Sunday, May 25, 2008

Over 50 ( Part Three) or The Quaker Fencer Speaks

The following is a comment on my journal from my friend Kathy, who fences in Nottingham , England. She was worried about being " mean" by posting this in the comments section of my journal. However, I am grateful for her post and will add it here. You can read more of this truly sweet and intellectual woman's thoughts on a blog called " Quaker Fencer".

"This is really good and useful.  I'll add one point for women over 50.  I heard years ago that, while women lack the burst of speed that men have, they have greater stamina and endurance.  (This was written in relation to marathon running and the author - I can't remember the full context - suggested that if the marathon course were ten miles longer, women would win every time.)  If you're an older woman, this will sometimes work in your favour.  I've even occasionally had the experience of beating or nearly beating a much better male fencer who has run out of energy while fencing.  This won't work against really experienced fencers who are good at conserving their energy and, when you're over 50, physical setbacks can cause knock-on effects for ages.  But it's worth looking at male opponents to judge how much energy they have left - if your male opponent seems to be running out of energy, it's time to draw on reserves and move a lot, as fast as you can, changing distance, etc.

Jim, I feel mean posting this on your blog.  But if, like me, you're a woman over 50 with no previous history of taking vigorous exercise, it's helpful to know that there may be a point in club nights and competitions where, eventually, you'll find you still have energy as the men around you are flagging.  Just as men use their greater strength and speed in mixed-gender bouts, women have to call on stamina and endurance.  "

Thanks Kathz

Now for a few closing words from The Gray Epee and it is for men and more importantly younger men.

I started to include my thoughts on the differences between woman and men that start to fence and are over fifty.

ANYTIME a man starts talking about the differences between a man and a woman, he is getting ready to screw up. ( Pay attention here younglings, these are pearls of wisdom.)

Fortunately, I am going to not delve to deeply into the subject here and I am posting a " GENERALITY DISCLAIMER " so that I might escape with only minor wounds.

Ladies: Please note that I attempt to broach this subject for the good of young males everywhere. I realize that I am dealing in a generality and that I am dealing within a sub-group of woman kind which is also so very, very varied that there is no way to accurately do this. Still I must try.

I continue.

I have known women from every area of our nation and many nations world wide. However, the women I come closest to understanding are women from the Southern United States. Please note that I said " closest to understanding".  There are things different about a Southern woman other than her accent. I think that the thing Southern woman have in common ( They are so varied ) are that because of a rural heritage they are closer to the earth. They are wilder and purposely unpredictable. But because of the common rural heritage and a need for information like this in the past they have always talked with each other about medical problems, child birth and menopause. I mention menopause as it goes hand and hand with aging. Women ( The women I know best) know what is coming as they age.

Young men, however, are pretty much clueless. Yes, they know that some men loose their hair and put on weight. they know that hair starts to grow where it never grew before. Some of them know that anyway, I suspect some are clueless. There are gross misconceptions on sex. I will stop there.

They are unaware of things like: After 40 you will start to gain a pound or two each year and through your sixties in most cases. Not all ( much depends on genetics). At the same time you will start to loose muscle mass in a similar fashion. If you are lucky, you have done some strength training in your 20's and 30's guys. It will pay off.

The very best thing you can do to learn and prepare for aging is to talk with your father, The odds are that you are a similar genetic copy and you might just learn something that will help you in the future. It could also help him. Knowing his medical problems would be of great benefit if he was hospitalized and unresponsive.

Think about it guys. Do it.

Gray Epee.......Over and Out!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Over Fifty ( Part Two )

I jumping right in here. Go read the post before this first.

7. If you still have speed ( fast hands ) don't break that out right away. Save it for a bit later in the bout.

8. Generally speaking if you are over 50 you have more patience than a male kid in college. Use it. Go back and read number six. ( Okay....this one depends on the the two people on strip, but it is close to being true.)

9. At some point you will win a bout because someone looked at the gray hair and underestimated you. Some times they figure out that they underestimated you, but it is to late. Those victories are yours. Don't worry, you will loose bouts for underestimating others as well. It all balances out.

