Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ode to an Old Friend

Weathered and worn,
scared and torn.
Each scratch an opponent tried,
each mark a touch denied.

Sense I started fencing, I have always loved old battle scared bell guards and weapons. I love them like I love antique furniture that has been polished so often that the once sharp edges are now rounded and soft. I love them like I love stone stone streets in Paris that have been made smooth by centuries of rain and steps of countless leather soled boots.

It is some how different when I look at a weapon though. You can hear the solid "THUNK" of the hit blocked by the bell guard and you will find remnants of those sounds recorded there in almost perfect circles.

I have a goodly number of weapons, but I have one I love above all the others. It is a Leon Paul epee. Nothing expensive about it, except perhaps a bit more for the leather grip. It is the first Leon Paul weapon I ever owned.

The orange colored leather of the French grip that was once monotone is now burnished black on the edges, like the leather on a 18th century gentleman's writing desk top. Even the tip is scared and dented from it's own attempts to breach walls of bell guards.

The cant on this weapon is perfection. It is severe, but legal. People often comment on it and most like it.

This weapon has a name. I remember giving him the name when talking to a small boy on strip. It was a joke to put him at ease and make the blade ( and me ) seem less threatening. My blades  name is "Mr. Pointy". When you say the name, you need to have the slight sound of a Muppet character in your voice......or perhaps Kermit the frog. ( Just slightly )

Sense that time, several people in the club have come to know the name of this weapon and when I say the name or make comments about Mr. Pointy, it tends to bring a smile.....even to me.

That weapon and I fenced a lot of people last season. I would say we are brothers-in-arms , though in actuality, he IS the arm.

When I look at him, I see myself. Weathered....not in the best shape....but still functional and eager to go to the strip.

I fenced a little last night. I have a more expensive Leon Paul weapon with a pistol grip I used to practice. After pools we did " King of the Mountain " on strip. It was then I placed the pistol grip back in the bag and invited my old friend to join me.

Mr. Pointy needs some work. His tip needs to be replaced. It might even be time to replace the bell guard, though I would loath to do so. I have even thought of buying a new one, just like him and praying that I could adjust the cant on it, without breaking the tang. They seem to be welded on to the blade these days. I think about doing this and I feel like I would be betraying a friend. I know how silly that sounds, yet I can not help but feel that way. Perhaps, I could view it as semi-retirement and bring out Mr. Pointy for special occasions.

For now though......for now..... I will replace his tip and steel wool his blade ( perhaps with a drop of oil....he likes that).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Last Kid

I drove to UNC tonight to fence. There were four people fencing epee, but I never got to fence anyone. It was a waste of time and gas.

There were 2 A's. They would not have enjoyed fencing me. There was B foilist fencing epee and some tall guy I did not know. I might have given them a run for their money.

I felt like the last kid picked on the playground for roller bat.

I needed Henri. Henri is cute and I can troll with her and get some one to fence with me.

Oh least that is over for a few weeks before it starts back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who Do We Serve?

I was thinking to day about an old Bob Dylan song that asked " who do you serve?"

In September, a lot of things COULD happen that involve my little fencing club," The Downtown Fencing Club." I am presently a member of three clubs...or two.....or maybe just one. I am a member of the NCFDP , which will stop in August and start again in September. I am/was a member of Mid-South Fencing, though they have moved to Durham and are really a sabre club. I joined that club to work with Coach Miller, who teaches at NCFDP so I could try to improve in my beloved epee. In September, coaches from MSF COULD teach sabre at the DFC. Coach Miller COULD teach epee at the DFC. Either the DFC would merge with MSF OR contract out ( meaning hire ) these higher level coaches and the DFC would get .....well.....higher level coaching. I really have no idea how this will all play out and there are so many factors. There are a great number of factors that could derail the whole thing. In fact, if I were betting, I would bet that something would happen to make this not work out.....but it could.

The whole thing boggles the mind and it is more than I feel like writing about. I wrote about the above, so I could write about this:

Who do we serve? The DFC has three types of fencers.  We have recreational fencers, who really don't think much about competing outside of the club. They fence for fun and are not all that serious about it. There is nothing wrong with this. They are having fun and that is a fine goal. There are some people that work fairly hard and try and find ways to improve themselves. They compete anywhere from "some" to a "great deal." ( I think I fall into this category. ) And then there are people that are sort of in between the two groups.

