Sunday, November 30, 2008

Random Things

It is the last day of the Thanksgiving holidays. My family is having another Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon. The house has the girls in it cleaning and cooking. ( I have been cleaning the longest and as I have just finished cleaning up the "Man Cave/computer/fencing stuff" room. I think it only fitting that I sit down a moment and enjoy the fruits of my labor, by goofing off and making a journal entry.)

As I have not fenced this week, this will have to be sort of random


Thanksgiving Holidays from Fencing:

I was looking forward to a break from fencing.....right up to the time I got one. It took one day when I missed a class and I started getting "antsy ". To make up for not fencing, I read everything I can find on the web about fencing. Many for the third time. I watched U Tube fencing. I worked on my en guard in six and my lunge ( with dime). I worked on my prep foot work action, were I drop the point, but my arm is till in a good six.

I have been to the gym every day it was open and tried to make my workouts " total body" , but slanted toward being fencing specific as well.Today if I get to get out of the house, I will do "tri's and bi's" and maybe shoulders. These are small muscle groups that I tend to not pay much attention to. I do not have enough time to get to the gym three times a week and fence ( generally), so I try to lift and do exercises that that hit multiple muscle groups. ( bench press, dips, chin ups, dead lifts, modified squats ....that sort of thing)

The fact that I miss fencing after just a day or so makes me happy in a way. It means that I am not "jaded" yet. It means the passion for fencing has not wavered. I can think of one Thanksgiving not to long ago were we had a very warm day and I borrowed a scoring box and went to the park and fenced. That was really fun! I so wish that there would have been a day like that over the holidays.


Fencing Net Discussion Forum:

When I first started fencing I was ravenous for information. ( I still am, though as you learn, it does not seem to come as fast. That may not make sense....but I understand the meaning.)
One of my main sources was the Fencing Net Discussion Forum. When you know nothing, everyone on this forum sounded like a god or goddess of fencing wisdom. A few still do, though it must be hard to appear god-like, if that is what you are shooting for. It would seem to me that gods would not feel so compelled to show that they were gods. Why would that be necessary?

I have been a member of this forum sense 2005. I have made around 150 post. Partly because I hate the attitude of some people that respond. This is always the case with people on the web They tend to be a bit snotty when some one can't reach out and slap their eye brows off. I have made a note of a couple I hope to meet in person. (You really need to see my predatory smile when I write that.) These people "flame" new and young members of the forum for their repetitive and often goofy questions. I wonder if some one ever gave up the sport after having to deal with one of these pompous a** *****. Kindness and tolerance.....NOT the first quality's you would notice on Fencing Net. Still...on more that one occasion, I want to know something so badly...or so quickly....that I allow myself to post a question there. I just make myself ignore some of the people that reply. ( See list....mentioned above. ~ smiles again ~)

On the other hand, there are really cool people there as well. Greybeard is one. He is a vet fencer about my age. A while back he had a stroke. To make a long story short, he continues to try to find a way to fence. He is an inspiration to me and others. We have had some correspondence of late and if he can, he is going to be at the Atlanta NAC . It is my intention to fence in that one. ( I have not yet decided if I would do Div III or Vet 50...or both. Those 50 year old Vets that have been fencing sense they were 8 are a scary lot.) I want to fence it, as I have only fenced one NAC before....I need to do some fencing shopping....I want to fence....I want to meet Greybeard. There are other reasons as well.

Coaches College:

I do not think I will be able to go to Coaches College again this year. I only have 2 weeks vacation and it would not be fair of me to use the majority up for fencing. I had been working on my previous boss, so that I could finagle another week of paid vacation. Sadly, my new boss is a " by the book " kind of guy and my chances of cutting the same deal with him are nonexistent.

It would take a lot of money and time.....but it is SO worth it!

In truth, if I took Epee I, I doubt I would learn much that Coach Miller has not worked with me on for the last two years. I am sure there would be a lot to learn, but not as much as when I went for Foil I.

It is the OTC ( Olympic Training Center) experience that makes it so great. It is being in the company of so many other fencers from across the country. It is difficult to explain if you have not been there. I would mark it as one of the best events of my life and I would love to do it again.