10. If you fence in a vet event ( non sabre ) you will not find a lot of screamers. I can't think of any I have fenced with. ( Note: Some fencers scream after getting a touch to release tension and I am pretty sure to annoy people around them.) If you are over 50, the odds are you know how to let something  like tension go pretty quickly and silently. If you need to scream after getting a touch, you most likely should think about taking up another sport. Billiards maybe. You should be able to let something go faster than a male teenager. I mean ...really. ( Yet another note: Okay...if you offer an invitation and you get hit there, you are allowed to be rattled. That is something that takes me a while to get over. ) ( One more note: I am joking......kind of.)

Starting After 50 ( Part One )

I started this journal a couple of years ago. In my mind I thought that it might be of benefit to someone else that started fencing in their fifties.  I doubt that there is much ( if anything ) that would be of value to people that start fencing after 50.

For the last day or so I have been thinking about this. I sometimes use thinking about fencing as an escape. The place were I work has around 20 people in it. They laid off four yesterday. I knew it was coming. It is hard to see people loose their jobs. It is harder to be a baby boomer and loose your own. There has been some stress in my life knowing this was coming and knowing that the future does not look all that bright either. Thinking about fencing is a wonderful escape.

But as usual I digress.

People that start fencing after 50. Yeah....that was it! It is a small demographic. Smaller yet are the ones that stay with it.

What are the differences between a person that starts after fifty and young person starting fencing?

You can't make much distinction. For example, you might say that the older person may have more body weight, but that may not be true. For every example I can think of (off the top of my head) I can I sight someone that makes it not true.

Yet as sure as there is gray hair and wrinkles around the eyes there are differences.

I have always been into some sort of physical activity. (Martial arts for 18 years, running, weight lifting.) Okay.....none of those things are very evident in my body today,but I did those things. I still make an effort to hit the gym when I can. During these activities I became somewhat knowledgeable concerning exercise and nutrition. (Not that I applied that knowledge, but I knew it.)

When I turned 50, I began to try and read up on exercising in your fifties. Not a pleasant experience. First there is a HUGE drop off in information for people that exercise in there fifties. The majority of information you will find will be on walking and maybe ( shudder) water aerobics. You can find information on weight lifting, but it is designed for people that would have trouble curling a soup can.

Now from time to time you can find info that is of value. However, beware. I found a site once that when into some detail about what you might experience physically in your fifties. Things like you start to loose balance abilities (who knew?) and flexibility. Itwas  shortly after I began reading these web sites that I stopped reading those web sites. So if you are in your fifties and amazingly have some reason to find my silly little journal, here are my suggestions for you:

1. Do not spend very much time trying to read up on physical exercise and what to expect as you pass through your fifties. What you read will tend to become self fulfilling prophecies. Exercise all means. Pay attention to stretching and your body. You will be fine.

2. Do not compare yourself to someone in their fifties that has been fencing sense they were eight. I have fenced Dragonnetti before. ( I am sure I spelled his name wrong.)

3. If possible find a friend near your own age that fences. Either at your club or on line. ( Note: I was very, very lucky in this regard. I would mention her name , but I would most certainly be cast into the abyss for doing so.)

4. If you are in a club and they are doing physical training or a hell of a warm up and you can't hang......flip off the coach and the teenager that is barely sweating and rest for a while. can do this without the flip off. Just do it mentally. If your coach is descent, they will not give you greif. If they give you greif, find a new coach.

5. If you are competing and you get tired, take your own sweet time about coming to the on guard line. Walk around a minute it, wipe the sweat from your nose. pretend to tie your show or fix a weapon. I do this sometimes just to think about what is happening or try to screw up my opponent.

6. You get two minutes between pool bouts ( in most cases) and ten minutes between DEs' Take every frikin' second you need. A ref wants to get on with it...people are waiting.....screw them, they will not wait long.

Damn....I am on a roll and I could keep going, but it is time to get on with the day.

To be continued.............................

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Bit Hasty

The day after I posted my farewell, things happened at work to make me think that the traveling that was to become part of my job may not happen. I have traveled more than Indiana Jones, so I have had my fill and do not regret this not working out.

Sharon ( Nicole's Mom) told me I should finish up the semester. She is my Mother Coach.
It is best to listen to her.

I do not know how things are going to work out in the next month or so, but for now I can stay at home ( DFC) for a while.

It was good group lesson with Coach Miller last night and there was even time to fence Tommy before he got there. ( Which is right after the little kid class.)

