Friday, January 23, 2009

5 Years and Acceptance ... How Lucky am I?

( I thought about trying to tie this photo into this entry. Young fencer....Vet Fencer....that sort of thing. The truth would be, that I just enjoy this picture of my young fencer friend Nicole. She is as sweet, funny, and intelligent as she is lovely. She also has a mean yielding parry)


Five years ago ( January 12th), I began fencing in a continuing education class at UNCG. I know this, as I still have the lesson plan in one of my fencing notebooks.

Since I started keeping my journal, I have recorded a couple of these anniversaries.

Basic Synopsis:

1. Whine.
2. Beat myself up over fencing.
3. End by trying to sound positive, and as though I am ready to nobly carry on the struggle.

Thanks to Sharon Agresto, I rarely beat myself up over fencing anymore. In her kind and gentle way, she let me know that she would slap me around if I did not stop that.

I dreaded making this post. The reason being that I had two major goals in fencing that I have not accomplished. I thought they were small and attainable. I have no idea why I thought that, but I did.

I never had a Gantt Chart for meeting these goals, but somewhere in the back of mind, I thought it would happen in five years. The truth of the matter is that I now accept that I more than likely may never obtain either of them.

I don't want to record the goals. I don't want to bring up a lot of smaller goals that I accomplished. I don't wish to record all the little goals I should have had, but was unaware that they should be goals. It is boring stuff really.

What began to interest me are the reasons for wanting to achieve those two major goals.

Part of it was for self satisfaction. But, there was more to it than that.

I wanted to be accepted.

When you first start fencing, everyone has been fencing longer than you. Generally, they know more than you. You can never have fenced as long as your coaches. You can't catch up.

I once heard Woody tell some children that they were fencers the minute they had stepped through the door. I felt that was true. I felt that was true for everyone...... but not me. I had to accomplish things in order to see myself as a fencer.

When you go to your first tournament, and you can barely hook up on your own, everyone around you seems like they are fencing masters. As time goes by, you learn that these people know each other, and that there is a community of sorts.

That word" community" keeps coming up lately.

If you continue in fencing, you might find that you would like to be a part of this fencing be accepted. But how?

I thought that if I completed Goal "A" and Goal "B", it would some how up my status, and I would be looked on as, while not equal, worthy of acknowledgment. I would be accepted.

"Accepted" is not an easy thing to obtain when you start fencing at 51. The majority of fencers are very young. While there are children I care for and teenage friends, a vet fencer has a better chance of acceptance with people who are above college age.

As I thought about writing this post, and why I had tried to reach Goal "A" and Goal "B",........ it occurred to me...........I am accepted. Who knew?

I don't know when it happened, and I have no idea why I was accepted, but I feel a part of fencing in the area where I live.

No Goal "A" and Goal "B"....yet... I am a fencer.

Note: I haven't totally given up on Goal "A" and Goal "B". I just look at them in a more realistic manner.

Vet Fencers

I think I had been fencing a couple of weeks before I found out I was a veteran.

vet⋅er⋅an [vet-er-uhn, ve-truhn]
1. a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like: a veteran of the police force; a veteran of many sports competitions.

I was a 2 week veteran. The illogical aspect of that still bothers me. There should be a separate term for a late bloomer.

When I go to a tournament, after I cut short my warm up, and after I watch others warm up, the next thing I do is count the vets. I don't know if all vets do this. I will take a poll the next time I compete.

The last tournament I fenced in, we were almost 25% of the epee field. That was unusually high.

I also get a feel for how many vets are in a club. It is hard to do, as most "late bloomer vets" do not stick with it. Most clubs have one or two, though some of the coastal clubs have more than that.

I think fencing is sort of a lonely sport if you are a " late bloomer vet". There are others of your kind out there, but, just like teenagers, our age does not always mean we have a lot in common, or that our personalities will allow us to be good friends. The only common thread in a "late bloomer vet" is that we all have an esoteric view of what we are going through. We get it. It is a tie that binds.

As ever, where goes the blade of Henriette, there also shall be found the sword of James.

Her name is not Henriette, though Alex Beguinet calls her that sometimes. It is Henri Ellen Gales.

I met Henri when she joined the DFC around three years ago. I did not care for her right off. I thought she was a bit stuck on herself.