I know that I want to relive that experience at least one more time, though I do not ever see myself as being a coach. A good helper to a coach....an assistant coach perhaps....but never THE coach. I do not have the right drive or people skills for that. I do not have the skills....period. But...I could be a good helper...or sub once in a while...that sort of thing. Plus, having some rudimentary coaching skills is a part of being the fencer I want to be. I want to have skills in all the disciplines. Not necessarily BIG skills....but some skill or knowledge. Plus...Coaches College is just a blast!


Time to get back to cleaning and see if I can work in a bit of gym time before hand.






Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heros and Holidays

Tuesday:

I went to Chapel Hill. The only people there were four young foilist. Everyone else was at the game. I need to check the papers more before I drive down. Coach's son had car trouble and he had to bail. I turned around and went back to Greensboro.

Wednesday:

I told Coach about the trouble at the "Y" and with us getting his money out of them. I suggested that he forget about coming, until we see if we can get the money he is owed. He told us that he would finish out the semester. To say that was damn decent of him is just not enough. I don't know what to say about the man, but it is all good.

The "Y" is in dire straights and is now trying to sell the property to raise money to fix the problems and move to a new location. Under ordinary economic conditions that might have worked, but I don't see that happening under current circumstances.

What ever happens, I will continue to fence. I belong to two clubs and I will just go to UNC and continue if things go really bad. My main concern for Greensboro is the kids; community and keeping in contact with my fencing family.

Friday:

Two days before the JO's, I see a blurb on the NCUSFA web site asking for help setting up. I told myself after last year, I was done with that. However, it was in Greensboro and I felt like it was the decent thing to do. So I sucked it up and went to help. This kind of thing is never enjoyable. The only time it is sort of that way is when you are brand new to the sport and it is your first time doing something like this. The only other time that I felt good about it was at the State Games. We had a good crew that time and everyone worked together and they were so appreciative.

There are unsung heroes in our division. People have no idea. Dennis is one. He is a armorer and fencer parent at Raleigh Fencers Club. Last season he was at every set up to help. It was the same for the JO event this weekend. He drives from Hillsboro to do this. He comes in and gets right to work. He is friendly, polite and a joy to be around. This is not always the case with everyone that shows up to "help". Everyone that is at these types of things does not really want to be there. You would never know this about Dennis.

If I could afford to throw a Divisional banquet and award ceremony, Dennis would get an award.

I find it odd that some of the people I admire most in our Division are not the best fencers. Sometimes they do not even fence.

Saturday:

I had to work in the morning, but made it over to watch some of the action at the Junior Olympics. I really enjoyed watching the young guns fence epee. I like the unique style of each of the better fencers as much as I like studying their fencing actions. You could watch a video of this kind of thing and it would not be the same. You have to hear and see the actions and comments of parents,coaches and refs. You have to glance around and see all the people that are connected to your life as a fencer milling about. All to soon, it was time to go. And while there will be more tomorrow, I must take care of things at home.

Next week is Thanksgiving and there will not be much in the way of fencing.

My next tournament ( if all goes well) will be in Wilmington the weekend of December 6th.

I am concerned about this one. In my last tournament, I felt like something finally clicked and I may be making a small step up in my fencing ability because of it. The more I think about it now, I wonder if I was just having a "good day" and I was wrong about something "clicking".

I also wonder about the " grip question". I have fenced with a French grip sense I started. I wonder about muscle memory. When I fence with a French grip, I pretty much play my standard game. That game is limited and my actions when I use that grip are somewhat standardized. (Due to muscle memory?) When I use the pistol grip that I have been doing drills with for the last two years, I think this may be a different type of muscle memory. One that is more in tune with what Coach Miller has patently been trying to teach me. I am not sure that this is true, it is just a theory that I have. I know this may not make sense,but I understand what I am writing about.

I guess I will find out more in my next tournament. Though I will try looking at the results of the next three or so, to form sort of opinion. One of the hardest things in fencing is evaluating yourself.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Confidence

It has been an interesting weekend.

Sunday I competed in the Touche Fencing Club event. It was well attended in foil, which is what they are known for, but there were only six people signed up for epee.

It was my intention to go to this tournament to have some fun and work on some things I had been studying. I did not expect to do well, as I thought that I was no match for some of the people there as they are rated higher than I am.