I will not break things down by ages or by people that are only going to fence for a couple of months and then hang it up. I will just stick with the three groups listed above.

The area where I live is a cluster of three medium sized to small towns. There are many small towns between and surrounding the larger Triad of cities. If you look at this as one geographical location, there are close to a million and a half people in the area. That should generate a fair amount of people that would be interested in fencing

The DFC is one of only two clubs in the area. I really do not know much about Delta H, besides the fact that they fence dry and do work with the high schools. However, for this journal entry I am going to pretend that the DFC is the only club in the area. The DFC is a fairly low level club in foil and sabre and perhaps an intermediate level club in epee. ( Others may see it differently.)

The question is, who do we serve? The present unpaid and all volunteer staff is doing the best they can with what they have, but it is becoming a strain to continue in some regards. I would guess we are around 35 students. Though looking at attendance this summer, I wonder if we have not lost some of that number. I will assume that there are that many for this post. Who do we serve?

I would guess at the most 6 people from the club could be said to compete often. I wonder if it is those six people that think that bringing in higher level coaches is best for the club. Or is it best for the community? I do notsee it being all that much benefit to the recreational fencers. Who do we serve?

There is a Scottish saying that states: He is the slave of all slaves that serves none but himself.

Do I want these high powered coaches because that is what is best for me? Or does it really serve the fencers of the Triad? I have no clue.

No matter how this all plays out, I will find away to find some higher level coaching. I am not worried about it. I am concerned on what the right thing is for the community.

Sometimes you just have to trust to Karma.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Coach Jim Ponders the Future

Friday night I coached epee at the "Y". In this particular case, coaching = " I can pass for a responsible adult".

As usual during the summer, attendance was low. There were only eight of us. That was fine. We did about five minutes of footwork and then set up the strips and fenced. It was very "laid back". I used just enough of the "Daddy voice" to keep things under loose control. I enjoyed it.

A friend of mine from work stopped by. He lives downtown. I felt cool being the coach. While I am certified as a low level foil coach, I feel that should I ever coach for real, that it should be epee. I do not know if that will ever happen. I could see myself as an assistant coach in the future...perhaps. But that is a ways down the road and I have not met my self imposed goals of ratings on strip and reffing that I must have before I think about such things. Right now, I need to BE coached.

My world of fencing is North Carolina. Depending on who you are, you could say a lot of things about our Division....both pro and con. I do not get into those types of debates. I am a realist and this Division IS my world...for good or bad. There are some good things here. There are some good coaches...even excellent coaches. There are some high powered winning clubs and then there are some clubs with a strong sense of "family". I cannot express my views on the nation, but I can on the Division. There are not many people that fenced in more tournaments in our state last year than me. I do not mean anything great about me fencing in a lot of NC tournaments last is just a fact. One of the reasons I fenced in so many Divisional tournaments was that I thought it would help me improve. Perhaps it did.....perhaps it just reinforced bad habits. It is a lot like taking vitamins....some say it is good for you.....but when you take them you don't really see any difference. Perhaps you might feel a difference if you stopped taking them.

I just decided to start a whole new paragraph because the previous one was just rambling around and I had a point to be made.

~ clears his throat and begins again ~  I matter what anyone says...that the number of fencers is diminishing. I base that solely on observation in my Division and occasional poking around on Ask Fred. I will assume for a moment that I am correct. Hey...It could happen!

Do I care?: Yes...I do care. I want the sport to grow a bit and continue. More importantly....I hope to be one of the people in the Division that has been fencing a long time....someday. When you start as late in life as I have , that is a goal unto itself.

What can I do about it?: I have no idea. Other than to help some of the kids in the club to have fun doing this, I can't think of much. I wear my ever growing collection of fencing T-shirts, but I am not so sure that I am a good bill board for the sport. I really can't think of much our Division can do to promote the sport either.