I helped her with a drill later on, and she was so sincerely grateful, that I began to like her.

I watched her fence a five touch club bout where she blew her ankle badly, and it resulted in her having to go to the hospital after the bout. When she blew her ankle, it tied the score 4-4. She finished that bout and won. I began to admire her.

At some point we became friends. As I got to know her, I found that we had the same exact passion and attitude toward fencing. (Except for her odd fondness for foil.)
While we are sort of the Yin and Yang of each other, male/female, big/small, good/evil (I am the good one :)), we both have a wide variety of interests, and we share a sense of humor, while not exact, it compliments the other's. We became the best of friends.

How lucky am I? I found a vet fencer friend who feels exactly the same way I do about fencing. We share the frustration (and there is a lot of it), and sometimes we share the joy. We always share the humor.

Disclaimer: Henri is not a veteran fencer. She fences in veteran fencing events due to special permission from the USFA.

I have to put that in there, other wise she will do violence on my person. Not only does she do that, but she gathers a crowd around to watch before she starts. You would be surprised how often that happens. It is always unwarranted.

If Henri had not started going to UNC well ahead of me, I doubt I would have ever gone by myself. You are too alone in that environment if you are a vet fencer. There are other vet fencers there, but they are so far above me that it separates us. It is mostly a sea of kids.

I wrote all this about Henri, because I think she is a significant part of why I feel accepted in the fencing community these days. She is cute and very social. When we are at other clubs and/or tournaments together, she flits around talking to people and making new friends. She has a gift for that I will never have. By my association with her, I feel I got to know more people faster and thus helped gain the acceptance I feel.

How lucky am I?

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today, I fenced in a tournament hosted by the Raleigh Fencers Club. The event ran smoothly, and the club was a great host as usual. Attendance was way up from the last two events RFC has hosted as well.

It is an unusual format that I think works well. There is an open event. Then, there is a cut off, and the people that did not make the cut fence in a " D and Under" event.

I was hoping to fence in the " D and Under", which is more my speed, but made the first cut by finishing 10th out of pools in a field of 23. (As I remember it.)

I was happy with fencing in either event for different reasons.

In the second round of pools, I placed 9th.

My first, and last, DE was against Greg Spahr. It was a good, close bout most of the time, and we went back and forth for the lead. In the end, he pulled ahead by a couple of points and I could not catch back up. And.............Jim is done for the day.

I will not go into all the numbers, but while I did not fence well, I did not fence bad (most of the time), either. I was okay with the day, and I had a good time. What more can you ask?

I beat a kid in pools that beat me badly in pools in a previous tournament. He is very cocky when he wins, and I felt good about it, even though it was sheer luck. He is a much better fencer than me.

There was another pool bout that was of great note.

In the past, I have recorded in my journal how much I admire Kerry Herrick. I have watched this petite, vet woman fencer fence freakishly, tall college fencers time and time again. She is always undaunted, and, for my money, one of the gutsiest fencers I know.

When Kerry's son or club members are not around, I like to think she is part of our little group at tournaments.

Kerry made the cut and fenced in the open part of the tournament. She has improved dramatically since the last time I saw her fence.

I had to fence her in pools. For a moment, I thought about fencing French grip for the reach against her, thinking I could make up some indicators by adding a little extra distance against her shorter reach. I decided I did not need to do that. To make a long story short, she beat me in pools 5-4. While I am not very happy to be beaten (particularly by a petite, vet woman fencer), I think I was as close to being happy about it as I can get. She did so well and has persevered for so long, it is impossible for me to think of her in any other terms but being proud of her.

I will not underestimate you again, "Killer". Good job on all counts and well

Note for Brian Toomey: Kerry does not spend much time on -line. Should you read this post, please convey my thoughts to her.

Note For Matt Cox: ( See Below)

From my perspective, there WAS a sense of community at this tournament. My perspective is the only perspective I have. I hope it was the same for most people.

My immediate tournament fencing family was there (The Agrestos and Henri), which is always home base.

But, I also got to have conversations and socialize a bit with a number of people I rarely get to talk to. I enjoyed that aspect of the event very much.

People offered advice and cheered for us, and we did the same for others. That is difficult to explain without being overly wordy. I will just say that it was a really nice thing, and this was a day well spent.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Monday Anniversary

I feel a bit self-conscious because there is now a link to my journal on North Carolina Fencing Org.

