Thursday, February 28, 2008

Music Vid with Epee

  A music video with male doubles from the UT-Austin team. You need quicktime. Enjoy!

 Lance Armstrong has a role as the Master.

" I Could Fence With That"

Last night after many many modifications and after a lot of time and money, Coach Miller held my pistol grip epee and and gave it the highest praise a weapon can receive......." I could fence with that".

It is the only pistol grip that I have adjusted so far. Also, so far, I only use it for lessons with Coach Miller. Once in a while I will use it when I am fencing kids, so that I can try and work my way toward using these types of grips.

However, when I am fencing in a tournament I rely on the reach and comfort of my French grips.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


This was a different kind of week in fencing for me, though they all seem to have a unique flavor of late. Work/travel caused me to miss a couple of nights. I did not go to UNC and fence yet again.

Wednesday, I had a good group lesson with Coach Miller. His girl friend came and watched. She seems really nice.

Saturday evening, I went to the grand opening of Mid-South fencing in Durham. They had sabre finals from a tournament that day. There was a brief dedication of the facility. They (all involved) had worked hard and were rightfully proud of their efforts. There were “kickin’” munchies and drinks. I had a new beer for me, which I think was called “Santa Fe”.  It sure hit the spot. Nice tables, nice music….nice people. The art work around the place added a uptown flavor to the salle. I thought it was a class act.

A broad spectrum of people showed up for the celebration. Many did not have to be there. People are often quick to point out flaws in our Division. However, there were representatives from many clubs there. It should not go unnoticed when we as a Division are supportive and do the right thing. So, I am pointing it out.

Brian Toomey had some encouraging words for me that evening. I want go into it, but it meant a lot. He did not have to say those things, but he went out of his way to do so. He referred to me as a “new coach”. I tend never to think of myself that way. I don’t know enough yet. I am a helper.

It was a nice evening.

Sunday (today) I fenced in the open epee event of the tournament. I did not do very well, but I had a good time. That is my objective these days. An added bonus is that I am getting time on strip with different fencers. So, I am looking at the next couple of tournaments as training for one later in the season. There are not many people that fence in Greensboro any more. Most of our students are 10 to 12, with the odd adult beginner thrown in. We have lost a lot of our teenagers of late, due to them heading to college or pursuing other interest. We do not have many people that compete regularly and we are going to have to rebuild. Oddly enough, when we brought in some higher level coaching, it sort of changed the social element of the club and we lost some of our more recreational members. It is my hope that our small band of volunteers can some how build a decent fencing community in the Triad. I hope we can.

Back to the Mid-South tournament. Yeah....I ramble.

In my pool of seven, I won three and lost three. (Pretty mediocre.) It was interesting though. I lost my first bout to a young guy I did not take seriously enough and I did not warm up enough. Or…he could have just gotten a lot better sense the last time I fenced him. (Who knows?) I lost 5-4. I fenced an “A” fencer and got waxed 5-1. I was feeling a bit low, but then I won my next three bouts. One of these fencers always seemed a bit scary to me. It felt good to win that one. I then got beat by a State fencer. There was a screw up and one of my pool bouts was over looked, so I had to fence the last two pool bouts back to back. Hey...those things happen. I had fenced this kid from State before in DE's and beat him just a couple of months ago. I think two things contributed to this loss. (Okay…it could be a lot of things, but here are two that come to mind.) I should have taken two minutes to rest and not tried to be all macho and not slow down the event. If this happens again, I will not make that mistake. Another thing is the strip. It is narrow and has a brick wall beside it. Matt was the ref and he was constantly trying to get people to fence in the center of the strip. There was the odd brick wall touch now and then and I guess he was trying to avoid that. I don’t have a problem with the brick wall. I think it ads character. In a club in Wilmington, there is a beam that runs across the strips and is a bit low. That was the last tournament I fenced in we had to ref out of pools. I watched the strip mostly and for floor and toe touches. It did not occur to me there would be floor hits on a beam. After one touch like that, it added a element of interest to reffing the bouts. But…….I digress. The last time I beat this kid from State, I used the strip. He is left handed and I would suck up against my left hand side of the strip. This puts us at the same distance as a right hander versus a right hander. Left handers have a distance advantage because they do not have to deal with the lesser distance caused by right handers angle of attack. This young man would also try to correct the fighting line and I would sometimes nail him when he tried to make the change to my fighting line. I should mention at this point that what I just wrote is some low level thinking and does not hold any value against more experienced people. It just worked on this kid. I should also mention that I doubt any decent coach would buy into my thinking here. You close one door, you open another. All I know is it worked on this guy before, but I could not use it on him this time.