The things we worked on in drills were basic. Some were impractical. Coach said as much, but felt that it was necessary. God and Coach....they move in mysterious ways.

I noticed that in drills that my actions are crisper and I am leading with my point better. The bell guard is were it should be most of the time. I felt good about my actions. The drills did not encompass things I wanted to check. Coming back into 6 in second parry ( relaxed arm ) and in a good 6. Coming back is just as important in fencing as going forward. That may be true in life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leaving Home

Tonight I fenced in Chapel Hill. I fenced just a little. I was under the weather and my mind was not on the game. I stunk on strip.

On the other hand I had a good lesson and I did well. I needed a positive.

This was a sad day for me.

Due to reasons beyond my control (both personal and professional) I find that I can no longer devote the time and energy to fencing that I once did.. I hate that, but I always knew that the time would come. Sadly, it came quicker than expected.

As a result of this I think that I can continue one night a week. I have decided to do this in Chapel Hill (as long as I can afford the gas) and with the greatest of regret will be leaving the Downtown Fencing Club.

I will be becoming a once a week fencer. I will not get much better, but I wasn't getting that much better anyway. It is my hope that I can keep in the game and perhaps in the future I will find away to return to my home and my fencing family.

This in no way reflects badly on the coaches; students or parents that are a part of this club. I hold the coaches of the DFC in the highest of regards. These are people that give unselfishly and freely of their time and energy for the love of the sport and for no other reason than to help the community. I was honored (truly) to have been a part of this team and some small help in this regard.

This really breaks my heart.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Note to Self: Infighting

In fencing Tommy last weekend in pools he got touches on me twice as we were in an infighting situation.

I have developed a bad habit of trying to run by and not trying to duke it out.

Time to change this and work on the infighting game again.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Today I fenced at RFC. It was a small tournament of 9 people. One B ( Tommy) 2C's, 1D an E ( me ) and a 4Us. Placing me in the middle. I will not go into every detail, but I did well in pools. ( I think so anyway.) I won 5 and lost three and placed ahead of a C fencer to take fourth.

I went 5-4 ( him...not me ) with a tall ECU kid that won Divisionals a year or two ago. I swear you must have to be over 6 feet 3 inches to fence epee at ECU. I beat Paul Perkins and was actually up 4:1 at one point. He started to rally, because I was thinking " Holy Crap..One more touch and I beat Paul." I finally...and it took a few touches went for the double and won 5-4. Yep..I am not to bright. But he ( Paul) bragged and bragged on me and it made me feel good. I needed that.

There were some kids from State that were new to fencing. God love them. The first one I fenced asked me for advice on what he should do. I know that I look like a coach. I beat them badly and they could not tell the difference between me and a good fencer.       I told him and the other kids I was old but not an old pro. Still I gave them simple advice like " if someone runs away...let them go." That sort of thing. I have to say that I enjoyed talking to and offering advice to those kids.

We tripled striped. That was my first time doing that and it kind of favored the younger fencer and wore the old guy out. I didn't care though, I was having fun fleching from time to time ( Sometimes with success. sometimes not .) I did what I said I was going to do and it paid off.

Now in the last two weeks I have been under some stress and I have lost 15 pounds in that short period. I am weak from muscle loss I guess. I also smoked cigs for the last couple of days. Yes...I am an idiot. It has been years sense I smoked.

I am laying ground work for what is coming.

My only DE was against the ECU ( C fencer)  I went 5-4 with in pools. At one point he was ahead 6:1.I rallied in the second 3 minutes, but I was so tired I could not pommel and hold my weapon up at times. I lost and was done for the day. I still feel like I did well.

Editors Note: I don't think that my being worn out in the DE was an age thing. If I did I would say so.

The good news is that I have rallied a bit on the stress, thanks to a friend  and some conversation.I am smoke free today.I will hit the gym tomorrow and that should help as well. Of course it will be a hell week at work next week.

Today was just like going to a big club and getting to fence a lot. No pressure, no ratings, nothing to prove. I had fun and I got to train. I am happy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wedding Stuff

Prepare to get sick of hearing about this real quick.

I do not have many pictures in yet. But here is a sampling. If it is casual it was the rehearsal....formal the wedding. The vineyard is Stony Knoll in the Yadkin Valley.
( Note: The area of the country I live in was the largest wine making state in the US prior to Prohibition. The soil is perfect in sections of the state for this crop. Our state now has over 70 vineyards.)