I thought about this for a long time. I am not changing anything. I will just write as usual.


My young friend Tommy Dietz got his "A" rating last weekend at the Hangover in Richmond. I am just one of a number of people who are very proud of him. He worked hard to achieve this and he certainly earned it. He was fortunate to have ended up in Charlotte Fencing Academy. Nice job Brian!

Fencing is and has been one of the most important things in Tommy's life. He has a bad knee and needs to take care of it. It is my hope that he will rest and heal for a time after achieving this part of his fencing goal. He says he will. I plan on staying on his butt to do this. I am sure his coach will and a number of other people as well. If you are reading this and know Tommy, feel free to ride him about taking care of himself. I would like to think that he will still be fencing and able to fence when he is my age.

Vet Tournament

I just returned from fencing in a small Vet Tournament in Charlotte.(7 people) I think I came in dead last. Maybe next to last. I really did not see that happening. I know that seems immodest, but I really didn't. I moved okay in some bouts and once in a while landed a good touch, but something was wrong. I am too tired to ponder it. Perhaps I will beat myself up over it later. : )

On the other hand, my little pal Henri did well and finished above me. I was really proud of her performance against the all guy field.

I stunk but I enjoyed being with the group of Vets and seeing some people that I had not seen in a while. Even though I was the big loser, I felt a little cool, as Grace and Henri....and later Deb....were in my corner.

Next week Raleigh. I hope to do a bit better.

What to Do About Will?

Most of the fencers at DFC are around 10 to 12 years old. There is a young epeeist named Will. He wants to compete. His parents want him to compete. Sadly, Will is 13 years old. He is very, very small for his age. He does not fence well and I cannot tell if he is ADD or is just " all boy". It is something you can't ask a parent.

The next 14 year old event I found was in Charlottesville, VA. I figure he would get creamed only mildly less in that event than in an adult event.

The only thing I can think of to give him a taste of competing is an in club tournament.

It is either that or just let the chips fall were they may.

I need to think on this a bit more.

Free Ride?

During one of my bouts at the Vet tournament, John Rea talked to Henri about taking a Divisional position. I found this out later.

He asked her if she did not think it was time for the "free ride" to be over.

I wonder if John was aware that Henri has been involved in every single Divisional event for the last two years? (Not to mention the State Games.)

Free ride?..hmmmmmmm.


There was a new young fencer Friday night and I was talking to his Mom concerning the usual FAQ.

She turned to me and asked me why we compete?

Why....we....compete? I was taken aback and left speechless for a moment.

The standard sports answers spun around in my mind and I think I babbled some stock reply.

Why do you compete? That is a question I need to dwell on for a while.


Tomorrow I will have been fencing 5 years. This weekend's tournament was not the uplifting event that I would have chosen as a prelude.

Right now I don't know if I want to go through the whole reflective bit again this year.....but I might.

Note: Thanks to my editor for clearing an even greater amount of typos and grmatical errors than my usual post.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Still Waiting to Fence

A Place to Hang Medals

There was a post on Fencing Net that talked about how people displayed their medals.

I posted these pictures and explanation there.

I thought I would do the same in my journal.

The epee/medal holder is basically a sconce with a piece of wood fashioned to the top to hold an epee.

The wood is maple. Before finishing it, I applied a black paint to the carving and then sanded it off, leaving it just
in the recessed areas. I was going for an "old world" kind of feel. is a bit over the top.....but I enjoy making things and I was an art major.

I don't think I have done anything "arty" sense I made that a year or two ago. I am starting to feel the urge again.

A Phrase I Liked

In my daily readings of the Fencing Net Forum I sometimes read the journal of a Virgina coach. His name is Allen Evans. In one of the sub-categories of the forum, he posted a phrase that I liked in regards to epee. In the context he wrote it, it was not speaking specifically about epee. Though in my mind. it could be a defining term for the weapon.

"One of the things every fencer learns is the concept of "active patience": doing something to keep you ready for an opportunity to seize the advantage. While you wait for a good opportunity to come to you (or a chance to make one for yourself -- also a valuable fencing skill) "

"Active patience"....I like that term.

Next Week

I was looking forward to fencing again next week. I will be able to help teach a beginner class on Monday, but on Tuesday (and perhaps longer) I must travel on business.