Trust to fate?: I read somewhere of late that in the future less known sports would become more popular. I have no idea why they thought that, but it makes sense that things will not stay they same. They never have. 2008 is the time of the Olympics. That may generate some interest. If I/we just had an idea to incorporate with 2008 and the Olympics, we could piggy back off the interest it would generate to help the sport. Sadly, nothing is coming to mind.

I think this fall I will borrow a box and fence some in the park. That is not only fun, people get to see it. It is lame...I know....but I would be doing something to help and having a good time doing it.

Sadly, this is not the most poorly written post I have ever put in my journal. I am going to leave it the way I wrote it. It was taking up valuable wrinkle space in my brain and must have been of some importance to me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bastille Day

I fenced in my first outdoor tournament this weekend. It was hosted by Salle New Bern. Every club in our Division has it's own personality. These are some courteous and friendly people. They are not in a heavily populated area , yet they have a good sized club. I would say that is a testament to the kind of people they are.

There were some interesting things about this tournament. It was of course, outside at the coast, in the middle of the summer. It was a " Bastille Day" tournament. But it was the little things that were strange.

It was hot, but no hotter than the UNC gym ( prior to the AC they are getting ) and was not as hot as "Blades at the Beach" which was an indoor tournament.

Up until this tournament I had never parked 20 feet from a strip. I had never worn sunglasses to the strip. ( Some folks fenced with them on. I thought about it, but did not want to start fencing and find it was a bad idea.)

I also had never fenced on a strip like this. It was artificial turf with strip markings over grass. There had been a hard rain during the night and both surfaces were wet. You were warned at the beginning of the tournament that flesching and going off strip might be dangerous. ( Meaning you were likely to bust your butt.) You could not move very fast on strip with foot work. Of course neither could your opponent, so it all worked out.

I never got sunburned at a tournament before either. There were many firsts.

I did not fence all that well, but I had a good time. I came in 8th out of 20 fencers. I started to write that I finished in the top eight, which sounds sooooo much better if you don't mention the number of people . About seven folks who pre-registered did not show.

I think I need to work on a parry 4 in opposition. I want to work on a parry that does not pull the tip across my body. I figure If I do a itty-bitty-inquartta at the same time it might work. The foot movement I thought had some merit from last week has none that I can see. It was a fluke...I think.

I liked the town of New Bern. I always feel at home near the sea. It is an old town and there are beautiful old buildings there. Some of the buildings are from the Colonial era. I hope I can find the time to return there and look around.

The links above are to Woody's web site who also fenced at the tournament. If you visit his web site, there are pictures of the event. The handsome gentleman sitting next to a red cooler and pampering " Mr. Pointy" is me.

Fencing Woody in DEs was one of the only bad things that happened this weekend. I wrestled with the idea about writing about a ref there ( Not from Salle New Bern) that has absolutely no people skills and should never be allowed to ref again, but I am not going to go into detail. And no....he did not make bad calls against me, he made them against the guy I was fencing. I have been subjected to his snotty attitude before. I have always tried to maintain peace and restraint when dealing with another club member, however, one more word out of this guy and I am going to his ass.

Henri was there, but I only got to see her fence her last bout in pools and DE. I was proud of her in the pool bout. She fenced a ECU fencer who was at least a foot taller than she was and the bout went 4-5. She is like a "hobbit fencer"...small ....but valiant.

After the tournament, I had lunch with the DFC people and Woody's parents. They were gentle people. We had lunch and walked around for a short while. It was a nice time.

All to soon it was time to go. I went to my house on the coast and worked on my lawn mower. I did a few chores and mowed the yard. I had a nice walk on the beach. Henri called and we met so we could caravan home. At a rest stop just outside of Greensboro we stopped for the last time to say good bye. As fate would have it, Woody pulledup at the very same time.  The musketeers gathered one last time before heading home.

It was a great weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bird...Plane....No..It is the Graaaaay Eppppaaaaay

Tonight I pack to go fence outside on the North Carolina coast. It is going to be warm.

I will do all the things I usually do. Check my tip screws and body cords. I fold them neater before a tournament. I take some steel wool and clean the blades and bell guards a bit.

