Saturday, September 27, 2008

South of The Border

Today I am heading to Mexico on business. I have spent a lot of time in my life in Mexico and Central America. My passport prior to my shiny new one looked like a CIA agents if you combined the Communist countries of Asia and the Central American thing. I had extra pages added to that passport.( Note: CIA agents in Central America drive big black Suburbans with tinted glass, They are the only ones that have them. If I was not in a big hurry I would mention our embassy in El Salvador. Perhaps the stupidest American thing I have ever seen in person.)

I digress........what else is new?

I am heading for the Yucatan in Mexico. I have never been to that part. It will be hotter than hell. I am ambivalent about the trip. It will just be factory/hotel/factory/hotel/factory/hotel.

The only good thing is that I will be introduced to a new kind of Mexican cuisine. I love trying new things.

The trip to Mexico and a gas shortage here is screwing up my fencing. There were two tournaments here that I was interested in this weekend and another couple next weekend.
Not to mention my lessons and free fencing during the week. Perhaps gas supplies will return to closer than normal while I am gone and I will not be bothered with it as much.

Perhaps it is odd to think of fencing above this trip.

I have often been in a restaurant with other fencers. There is a part of me that is aware that we are the only fencers in the room. I would not be telling the truth if I did not say that I felt special because of that. Odd, that I would feel that way with as weird as fencers are. Perhaps, I should just feel "special" in the remedial sense.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Touch the Future

In both my private and group lessons, I felt awkward and frustrated. I have a lot of things to work on. I hope to work on some of these things after our beginner class on Monday nights.

Note to self: Be three to five inches parallel to the blade before doing a beat. Work on balance and not leaning into the lunge. When doing the German flick drill, drop the hand to targets/ the beat is to the middle of the blade. When doing the pick, go deeper. Work on the tip above and below the the bell guard drill. ( Okay....I am digressing from my "Note to self:" A few drills have names. Some have numbers, but mostly they don't have a name that I am aware of. I think it might be easier to talk about if they had cheap Kung Fu names like " Crouching Weasel" or " Flying ....Flying....Flying Something or Other". Also, on yet another non related note, after all that time fencing with a French grip, I can't flick worth a damn. I need to really really work on this.

Ally ( One of Coach Miller's students, who now attends college in Greensboro ) joined us for at the DFC for group lessons with Coach. She has studied with Coach for four years. I have for two.

He did 5 minutes of drills with Ally to show the class what he was shooting for. He never uttered a word and she responded to his movements and openings with the required action. (On a good night I might could do that for about 20 seconds.) It was beautiful to watch.

For just a moment, I thought their should be katas in competitions for fencing. Then I thought about who would judge them and I let that idea fade away.

There was a good thing that brightened my night on Wednesday. Most of the kids that are studying epee are around 10. One is a favorite of mine.She is a ten year old little blonde. Her name is Claire. Towards the end of the evening, I notice that she had two kids her age and was reffing as they fenced dry. I did not intrude, except to tell her to back up, so she would not get poked in the eye. She directed and I think she coached them a little. I can see this little girl continuing fencing through out her life and perhaps being a fencing coach someday. ( Or she could hang up the blades tomorrow, but that is not the point.) I thought about how our club ( and all clubs) touch the future of fencing. You will never know what may lay ahead for the kids. It may even be one that you never suspected. It might be one that fenced and then dropped out, but may resurface later in life in another club or another place. You never know. I like to think that will happen. It might even be a kid from another club that you helped or had a kind word for. You just never know.                    (  Actually....That is not true. I do know. )  

Sunday, September 21, 2008


If I was writing this at 8:30 Saturday night, I am sure there would have been a different slant to this entry. My self esteem was at a all time low and I was depressed and tired.

Now it is Sunday around lunch time.

Saturday morning, I went to a  ref seminar taught by Derek Cotton. He is a world class fencing referee, who refs at national and international events, including the Olympics. It did not take long to find out that he was an extremely intelligent man with a quick and unique wit. It also did not take long to find out I was screwed as far as finding a way to pass the epee portion of the ref exam, as two minutes into the program he announced that he would not be reviewing the material needed to pass the exams.

I understood why immediately, so that was not a big disappointment. There were groups from a number of clubs present and of course this group was made up of varying levels of experience and need. Also, it would have been a waste of this man's knowledge and ability to focus on the mundane. I should have figured that out before I went.