To recap: I lost to a U and a A and E. I beat two Ds and a U. I don't see a real pattern there.

After my lack luster pool, I was ranked 19th out of 33 fencers. (I think. I need to double check the results when they come out.)

On to DEs.

I wasfacing the guy ranked 14th. Esteban?  I had fenced him before at a tournament at State and he ate my lunch that day. It was a really good bout. In the first three minutes, he lead….I lead.we caught up…I took the lead by one…he took the lead by one. It was nip and tuck. I like those kinds of bouts. Of course I like it when I just beat the tar out of some one as well.  So in the first three minutes the score ended 12-11. At this point there was a one minute break and things went south after my opponent had coaching.  And...... I was done for the day. His coach came by (Gerhard) and told me that he had coached him and told him that when I lifted my blade to wait for me to lower it and take it in four. It was nice of him to come by and tell me that. My coach told me, that I was doing well against a young guy and that my hair looked good…. even sweaty. That was nice, but not nearly as effective advice as my opponent got. ( I should mention, I was hot as hell, but my endurance was better. So…Yay!)

And...... I am done for the day.

The Mid-South people have done a good job fixing up their space. It is not yet complete, but is a work in progress. I know this. I suspect after having their tournament they will have noticed several things that they might want to address.

If Matt reads this, I am going to put out two little things that no one else will mention.

Remember the brick wall strip I wrote about? I had a weapon that failed a shim test. It was confiscated and placed up against the brick wall and the tip dropped down between thegap in the wood floor and the brick wall. It was wedged there when I went to retrieve it and my tip was sand papered with brick. Not a good look. There needs to be some quarter round molding there. A shim will fall there or something someday. Sometimes I get this stuff for free. If I do I will snag some for the project.

Also, there needs to be hooks in the changing rooms and bath rooms. Okay…not many places do that, but would be a nice cheap touch. If I find some of those for free and I might have some….I will send them down.

Nice club…good weekend.

Gray Epee …over and out. Well...maybe not. This might be continued.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This weekend I went to JO's and watched Nicole fence. I did a bit of shopping. I hung out with my friends. I got two foils repaired at the event. ( I am not certain this means I want to fence foil. It more than likely means I can't stand having weapons that are not in good repair. I think I have one Allstar epee that needs work and they will all be functional.)

I saw people I had not seen in a while. Some remembered  me and some didn't.

I watched some good fencing. I watched some interesting fencing. They are not always the same thing.

When I got home, my nineteen year old son asked to have a talk with me in private.

One of the things he addressed was that I was spending to much time fencing. He mentioned this out of concern for his mother. I respect the fact that he did so.

The next morning I had a talk with Anne. I have had this talk many times, but I needed to check again. No...She is not upset at the amount of time I am putting into fencing. She knows that I have to have something to obsess over. I have to have something I can study. So, she is supportive.

Then I look around at all the projects I have to do around the house. There are weeks and weeks of work here. It is hard enough to get the regular weekend chores done, much less the bigger extra projects of painting and handyman work.

Not only that, but at the moment I have three houses. I have my own. I have my Dads, which I have had for 10 months and have not got it ready to put on the market. ( Spring is the time to sell a house.) I also have half a beach house. It needs work as well. Where the heck does a regular guy find time for that! Much less a guy who claims to be obsessed with fencing.

I am racked with guilt.

For a change, there are three tournaments back to back for the next three weekends. Two are close by and and one is near my beach house.

I don't know what to do. I could stop fencing and be guilt free, but not be happy. I can fence and feel guilty and not be happy. I can try and balance all aspects of my life and fail.....and you guessed it....not be happy. I am just in a bad place right now. A really bad place.

How in the heck do people do all the right things? How do they do everything they are supposed to do?