This week I have been preparing from a heat and hydration stand point. Some of it is from things I have read and some of it I am experimenting on myself. If you are older; over weight ; take blood pressure meds and are going to drink coffee before you fence then you are at greater risk for problems. Lets see....check...check...check.....and check.

I am drinking Gator-aid and Gator-aid-like drinks now. (Prior to competition.) This is something I learned from Coach Miller. I am also drinking pomegranate and blueberry juice. I started drinking that stuff over a year ago after reading an article in Men's Health on the benefits of pomegranate juice. I have forgotten what those benefits  were supposed to be. I did not notice anything. However, it has a lot of potassium in it and it taste what the heck!

I am going to stop taking my meds for two days prior to the tournament. My blood pressure is not that bad. It is pre-hypertension, so I think it will be okay. I will take a low does aspirin in stead.

Okay....none of that is why I entered this post. I had planned to bring extra T-shirts to change into between pools and DE's. Now there are a lot of people my age that are slow to change their ways and habits. I think this is mostly true in food and technology. I , however , have made the biggest jump sense my MP-3 player. I bought those tight-ass T-shirts that wick away moisture.
Okay...the two I got are not all that tight. I just did not feel right in the one I tried on. Now I know what you are thinking....55 year old tight wonder you did not buy it.
That is NOT why I did not buy the skin tight one...oh no. You may not believe this, but it is true ( at least from my own perception)......I looked like a frickin' super hero!!!!!!!!!! No...I swear. Okay...middle aged super hero...but super hero non-the-less. I have big shoulders and a pretty big chest. When I put that thing on and held every thing up and in!!!! I could not believe it!!!!! It lifted and shaped my pecs...held things in that like to be out...I could not believe it!!! I think part of it was the light. I use to belong to a gym where the florescent light made my body look better than any other place. Something about the shadows..I don't know. I give you my word....that is the way it appeared to me.

However, I could see myself out in public with my fencing jacket off. I would be tired and forget to hold things up and in. I would just be a silly gray haired guy. Ijust could not do it.

The other shirts I got are still the kind that wick away moisture and one is sleeveless. I think that is daring enough. I am glad I tried that other shirt on though and I secretly wish ( though not so secretly now ) that they had one made like a super hero. I would have bought it and tried it on at home, to see if the magic worked....or better yet...tell my kids that I am going to wear it when we go out in public. All these years and I can still think of new ways to torment my children. I should write a book. They should be shared with other fathers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I fenced last night in Chapel Hill.

Jen had returned from Nationals and she and Luis had escaped the house for a bit. It was good to see both of them. There is a possibility they may have their own space in a few months. I know they would like that. From a personal prospective, I would like to see that happen as well. Maybe luck would favor me and it would be on the Greensboro side of Durham.

Coach Miller return from Nationals. It was good to see him. Hence forth I will just refer to Coach Miller as "Coach". You say say " Coach" in this state ( within the fencing community ) and everyone knows it is him. He volunteered to come teach an epee class at the "Y" for the DFC. He wanted to come tomorrow, but it is sabre night. He may be able to come on Friday of next week. It is a little "iffy" but it could work out. I think that would be not only educational, but fun. We will see if this works out.

I had a private lesson with Coach and we actually talked a bit before it began. We talked about my job. That was nice. My foot landed to early on my lunge sometimes. I need to work on that. That is something that I had known about. I also pulled my arm back a bit when I disengaged from eight and attacked. That worries me. I need to work on this.

I fenced Bill , who is only a couple of years younger than me. Prior to January, I use to give Bill a run for his money and sometimes beat him when we fenced. He leaned a lot in the last six months, much to my chagrin. The last two times we fenced, I hardly got a touch. He mentioned I was telegraphing my attacks. I wonder if it is the arm pulling back thing, or because he is so tall that I have to start my attack from out of distance...or both...or another thing all together. Yes...I do tend to analyzed these sort of things.

Henri is having problems with her lunge. We think these are things she started doing during her bad foot injuries. I am going to watch her and she will watch me. We will try to fix each other as best we can.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mario Envy

I experimented with some foot work and shoulder placement Friday night. I tried it on Woody and Cam. The results were good. I need to test this out a bit more, before adding it to my bag of tricks. It could have been a fluke.