This historical fact brought to you by the Gray Epee, We now return you to wedding pictures and such.

Tall blond kid is my son Sam. Blonde woman with Sam is either his girlfriend Kayla or his Mom. Blonde woman with bride and groom is Abe's Mom.....the kid is Abe's brother. The cake is the grooms cake. Abe is a chef and it is hard to expalin. Black and white blonde girl is my daughter Courtney.

Oh yeah...the first picture that looks like a bride is my daughter Jaime. The dark haired guy is her husband Abe.

More to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Soon I will post wedding pictures and a story about the best party I ever had, but as for now I will stick with fencing.

Tonight I went to UNC. There were not that many folks there. I fenced Max from NCFDP and Keith from Touche. I did well. Keith told me I had a good fleche. I never had anyone tell me that before. It occurred to me that I never use them in tournaments. I just assume someone will nail me going in. I play it safe.

This weekend if I fence in the tournament in Raleigh, I will fleche and I will take chances and I will have fun and be relaxed. I sort of had a realization concerning this.

Coach Miller worked with me on "Circle Six in Opposition." I have been studying with him for a long while now and I am still working on the first thing you learn. I tend to sequence and it works well for me, but in this action it has to be all one move. ( Not capture and then hit.) If he tries to search for the blade and I do a tight disengage, I do the action perfect. I do no have many goals in fencing anymore, but I will learn this one thing and it will be to Coach Miller's specifications. This one move is the base for almost everything he teaches.

I left around 8:30.  I left the gym and stepped out into the cooling night air. I walked to the car. My face was flushed and the sweat in my hair was starting to dry. I realized for the first time in weeks, I felt good and was at peace. It is the kind of peace only exercise brings.

Fencing will save you if you let her.

As I drove I thought about fencing as a person. A goddess perhaps. Her sister Luck and her brother Skill were there. She has a big family. I had a " Joe Black " kind of vision about the whole thing.

Lately as I wrestledwith a big personal problem, I thought of quiting fencing. Tonight I realized how many times fencing has saved me. For now, I will continue on , but perhaps with a different perspective.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No Epee Again

Another week of non-fencing. There is always regret in that, but perhaps not as much as usual.

I have been out of it mentally of late. It is my hope that I will rally soon, so that perhaps my passion will return.

I had a call tonight that let me know Coach Miller would not make it to Greensboro. This was my one night free to get in a bit of fencing.

My youngest daughter will be married this Saturday. There are things to be taken care of beyond the telling of it.

Her husband-to-be use to fence foil. ( I hope that does not screw up the gene pool.)

Two of my children fenced with me for a few months. I know they were not all that interested in it. They did it to spend some time with me. I will always be grateful for that time and for them wanting to do that.  ( Plus I bought them weapons and got to keep them after they moved on. don't get to be old by being stupid.) Jaime Kate ( my daughter who is getting married ) did this. She is Daddy's girl in so many ways.

I will be glad when this is over. I will consider it over when we have the father-daughter dance at the vineyard.

There are some things in life more important than fencing. ( Though I would be a lair if I had not calculated the time from Dobson to the epee part of the Touche tournament on Sunday.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Just Seemed Appropriate On Several Levels

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.  ~Isak Dinesen

Not Much Fencing

This week I took a group class on Wednesday and that was it. ( Again another week without enough fencing.)

It was a bit different this time, as Coach Miller watched us fence and made critiques. I had looked forward to this for a week. I thought I might learn something that would aid me. However, except once when my body weight was forward there was no comment.

Oh well. The road to has a few bumps and pot holes.

We bouted working on " squeezing". I have got to make parries more of my game I think.
( The last two sentences were sort of unrelated to each other, but seemed unworthy of separate paragraphs.)

I still do not feel well.

Stress from a personal problem has helped me drop 10 pounds in a week. Maybe I can keep it going.

I do not see much fencing for me in the near future. My youngest daughter is getting married next weekend. I think I need to stay home and help out. There is a tournament at Touche next Sunday, the day after the wedding, but I would think the chances of making that are remote.

I may get to fence twice during the week, but I will just have to see how that goes.

Even though I feel weak, I am going to take a shower now and head to the gym. It may make me feel better.

Gray Epee...over and out.