I learned a great deal from this event and/or it prepared me more should I delve into reffing ROW weapons or reffing in general. I don't see that happening anytime in the near future, as I am never going to pass the epee part of the exam. Yep....another "wiffer". Evidentially the 4th time is NOT the charm and I am an idiot. I suspect that the general part of the written I passed will expire and I will also never pass that again.

In truth I know I am not an idiot, I am just insane. I know that because I keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That is a hallmark of insanity.

That is enough sulking on my part.

Did I learn a lot of interesting things. Yes. Do I have any way to apply what I learned. No. However, all knowledge is useless, right up to the point were you need it.

Another interesting thing happened at the ref seminar. About an hour into the program, Derek got sick as a dog. There are about 30 people at the event and I notice no one is doing anything for this guy. He is an over 40, over weight and a black male. I mention the black male, as black men are more prone to hypertension, thus you should be more watchful for heart attack and stroke. I am sitting there just like everyone else and I finally look at Henri and we know we better do something. Derek is outside. Henri does her nurse stuff and I go buy crackers, meds and ginger ale for this guy and return. It is to no avail and we know he needs to go lie down for a while if he has any chance of continuing. I would have bet the farm at this point, that he was not going to be able to do that. I talk to Donny about this. ( A good man who is heading up the show.) Tom Bryan seems unhappy with this course of action, but what else is to be done. Mario, Henri and I take Derek back to his hotel in my car. It was only through luck that I knew were his hotel was and he certainly did not. Fortunately he did not puke in my car. However, he did sit in my car and "hurl" the parking lot of the hotel for what seemed to be an eternity. I am sure it seemed like an even longer time for him. He finally stops and we get him up to his room. He instructs us to pick him back up around 11:30. Frankly, I did not think that was going to happen, but it did. He went on to give an informative and surprisingly energetic program. He is a trooper. He would have been even more impressive, if he had told us " thank you". Which he never even implied. I know I should let something like that go and it is no big deal, but I was taken aback by it. If you think about it, I should not have been though. Fencers are weird people. Even if you find one that can pass for normal, that is sort of weird in it's self.

As I mentioned before, no one was doing anything that I could see and Henri and I took over. Am I saying," Yay for us!" Nope...I am not. What struck me about the situation was that I felt like we were a Divisional Mom and Dad. In retrospect, it is not the first time I felt that way. Do I really mean that? No.....and kind of. I have not sorted it out yet.

I generally  am diplomatic as to what I say in my journal, because I am never sure who reads it. However, at this point in time, I am tired and a bit irritable. So if anyone that was involved with the event, has a problem with the way we handled things with Derek or that we sort of took over when he was ill.................bite me. You don't like should have gotten involved.

This was a two day event. I did not go back for day two, as I had had enough. I did not go to UNC and fence, as was my back up plan. I was kind of down on fencing and myself due to my failure and I was just not in the mood for either event.

What I am in the mood for is a nap.

It seemed like I had a lot more to write about in regards to this event. When the cob webs clear from my head, I might add to this. I did learn a bit Saturday and I am grateful to the people that arranged for Derek to be here this weekend. Thank you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In the Game....Ready or Not!

My week in fencing has been good so far.

I had a good lesson with Coach Miller Tuesday in Chapel Hill. We are working on correcting a few things. In his words, " We are almost there and then we can move on to the fun stuff." When I say it was a good lesson, I don't mean that I was praised. Sometimes my best lessons are when I make mistakes, but finally grasp what I am doing wrong. There was a Swedish foilist following me for a private lesson and I heard him ask Coach Miller why he was harder on me than on him. I did not hear the reply, but it was words to the effect that he was newer. I didn't think he was hard. I have seen hard and that was not it.

Wednesday night I did well in my group lesson at the DFC. It was pretty basic, but if  I am around Coach for any length of time I always learn something and have other things reinforced.

Friday night I coached our Foil class in Greensboro. There are not many students in foil. The kids love epee. They are soooooo smart. Woody's father is ill and he is out of town, so I covered for him. I did well. The students and parents commented on it and I felt good. It is so small that it is a lot like working one on one with some one. I am more comfortable in that regard. Group lessons are just not my thing.

