Thursday, September 10, 2009

Long Winded Today

(Jordon is the girl second from the left.)

This has been on my mind of late.

Often, when you visit a club's web site, you will find a list somewhere of their accomplishments. Tournament placings earned by students and coaches are commonly posted. Also, when club kids make college fencing teams.

The Greensboro Fencers' Club (Formerly the Downtown Fencing Club....and I have trouble thinking of it by any other name) had a student make the University of North Carolina fencing team this year. She will fence epee. Is she a very good fencer? (No.) Could she be? (Possibly in this environment.)

How did this happen? Is it because she is academically gifted and got into UNC? (Partly.) Is it because Ron Miller was running an epee class at the club & she got to know him? (That sure did not hurt.) Perhaps there are other reasons. I know last year, Coach was a bit short on women's epee fencers for the team.

Jordan (like me) also went to several clinics given by Alex Beguinet, the head coach of Duke University team. The rivalry and hatred between UNC and Duke borders on stupidity in my book. There seems to be enough hate in the world without perpetuating something like this. Of course, I was a student at neither university. Maybe I am not getting something. Alex liked her. He will remember her. It will be interesting if they meet or speak at the Duke event next year.

I think of a lot of very talented young fencers (that I know in this state) who wanted very much to be accepted at UNC and make this team. I can only count two that did this year, and Jordan is one.

In my mind,The Greensboro Fencers' Club has had a lot of accomplishments. Particularly, considering that it is a very small club and all the coaches are volunteers.

Should it ever get to the point where the GFC lists our accomplishments on our web site, I think somewhere in there it should say something like the following:

" Gave some kids that did not fit in a place to to feel accepted. To gain a bit of discipline and learn a few manners/social skills. " (Words to that effect. Perhaps not those.)

That IS an accomplishment.


For the last couple of years, one of my goals in fencing has been to become decent technically. Not great....pretty decent. Coach is a great person with whom to pursue that goal. Even in our little group lessons, we are generally divided into a " leader-student" pairing to work on drills. Nothing unusual about that. But, it is a lot like the private lessons. As much or more of the instruction is often for the leader, as this is more difficult to do correctly than the fencing action. I like that aspect of this. In a way, it is like you are being trained to coach without knowing it.

I am wondering something lately though. Is this the best way? I feel weird thinking about this. Ron is a great and distinguished coach. I have only questioned what I learned from him twice. This is number two.

I am not going behind his back and questioning him. I will ask him about this the first chance I get.

This is what I am wondering though.

Everyone needs to be able to do basic actions with some degree of technical proficiency before they can move on to tactics. However, I am wondering if it would not be better (for some students at least) to gain a moderate amount of technical ability.......learn tactics.....and then perfect the technical actions for those tactics.

Maybe I am wondering this due to feeling that my knowledge of tactics is so very limited.


Generally, the books I read related to fencing are non-fiction.

A friend lent me a historic-fiction book lately titled "The Fencing Master" by Artro Perez-Reverte. This seems to be a very common book for fencers to read. I am late getting around to it.

I am about half way through at present. It is a good and easy read.

From time to time in the book, you read phrases that are commonly heard in fencing. I assume that as it was published in 1988 , many fencers first read these quotes for the first time in this book.

Perhaps the most common is about "holding the weapon like you would hold a small bird".

All I could think of when reading that is, when I fence epee my bird may be in good shape for a while, but, at some point in bouting I think I break some of his ribs. Fortunately, there is no shortage of small birds.

Editors Note: No animals were harmed in any way in the making of this journal entry.

12 Year Old Girls Fencing Epee

The GFC has three, 12 year old girl epeeists. One is so tall I would want proof of age if I was checking her in at a tournament. She is fairly tall even for an adult. One is short. One is frickin' tiny!!!! I think she is the smallest 12 year old I ever saw. The tall one and the tiny one are fencing in an event in Georgia soon. I worry about the tiny one. She has great foot work and mobility. She is brave, but lacks the killer instinct. She often does not lead with her point when she lunges. I wonder if part of that is due to the small size of her arm and the weight of the weapon. I worry about her. I hope getting the crud beat out of her does not make her dislike fencing. She is a sweet kid.


