter Pan" -----playing pirates, playing with swords------you will NEVER GROW UP-----you will NEVER GROW OLD!"

Thanks Tink....I feel better now!

Pardon me, I gotta go outside and strut and crow.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I had one of the best foil classes in recent memory this Monday.

My coach made his lesson plan after reading my blog. In essence he fixed foil (from my perspective) in one night. Now if we can just hold it there for a while.

I did not fence great, but I did not suck either. More importantly, it was interesting and it was fun.

This was a big deal for me. I have beat myself up over foil for a long time. I seemed to have no talent for it, The fact is that I may still have no great ability for it, but I see what has been wrong and it was not ALL me.

To recap; After I found epee I cared little for foil, other than what I could pick up and adapt to epee. As time went by, I began to admire foil. I admire how it trains you to duel and survive. I feel to become a fencer (or the fencer I wish to be) that I have to become proficient in foil. The added value is that I still believe it will improve my epee game. I feel I need a working knowledge of sabre as well, but I do not need it as urgently as I need foil.

For just a little while, I am at peace with my progress in fencing. I give it a day or two, but I will enjoy it while I can.

The High Point Furniture Market starts in less than a week. I am working late and hard. I may miss out on fencing this week and perhaps this weekend.

On a brighter note, I found out that my anniversary is not this Friday as I thought. It is next Friday.  If I do not have to work late, I can get in epee. I would so like to make that class. I am very "up" on fencing at the moment.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Warm Up for Easter

Okay...I lied. I am writing something in my journal and it is Easter. We are having seven or eight people over for Easter dinner. So, I can help clean up the house or I can hide and add an addition to my web log. If you are male, you know I made the right choice.

Yesterday I ran three miles or so and walked one. ( Read "run" as old man plodding along in an effort to look like he is running and only breaking into a full jog when he sees people on the trail.) Then I worked fairly hard in the yard and washed three cars. I also cleaned in the house. ( I told you this so I can talk about the next part. The part about cleaning the house was so that you would know that I do this and I do it often and well.)

I went to a Sabre Workshop at 2:00. It was run by Matt and Jennifer Cox. Really good sabre people and good folk all around. There was me and a half a dozen kids, whom I would guess were around 14 years old. We played a game that was sort of a cross between handball; soccer and basketball for around a half hour to warm up. To warm up.........!

In case you ever need to know, it evidently takes fourteen year old kids and twenty-something sabre coaches a hell of a lot longer to warm up than a guy that will be fifty-four in a bit over a month. I am red faced and sweating. I think one kid had a tiny strand of hair that was damp. Jen had a baby not to long ago and it is no wonder she is getting her figure back so quickly. I was impressed.

Now we do drills for a half hour. Mostly foot work at first, then blade work. The workshop is two hours long. Sadly, at one hour, Jim has had enough. I felt like a wuss. I also felt smart enough to know when to throw in the towel. It was a mixed bag. I hated I did not get to fence or get a private lesson, but I had NOTHING left.

I told you this, so I can talk about the next part.

We have a couple of guys around my age in the club. I have noticed a pattern in warming up. First, it pays to come in late. If these guys come in late, they do not help with the mats. ( We share space with a gymnastic club and we have to move these heavy mats.) Then, they can get dressed slowly and miss the foot work warm ups. If they play it right, they can just join in as the drills have been going on for a few minutes. This leaves them with enough energy to make it through drills and have something left for bouting. I do not do this myself. ( Not often anyway.) I feel obliged to come in and help with the mats. I do however, look for ways to pace myself in the warm ups. I rest at every opportunity.

Editors Note: As far as warm ups go, I hate the "glove game." If you are playing the glove game with a glove, I think you screw up new students. They all have distance problems and then you give them a drill that requires them to be to close! I have often sworn I will not do this anymore, but it never fails that I feel that I must. The glove game with weapons is a different story.

We have women around my age in the club as well. Like all things women do, I am never sure about what is actually happening. The women are in a lot better shape than the guys my age. I do not think that they intentionally plan to be late to warm ups. However they are generally yacking and slow to get dressed. Thus they are slow to join in the warm ups. They are slow to get undressed and help put the room back in order. This to is the result of the womanly love of conversation. Or is it!?!? I do not know for sure, but I am about to know. One of these women reads my blog now. I am sure that I will catch "heck" over something I wrote. Yes, I am screwing up again. But if a man can't express himself in his own journal, then where can he?

Time to clean. I will try to work in another run. I evidently need to wok on my endurance.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bunny Ears and Time Off From Fencing..Not Work

Foil: The French grips held delicately with thumb and fore finger…..the other fingers just “aids” The light grip gives way to speed of attack and subtle beats and blade work using finesse  rather than strength.