Mario is going to be out for about a month and a half with foot surgery. Henri and I are going to coach the beginner class on Monday nights. As I have said many times, I don't think of myself as a coach. I am a helper. But I know that I can do this and do it well.
My job has changed a lot in the last month. I work a lot more over time and I never know when that will be. I also may be traveling more. I am concerned about being unreliable in taking this class. I don't want to let anyone down. I will talk to everyone concerned and make sure they know I will always do my best to be there, but there will have to be times when I miss the class.

I am going to have to give up a night of fencing to do this. I can't fence four nights a week. I will play it by ear and I am sure it will all work out.

I have mixed feelings about coaching. I do not see myself as one, but I have learned a lot sense I went to Coaches College ( 2 years ago) and I now feel like I can do these small newbie classes and not be pretending to be something I am not.

This is also an opportunity to help more at the club. So ready or not, I am going to be Coach Jim for a while.

Tomorrow I head to a ref seminar. I want badly to be a rated epee ref. ( Low level of course). I would be happy if I could finally pass the written part. If I fail again I am going to feel remedial On the other hand there is a tournament on Sunday at UNC. If I flunk the written, I will not need to take the practical on Sunday and I could go fence. Of course, there are a lot of high level fencers in that tournament, so I may have two opportunities to feel remedial.

At least I am in the game.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Short Boring Post/ Note to Self: Skip This and Read Something Else.

Tuesday I had a different sort of private lesson

I think I had a major break through in correcting a problem I have had for over a year.

When I start in six and am to recover in six, I often have a tendency to drift into four when I recover. My outside arm is exposed.

When I do this my arm tends to stiffen/not be relaxed as I am trying to muscle my way to target.

In my mind I was always trying to be in the same fighting line as Coach's blade, but without changing my strip position. I think I have it now, thanks to Coach,s patience. If I had been him I would have killed me long ago. ( I have mentioned this before. But even though Coach and I are not that far apart in age, I just can't call him Ron. I have done it once or twice and it always felt....disrespectful....wrong...sac religious. It is a weird and strange feeling.) Bozo....just angle the blade sort of like you do when you take the blade in eight or do angulated attacks. Work on the double beat, double pick, remeise.

Also remember N
O remise d'arrete
. ( That is spelled wrong, but I know what it means. I have looked for the correct spelling on line more than once and have never found it.)

(remise d'arrêt is the correct spelling....I find out a bit later.)

Hey...I told you to go read something else.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Bout Continues

It seemed on the drive to work this morning that I had a lot to write about. Now at the end of a looooonnnng day, I am having hard time remembering it all.

One thing is a problem I have been wrestling with.  The last time I fenced at a tournament, I fenced a young man who has just made the switch from fencing other kids to fencing adults. I have seen this young man grow up in fencing. He seemed to always do well. We attended a seminar one weekend together. He seems like a decent kid. I fenced him in pools twice and won. I fenced him in a DE and won. I could tell that he was intimidated by me and there was a look of almost fear in his eyes. This bothered me a bit. I don’t mind backing an adult up once in a while, but not a kid. I am not all that worried about it. I am sure in a year or two he will be wiping the floor with me. What concerned me was his father. He is very “in” to what his son is doing. He crowds the strip and coaches his son.  I get pulling for your son. Not to this degree, but I get it. He is there for him and spending time with him. It is annoying, but this is not any big deal sort of tournament, so I let it go. I was up 6 to 1 and I started listening to his father. I did not fence as hard and went for doubles. I noticed that whatever the father screamed out for the kid to do….he did it. Eventually, I was not annoyed, because he was in essence telling me what his son was going  to do. Not a good thing for the kid!

Now, do I e-mail one of his coaches and mention this to them in an effort to help out the kid or not. I know that there is a good chance that they might not think I should not butt in (or know enough to butt in) and they might be right. It may be none of my business. I could do nothing. This is probably the smart thing to do. Or I can wait and see his father the next time and try and find a tactful way to mention it. I most likely will give the most thought to that latter option. Sometimes my journal is a way to both work on a problem (no matter how small) and just to remember it.