How can you eat right and exercise everyday. Clean the house and cars, plan for retirement, spend time with your family, follow your dreams and give your career a 110%. Pay your bills on time and take good care of your teeth. Don't forget to floss. Check on the kids, strip some old wall paper and paint a few bedrooms. Re do a bath room and figure out what to do about your crab grass and bad boards on your porch. As well as get a plumber, electrician and cable guy out to your house.

I could just keep going and going.

I always want to do the right thing. It just seems so often that I have not. How do people do it? How do fencers do it?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Coach Miller

Coach Miller

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Change the Cant

I am close he says.  The cant needs to be a bit more down and out.

I am going to fix one darn weapon till he likes it

Monday, February 11, 2008

Coach Miller Style Epee Grip....Well...Maybe It Is...I May Find Out Wednesday

Tonight I free fenced. I tried out my modified Coach Miller-like pistol grip. I will not find out until the next time I see him if it needs further adjustment.

This was the most expensive weapon I owned and my only FIE weapon. ( Not that International competition is in the forecast in this life time.) Between shipping it to an armorer and his cost I added half it's cost again to the price of the weapon. ( This is because of a problem I had when I tried to modified it myself.)

I fenced a 15 point bout with it and at the end of it I felt like my arm was going to fall off.
When I first started fencing I would hold the weapon so tight that I would develop a pain between my bicep and triceps. It is pretty common. But I got that same thing when I fenced with this grip. ( My foot work was sloppy as well....but that is another story.)

I don't know if I can fence with the darn thing. I will see how it goes when I have lessons.
It may be that I have to switch to this thing gradually.

When I fenced with my French grip, I was fine and moved better. I guess it is a comfort issue.

I don't know about this new pistol grip. I will keep trying. The only good thing about it is that I doubt any other human being would ever want to borrow it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Link to Pictures of The Duke Facility

This is the link to photos of the Duke University facilities for fencing. (if you are interested)

It will have to do until I can get my photos here and go into more detail.

The pictures do not do it justice.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Different Week...Great Saturday

This was a different kind of week.

Monday I went to sabre to free fence with Nicole. She needs to practice before the Junior Olympics next weekend. She got to practice and I got some strip time.  I worked on different techniques and I did not fence to win, but it was great. I needed that. Some people will argue that you should always fence to win, but I do not think this is the case.

Wednesday Anne ( my wife) had to go to the hospital. She was having bad pain. They could not find the cause. If Anne is hurting, it must be some god awful pain because she can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. She came home from the hospital. She told me to go fence and my daughters came over to keep an eye on her.

Coach Miller did not show for class on Wednesday. That was fine, as we all got in some strip time. I felt good to be able to do this and again I worked on different attacks and counters.

Early Thursday morning Anne woke me up to take her to the hospital again. This time we found she had an ovarian cyst and a kidney infection and some other stuff. I took her home around lunch time, but did not go to UNC and fence. It was time to stay home and make sure she was okay.

Also on Thursday, I got my epee I had an armorer fix. I have modified the grip to be like Coach Millers. I am anxious to see if he likes it. He will not say it is good. If he does like it ,he will say, " I could fence with that." That is the highest compliment you can get on your weapon. I got that on a French grip already. If Ron blesses my weapon or says that it is okay, I will fix another weapon to this type of modified pistol grip.

I stayed home again on Friday night, even though Tommy was in town and I really would have liked to fence him. I like to measure myself against him and I never have to hold back. Oh well.....there are some things more important than fencing. That sounds so wrong when I read it....but it is true.

Anne is greatly improved, so on Saturday. I am clear to go to Duke and watch my first NCAA fencing tournament. It was great in all respects. If you have never done this before, you should. I felt like today was a whole new lesson in fencing. That is the wonderful thing about fencing.....there is ALWAYS lots to learn.

I met Henri in Burlington and we drove down together. I got to drive her car, which is always a plus.

The fencing was pretty good. Some of the girls had really great footwork. A sabre fencer from MIT comes to mind. It was interesting to see how some schools had entirely different foot work than other schools. Henri brought that to my attention.

We knew a lot of the non-kids there. Henri knew the head armorer and the Air Force coach. I had met them before as well, but they are more inclined to remember a cute Southern belle. Go figure.

We saw the UNC folks, but they were working so we tried to leave them alone.