Yesterday, I went with my youngest daughter and her husband to see the ultra sound of the baby she is carrying. This one also identified the baby's sex.

His name will be Lucas.

I had always hoped to be able to teach my grandkids how to fence, or at least get them interested so that they might pursue it later in life. I have a tiny antique fencing jacket with silver buttons up the side waiting on one to fill it out.

I hope circumstances will allow me to at least be able to "play" fencing with him/them.

I have had children, and I know that what interests you often has NO interest to them. (Though I find it comforting that my son, Sam, loves to run. He saw me do this often growing up. Perhaps it was an influence...who knows.)

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.


I had a good private lesson with Coach at UNC on Tuesday. We seem to be adding more and different actions to lessons lately. This is a good thing.

I am so programed to do "circle six in opposition" at present, I use it to instinctually in bouting. Great parry....but too slow and predicable. I need to broaden my scope.

I made progress in fencing Alex this week. I am hitting near target with flicks once in a while, and I opened up the distance. My flicks still stink, but I am working on them. Next week, I will try attacking him in third intention. Hey...I have to know!

They are working on one of the gyms at UNC, so the fencing room is being shared around 8:00 by a karate club. So many people in one small space generates a LOT of heat. I have to hit the showers before the drive home. It is best to get there early now. If will be hard to find a strip.

1 comment:

cobalt said...

Long winded blog entry deserves long winded response.

Actually, it's a very good question. I've experimented a lot on this, and a lot of other coaches do. IMO, Pair drills seem to work the best out of solutions I've seen in groups. The biggest trick is keeping them organized but not slowing it down too much. Every group seems to be a little different on that. Things do you rotate? With kids? With teenagers? Do you call each action or do you let them run on their own?

Always tricky making order out of chaos.

One thing missing on your tactics vs. technique discussion IMO: distance. I like to keep it separated out(Because it really is involved in both!)

I've always thought tactics can be something that can slowly brought in from the very beginning. (Start simple, get progressively deeper). And in this day and age, it's almost required. A lot of times, the kids don't hang around unless they're winning.... Sucks, but it's the way it goes. You have to teach them patience. And there's a lot of things working against you on that.

Think about this. Everything we train to do goes back to the bout. Sure, we work on our attacks, parries, etc... But when do we use them?

There are a lot of coaches who seem to have forgotten this. When you're coaching, I think you've always got to try to explain why you would do a particular action.

For example, here's one of my favorites. When I teach feints disengage my class discussion is something like the following:

Cobalt: "Today we're going to learn about feints, but before that you need to understand one thing first. Fencer X put on your mask."
[Fencer X puts on their mask]
[Cobalt smacks Fencer X on top of their mask like a sabre]
Fencer X: "Whaaa.?"
[Cobalt goes to smack Fencer X on top of their mask again]
[Fencer X parries, backs up, spazzes, something]
[Cobalt disengages and taps them lightly somewhere else]
Cobalt: "And there's your lesson: Feints won't work unless you train your opponent to be worried about an attack. Soooo, you don't do this until you've hit your opponent directly first"

So they've learned a basic tactic in one of their early lessons. Why to go 1st intention before going 2nd intention. And that's about it early on. As I continue down the rabbit hole it gets deeper. But you have to learn letters before you learn words, before you learn sentences, before you learn paragraphs, before you learn chapters, etc...

Anyhow, there's a lot of discussion that can be centered around that topic. Books can and have been written on it. I'll leave it that right now. Catch me in a few weeks and I'll go in further from my perspective. Coach Miller can add in a lot as well.

And to finish off: I'm always careful with the young fencers. I used to be compete any chance you get, but I changed my opinion on that years ago. They've got to show their ready for competition before they can go. And EVERY fencers is a little different. A 12 year old girl isn't a 20 year old college kid. A lot of that decision comes down to their desire to compete, and their ability to accept losses in the beginning. Their amount of training intensity also makes a difference. They have to learn that it's a process to become a good fencer. It also comes down to picking tournaments that are good enviroments for them. An A4 is not a good environment for a beginner. A well run regional Y14 event with a lot of newer fencers, a good environment.

Hmmm...I have about 4 Y12 epeeists right now too...we should talk.