Tuesday night I fenced in Chapel Hill. My partner and I followed Max (a 17 year old “B” fencer who has been fencing longer than I have.) I have always admired the fact that this young man’s weight is always so beautifully centered when he moves. I watched his lesson. I admired the speed of it. I looked for the mistakes that I make in watching his lesson and saw none. Henri went next and was not corrected very much. It was my turn and we went through the lesson. I flubbed a little on one part of a drill. These drills are to make us technically more proficient.  And at some point, I believe we will be to some degree. When we finished, Coach complimented us and told us what a good lesson it was. He does not hand out praise lightly. He told us that we had just done the same drill Max did and had completed it the same amount of time. Okay…I flubbed a bit, but it was close. I think this means that he did not have to stop us and have us  make corrections. The small things that Coach can see never cease to amaze me. It may have other meanings. God and Coach, they move in mysterious ways. I always love praise, but I did not think much about it. I did think as I watched other people do drills about how I can see some mistakes that others make and what they need to do correct them.

The next night I fenced at the DFC. Mostly I did drills with the kid’s class and helped a tiny bit. Then I took a group lesson. No strip time. I did well in lessons and if I have learned nothing else from fencing, I am aware that my fencing vocabulary is huge in comparison to two years ago. I know that if I had a different coach some of the vocabulary would change a bit (perhaps less French terms) or would not be what they use in that club, but I am happy with my progress in the language of fencing.

I , at this point, I am going to go back in time. It is a half an hour before the class mentioned above. Henri and I are sitting on a new park bench near the club and waiting for it to be time for class. Henri talks about how she will most likely never be a good fencer and what it is like to be tiny woman who started fencing late in life. She tells me that we should revel in small victories (not just the ones on strip). The words she speaks are not a whining type of thing, but in a matter of fact and gentle reflective way. She points out to me how Coach praised us and how we had done so well in our private lesson. She told me why she felt this was important and a small victory. I had not thought of it in the same light that she had. I told her that I was becoming increasingly aware that I will never be a very good fencer either and related to her as to why. Do not think this is a sad thing or a crying thing….it is not. You will not find many people that love fencing more than Henri and I…….and our passion for it remains unchanged even though we think we will not make significant gains in competition. Though we will ALWAYS keep trying.

Now back into present time at the DFC.

Coach, Mario and Henri and I are talking as people are packing to leave. Coach mentions to Mario about what a good lesson Henri and I had the night before. (Double praise from Coach!) To some extent he relates as to why it was good and a little about Max. Mario listens politely. Henri and I catch each other’s eye as the conversation breaks up and we head out to the parking lot. We both know we are giving each other a Coach Miller style high five.

Mario, Henri and I are planning to go to a Ref Seminar in a couple of weeks. It is my hope to become rated in epee, though I have crashed and burned a couple of times before in the attempt.

Henri and I have other goals at the seminar. We havedecided that we could do much better in competition if we were each other’s personal referee. New rules would be added and there would now be a blue card. Blue card is when the ref wants to give a point. If you are a Vet fencer fencing an 18 year old, that is an automatic blue card. Some of you may not be familiar with these rules. I suggest that you review the most current rule book. You can give someone a blue card if they are cute as well. This particular rule is somewhat more obscure than the “if you break one of Henri’s nails it is an automatic black card” rule.

We envision it looking something like this: (Henri fencing a freakishly tall male college kid and me refing.)

Freakishly tall male college kid has just scored a touch on Henri.

Me: Halt

(I look to “freakishly tall male college kid” and with my impartial and expressionless ref face and speak to him.)

Me: Sir… you are of course aware that your opponent gets three do-overs.

 (I pause long enough to make sure he is familiar with the rules and turn to Henri.)

Me: Sweetie….he just got a touch on you. Do you want to use one of your do-overs?

(I turn to look at “freakishly tall male college kid” and explain the she is using one of her do-overs and his point is annulled.)

The score is still 2-0 Henri because of her 2 blue cards.

Freakishly tall male college kid has just scored a touch on Henri.

Me looking to “freakishly tall male college kid”:  Yellow Card!  Sir, this is a warning and your touch is annulled. Please try to hold your weapon arm so that your elbow forms a cup for your opponents point to land and stick better. (A feint look of disgust on my face.) And try to move slower or preferably not at all.

Me looking apologetically toward HenriHenri….I am sorry.  (Another feint look of disgust on my face.) He doesn’t know how Coach Miller does it in drills.

The bout continues.

If all goes according to plan, this may be a successful season after all.