I have a " fluke move". I have used it twice , but it was more a " scramble to recover move " than one that can be planed out. I once tried to do an attack on the blade that would take it to the floor. Sadly, the person saw me pull back to get the power ( meaning I gave the attack away...I might as well have told them what I was going to do.) and moved his/her blade out of the way. ( absence of blade ) Because I used a French grip, I let the momentum carry my blade all the way around in a complete circle and caught my opponent on the arm as they sought to take advantage of my goofy missed attack. It must look flashy, from the noise the crowds made when I did this. I took the same attitude that my cat " Buster " does when is fat fluffy butt falls off a table......................." I meant to do that."

I really did not start this post to write about those things. I wanted to write about Mario. He is leaving to go to Coaches College to take Epee 1. I so wish I was going with him. I think it is because Coaches College was such a great experience. I do not think it would make me a better epeeist. ( Though it could not hurt.) I would not want to do it, so that I could be a coach. ( Though I might want to coach epee someday...and to have that under my belt would be great!)
I have the money to do this, but I do not have the time. It is hard to say just why I would love to be going with Mario. I have thought about it and I can not lay my finger on the reason. It is more than having another certificate to frame and hang on the wall. ( Though I went to Coaches College a year ago, I just framed and hung my certificate  a few moments ago.) I think the only people that would understand the experience are the people that have been. It is like traveling to other countries. You can not share your experience ( truly) with some one that has not been there.

My family ( except one daughter) is leaving for Columbia ( the country) tomorrow. I hate that I am not going with them. I fear for them. I am well traveled in Latin America ( as well as Asia) and have seen some bad things there. I know some of what to watch for and I am ever vigilant. My family would not notice a twenty dollar bill laying on the den floor. They are not aware of their environment. I will try to take my mind off their travel with fencing. I hope to fence Monday, in some respect and Tuesday or Thursday at Chapel Hill. I fence outside on the sweltering North Carolina coast next weekend. I will focus on these things and try not to worry.

In closing.....Good luck and safe journeys to my friend Mario. I envy you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Not Productive

Last Friday Evening:

I fenced at the "Y". We had a team event. I do not remember how it all went down. I know that I got beat once by Trev. It was a five point match. He beat me soundly. I noticed something. Trev is the only person that has beat me lately at club and not shown any satisfaction in it. Now part of that is that Trev can mask his emotions when he wants to do so. Or perhaps he is like me and does not gain satisfaction or joy from beating someone at DFC. It use to be a goal for me. Someone beat me...or there is person at club whom I hardly ever beat and I want to go after.........but this no longer happens. In fact, in some cases I think I may have become the goal. Five point club bouts.....they do not tell much, particularly if you are working on something. I use to think they did, but they do not. I could not seem to focus the way I should last Friday. I am not sure how to get this back.

I am working on making a broken blade into a training tool so that you can only do takes with the strong part of the blade. I have given some thought to only fencing with it next Friday. ( Should I get it fixed in time.) I have given some thought to just being someones target on strip. If I can stay on strip for a certain amount of time, with out the other person scoring five touches...then in my mind...I will win.

Monday Evening:

I met Henri early and we studied for her test at Coaches College. I went with her to foil and we worked on some drills for a while. There was not much going on there and it took a real long time to get things started. I left early and went home to take care of a few things. I did not fence. I just helped with Henri's drills for a while. The studying part was useful to me. There are a number of things I am forgetting and I need to review. Margret was back from fencing camp, but I did not see her fence or anyone work with her. I do not know her well, but she seems to be a smart kid.


I drove to Chapel Hill to fence, though it went like I suspected it would. Josh was there, but injured and Courtney was sick. There was no one there....almost. Everyone was at Nationals or vacation or something. So, rather than keep them there, I headed to Franklin Street and got something to eat and called it a night. I will try again next week. I want to fence in the heat to help adjust to the New Bern tournament. I will try some of my hydrating and stay cool plans as well.

Not a very productive week of fencing so far.