I have heard this. I have read this. I have rarely seen this.  Many of the people in our club have a death grip on their weapon. Their nerves are coiled and their arms tense as iron. There is strong and wide flailing, followed by moving out of distance and then repeating the process. Even if I had the ability to fence this weapon well, I could not. I see no way for a delicate grip to match the strong armed panicky flails. You are forced to fence the same way.


I look at the slender blade of a foil and see that it was never intended for this type of action. Give me an epee blade. If you want to use force in that weapon, I can generally give as good as I get.


Henri's bunny ears are the only thing that made foil tolerable. Gosh..... it was awful.


Tonight is my wife's birthday, so no sabre for Jim. Our anniversary this month falls on epee night. I have already discussed this with Anne. As long as she gets a fancy dinner out some place, she does notcare what night it is on. The beauty of being married for twenty-six years.( I think it is might be 27. I need to look it up.)


I might run over to the club and borrow some sabre stuff. Matt and Jen are having a weekend workshop. If I don't have to work, I may go.
Good Friday means epee is canceled.
Unless I go to the workshop, I am closing my journal for the Easter holidays. I may not have a holiday, but I will take one from the journal. Sometimes it seems like work.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Jim's Week in Review

Jim's Week in Review:

I did well in sabre. I did very well in epee last night and I think my confidence is returning. Fortunately I have foil to balance this out, so I do not get overconfident. Why is that weapon so hard for me? Did my love of epee turn me into a person that just can't deal with that type of ROW? I think the difference is that sabre is over so quick. In foil, I find myself consciously thinking about ROW and ...Do I have it? This can't be good. It is to slow a thought process.

If I do not have to work (High Point Furniture Market is in two weeks) I am thinking about going to a KOS tournament and fencing (god help me) sabre. It might be time to see what that is like in a strange tournament environment and to also see how refs that I am unfamiliar with call things. In essence it would be a class.

I just reread the part above about seeing how other refs call things. Is that part of the joy of epee? Is epee TRULY truth? I don't know how much that enters into it. I think it is more how the there are opportunities of the moment and how it flows from defensive to offensive. I think trying to figure out  why you have a love for epee is like trying to figure out the meaning of life.

On that note, I think I have to go with Kurt Vonnegut's meaning of life.

"You are put on this earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you any different>'

Editors Note: I do not have that quote in front of me, but it is words to that effect.







Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Oh Baaaaayyy-beee I knooooowwwwww...

One of my coaches was trying to emphasize to newer students that in a tournament situation (I believe he was referring primarily to pools) that each touche is important.


Within the club, we fence each other constantly. Often there are new people or children. Rightly or wrongly, you “cut them some slack.” I have read in at least one fencing book that every time you go to the strip, you should fence your very best. I do not agree. In a club environment, there are people you just need to take it easy on. It is the right thing to do. Period.


 In pools in tournaments, never go easy on someone. I agree with this as well. Every touché is important. I also agree with this; however I believe that some touches are more important than others.


I believe that (We are of course talking epee here.) that the first touché is the most important. If you are fencing in pools and you get the first a touché and you can somehow run around for the rest of the three minutes… win! The odds of this happening are remote. If you get the first and touché then go for the double for the next four (successfully) you win. This can happen. I couldn't do it, but I am sure there are people that could. If the bout goes to la belle (4-4), then, in essence, the next touché IS the first touché. Anytime you are tied, then it is the first touché.


Not getting the first touché is not the end of the world. It snaps you into reality and you fence harder to catch up and pass your opponents score. But no matter how you look at it, the pressure is off the person with the first touch and on the one with no touch, even if it is for only a few seconds.

I have always wanted to try one of those tournaments where epee is fenced to one touch. I bet that puts a whole new slant on things.


If we were talking about saber, I guess you could sing…” The first cut is the deepest….Oh, Baby I know….”


That sounds more amusing in my mind than it does on paper and it wasn't that good in my mind.







Saturday, April 1, 2006


Hi Kathy:

I am always amazed when I find that someone reads my journal. However, if you are close to 50, I can understand it in a way. You feel like you are the only one that started this late......but fortunately this is not the case. I meet more and more of them these days. It use to be that when a 50 vet joined our club, I tried to not get attached, as I figured they would only be around a couple of months. Now, we have quite a lot of Vets in the club, and more important........they are SERIOUS about it!

I am truly happy that you are having fun and loving fencing the way I do. ( Okay...I beat myself up over it now and then.......but ...I still love it and the challenge.)

I am sending you this same post via e-mail. Fill free to drop me a line sometime. I would like to hear about your progress. If you need to vent that is okay as well.