I never expected it to be such a learning experience.

I fenced in pools using my French grip and I was pretty bad.

When it came time for DE's, I switched to a pistol grip. My reasoning for this at the time was that there was a guy there who would often not relax his arm and I thought I needed more power in my "takes". The other reason was Keith Liggett. Keith is a "C" fencer. He and I fence some times in Chapel Hill. Keith is doing some work down there. Keith was our Divisional champion a year or two back. ( Correction: Keith finished 2nd place a couple times.) He is a good fencer and more importantly is a good person. Keith is a class act.

I found in Chapel Hill that I did better fencing Keith using my pistol grip. We generally do not fence each other and keep score, but you have a rough idea of how you are doing.

I beat Keith and then I beat Jaime Casper ( another nice guy and a lefty "D" fencer).

I took first place.

Now this was a tiny little tournament that means nothing, but I learned and realized so much.
( I should add that this was almost a veterans event.)

What I learned is as follows:

1. My days of fencing French are over. My finesse and pomeling tricks will only take me so far.
I have been using this grip because of my comfort with the old and fear of change. I have been training with Coach Miller using a pistol grip for over two years now and all my work on technical improvement has been with that type of weapon. I now have the confidence to move on and convert my hodge podge of weapons to small pistol grips. ( Except for "Mr. Pointy", who will always remain French.)

2. I allowed myself to be confident. I took blades....I attacked in opposition ....and I was a fleching fool! I owe the confidence to fleche in tournaments to Keith and Toomey ( because of a comment he made on my journal once)........and of course Coach Miller. I did not fear failure in these actions. I was confident.

3. I was there to fence and have fun. I did both and I think I found the right attitude for me.

Now....like I said this was a tiny tournament and proof in my theories lies down the road in other tournaments. None the less, I feel like something finally clicked for me. I hope I am right.

On a not so happy note, there is trouble in Greensboro. The Downtown Fencing Club is a program of the YWCA in Greensboro, NC.

The head line of the Greensboro Daily News on Saturday read ( words to the effect of ) GREENSBORO YWCA FACES FINANCIAL CRISIS! They are having trouble meeting payroll and paying the utilities. If this is a case of mismanagement of funds or something else, the result is the same.

They say that they will not close the doors in January, but I think the DFC needs an exit strategy no matter what. They have not been upfront with us.

I have several concerns.

The coaches of the DFC are all volunteer. They do not get paid. However we pay Coach Miller to teach on Wednesday nights. It is not as much as he deserves, but it helps with gas money to see Susan. One of our leadership talked with one of the board members and she said that they will honor their commitment. I sure as hell hope that is the case.

I also have concerns for the kids and for the community.

If something happens to this club, I could loose contact with a lot of people I care about.

Perhaps everything will work out. I hope this is the case. I would like to be confident that that will be the result.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Know the Drill

The Drill:

Engage in four. Advance. Lift the bell just far enough to make the usual two points of contact. DO NOT extend. Let the lunge carry you to target. ( In this case, the elbow.)

This drill is just like the one I do often engaged in eight and hit the thigh ( except for the circular capture)

I had a bit of trouble with this one in my private lesson on Tuesday. However, Coach was pleased that I managed to do eight drills in 13 minutes. That is pretty good for me and I felt good about myself. I am sure Coach Miller could have picked me apart with my usual mistakes if he had wanted to do so. I often play ( on the ride home) the " What was coach REALLY thinking during the lesson game". Perhaps he just knew I needed a positive lesson. Perhaps I really did okay.

Wednesday night I had one of the best and most unusual group lessons I can remember. It is difficult to explain verbally. Part of the lesson was on developing "style". There was foot work....there was body work....how to offer invitation by letting your head drop. ( Oddly enough I had trouble with the head drop , as I display " attitude " when I move my head like this and that is not what we are shooting for.) There was dropping the blade with your fingers as you retreat...not the arm...the blade....constant motion....little energy....skipping....stopping your opponent with a small advance and a very slight feint......moving and showing different parries and positions. It is in retrospect to much to comprehend and absorb. These actions are part of controlling the bout, as well as style.