Alex was surprised to see us and seemed glad we came. He told us to go down and check out his salle. Elizabeth ( Alex's wife) was there and she took the time to show us around. It was so nice of her to do that. As the head armorer said, this is the premier place to fence for the NCAA. It is a class act. I have pictures, if I can figure out how to get them form my phone to the computer. I need my son Sam..... or Mario and Woody. The salle is not only well organized ,it is also shows Alex has a great creative side. I was amazed at so many things. There is to much to go into to describe it all. I will wait for the pictures and go into more detail.

I do not have the words to describe what the event at Duke was like. I consider it a good fencing lesson on several levels. Perhaps I will think on this some more and add a Part II.

You might think that a man my age would often wish to be a young again. Oddly, enough, I rarely do. Though today, just for a moment, I was struck by envy of these kids that got such an early start fencing and I wanted to be them. I wanted to be young. It passed after I thought about it for a while and I am again content with my own life and age.

I noticed the only NC fencers ( non-NCAA folk) I saw there today were myself and Henri and a young woman who is from Maryland but is trapped here. That is a shame. If there is an event like this next year ( and I have the opportunity) I am going to gather up some youth fencers ( the little kids) and take them there for a part of the day. These are the people that should be exposed to this.

Saturday was a good day and a good lesson. Now I need to find Elizabeth's e-mail and thank her again for taking the time out of a busy day. Yep...good day. I can't wait to tell the DFC people about some of the things at Duke.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Writing Home

My week in fencing was nothing to write home about, nonetheless , here I am writing home about it.

Wednesday I had a group lesson with Coach Miller. Group lessons are a lot like private lessons, only you learn to be the leader....which is harder than being the student. I believe that the whole thing is geared toward making you technically better. I wish I understood the process a little more. I would ask him about it, but I am not sure how to vocalize my thoughts. He knows what he is doing and I guess I don't have to understand the whole process. Except for why there is no attack in sabre below the waist, I have never doubted anything he has ever told me. ( The "why there is no attack below the waist in sabre" is often told. You hear often that this is because the cavalry did not wish to harm the horses of their opponent. I dabble in Napoleonic history and I know that this is not true. I think it is more likely that this is based on Italian dueling etiquette.  Perhaps I am wrong , but I know the horse thing is a myth.)

Coach said that parking would be impossible at UNC Thursday due to basket ball game, so I did not go to UNC for private lesson.

Friday I went to the"Y". I did foot work with the beginners. I think it helps for them to have some one a bit more proficient doing it with them, so they can emulate that person. That is not the only reason I did that though. I use to do the foot drills or lessons, every time I went to the "Y". At some point I stopped doing that. It is my intention to do this with any class that is doing it from now on. I need to tighten up my foot work. I am never going to bounce. At lease I am never going to bounce for extended periods of time, so it is best to make my more traditional foot work better. I will of course need to work on the stuff you actually use on strip, separately.

I fenced a bit with the newpeople. I try to find ways to make it of value for me, and still let them learn. I was glad for any kind of strip time.

My elbow feels a bit swollen this morning. It does not hurt much, it just feels kind of "puffy".

I don't see any tournaments I can go to until February 23. There is one in the DC area next week for "Over 30" people.  Sadly, epee is on Sunday and it is a five and a half hour drive back home. I don't think I can swing that.

Next Saturday I am going to head to Duke and watch some NCAA fencing. Coach Miller suggested that we come watch. The women fence on on that day. I have never been to this type of event and I am looking forward to it. I might actually learn something. For the most part, these people will be so advanced that I will not pick up much to use at my level.

The weekend after that is the Junior Olympics in Charlotte. I hope to drive down and cheer on Nicole. There may be some vendors there and I might want to do a bit of shopping. I could also swing by UNCC and take my son and his girl friend out to eat or something. I hope I get to do this. I will have to see how things go.

The weekend after that there is a party and tournament at Mid-South. It is the grand opening of their new Salle. I will fence epee on Sunday. I will be largely out classed, but will be representing the Vet 50 folk.  Even though I do not see myself doing well, I hope to fight the good fight. Perhaps I will surprise myself and another fencer or two. We will see how that goes.

This is what happened and what will be happening in the world of the Gray Epee.