All of the above also lead into further uses of time to control the bout. This in turn lead into a lesson on using the " Passivity Call" when facing an opponent that you respect. ( Read " respect" as someone that can clearly beat you.) That was fascinating. Sadly, I fence at a divisional level, which means the refs tend to not make a passivity calls due to being unsure of themselves. Still, this is a wonderful tactic for a Vet fencer fencing a kid that is college age. I have had it work for me, though unintentionally , before. Though, before I never knew how to make it happen.

Last week I was in Mexico so I had no fencing. In my hotel room I tried to balance a Mexican coin on a stick and practice my 6 and extension. It was not fulfilling.

I ( for some reason ) thought about all the creative people I know that are fencers. There are musicians, artist and writers. I can see the romantic draw to these people that fencing has. ( I am one of those people.) Yet I find it odd, sense fencing is not very creative. It is expressive, but not creative. I think it is expressive in the same way dance is expressive. Though in dance you are trying to express "something" through your actions and in fencing your actions are showing insights into your personality.

On the other hand, if you are down 11 to 3.....you have nothing to loose by trying something " creative".

Obviously, epee is the weapon closest to being creative. ( No ROW and greater target area makes it that way.)

Okay....weird topic....but I was bored a lot in Mexico.

This weekend I may fence in a small tournament in Charlotte. There are only 6 people registered at this time and I am no match for most of them. However, I just want to fence and try some of the things we worked on Wednesday night. I just want to have a little fun. Sometimes that is the best kind of tournament.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hey Buddy...Can You Spare A Dime?

Right after advance....retreat....lunge, the first thing you learn is how to hold your weapon and come into a proper enguard position. Typically this is in 6 and it "closes the line" ( protects) to you arm.

After all this time I still have a problem with this. Partly because I have done it incorrectly for a long time and partly due to martial arts training. (<~~~~ This is my personal assumption....not Coach Millers) Part of the reason I have pretty good hand speed is because I think of a thrust like a punch.

When you throw a reverse punch...you start relaxed and tense up at the point of contact. ( Greater speed than from a position of tension to a position of tension.) You also throw this punch to the center of your body. Your hand twist from palm up to palm down as you strike. If you start in a " horse stance" it is angling in to the middle of your body. This is sort of what happens when I attack with a blade. My weapon hand drifts into 4, as I move my weapon ( more to the center of the body) and my blade turns a bit, rather than the blood grove on top...thumb on top of the grip. NOT good.

Coach Miller had an idea for an exercise for me to fix this embarrassing problem. He lent me a blade that had no bell guard or grip and placed a dime on top of the blade. I am to practice attacks with the dime balanced on the blade.

When Coach explained the exercise and offered to lend me the blade I said," Coach...I have a bare blade at home, I don't need to borrow one of yours."

His matter of fact reply was, " This one is canted right."

I thought about this on the way home and I studied and studied that cant. It is down a bit, but not to the left as far as I would move it. What kind of human being can look at a bare blade and tell that this is canted right for a dime balancing exercise? I often think in fencing........." How can I have learned so much ....and know so little." If knowledge of fencing is like a mountain range, I will never live long enough to get to the mist covered high ground. That doesn't matter though....I like the climb.

Editors Note: The blade I borrowed from Coach was made in 1997 and still looks to be in excellent shape. My thought was if a blade survived that long it is worthy of some respect, plus I wanted to return it to Coach cleaned up as a tiny payment for lending it to me. ( Always leave your camp sight cleaner than you found it. I was taught this as a kid.) It was "gunked up " and had some tarnish on it. I cleaned it up in various ways including steel wool. Clever guy that I am, I know that steel wool contains an oil which keeps it from rusting and that that will transfer slightly to a blade when you clean it up, thus helping it for a short time not to tarnish. NOTE TO SELF: Jim.......you don't want to put oil on a blade if you are trying to balance a dime on it and lunge. Hey!...It seemed like a good thing to do at the time.

While I am on the subject of Coach Miller, I was looking at Susan's on-line pictures the other day and she had a picture of Coach Miller she had taken next to small statue of Grumpy from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" I almost spewed coffee through my nose as I laughed. I need to ask her if I can copy it and post it here. I think that picture would brighten my day more than once.

Today I leave for Mexico for nine long days of hot work. There is no use in complaining.....but I wish I did not have to go.