Sunday, October 25, 2009

Holmes and Sabre

Saturday, I was the division observer for a sabre tournament at Mid-South Fencers' Club.

For this job, memberships are checked before an event, memberships mailed after an event, and a report is submitted on line after the event.

During the event, you check on a few safety concerns and technical items. After that you don't actually do much of anything, except spend the day there.

The only people I really knew at the event were Stephen and Matt. Jen popped in briefly. Nice bunch of kids and parents, but I did not know any of them.

When you only fence one weapon (like me...and I would guess the majority of people there) it creates sub groups. The only sabre people I really know are coaches or sabreists who also fence epee.

I had a couple of nice chats with Stephen and learned a few things about sabre, reffing and coaching.

I had an interesting conversation on epee with Matt. One of the topics we discussed was about "beats". I classified a beat Jen demonstrated at her epee class as a foil beat. (A beat to the side of the blade.)

When I took my first private lesson with Coach Miller, a couple of years ago, he told me to do a beat. I beat the side of the blade. He told me that was a foil beat and had me beat the top of his blade with the bottom of mine. Beats like this are only done when the blade is parallel to the floor. (Point stays on target and you do not lose much momentum of the blade going forward.) It made perfect sense to me, and I have never done a beat any other way since.

Matt didn't buy it (about being a foil beat) and I really did not buy what Matt said, because of the length of time/distance covered the beat would take as he demonstrated.

I think I did not make my point with Matt, primarily because I did not express myself well and partly because he thinks my level of knowledge is still where it was around 5 years ago when we first met. Not that it has grown all that much, but I think in relationship to epee alone, that the knowledge gap has diminished a bit.

So, I spent my day watching sabre. I had some good pizza and I read.

I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. A friend suggested that I try Laurie King's "The Beekeeper's Apprentice". This is a book about a girl/woman (Mary Russell) with the same deductive and observation skills as Holmes. I understand that later in these series of books, she marries Holmes. If you enjoy Holmes, I think you would enjoy this. I did and already have the second book in the series.

I drank coffee and I watched sabre. I watched and I wanted to fence. I didn't care if it was sabre, I wanted to be out on strip having some fun.

I recalled my last tournament when I fenced sabre. I fenced sabre only because they needed another person at a tiny Vet event.

I was fencing a guy who did not like me very much. This bout did nothing to improve our relationship. I saw his hand open in an attack of opportunity. Hey....I fence epee! I hit it with the point. The tip went between two fingers,through his glove and into his hand. He went to the hospital and had stitches.

For several years, every time we had an Intro Fencing Class in Greensboro, I would hear this incident mentioned in regards to sabre safety. No names would be used in the safety lecture, though I would think about being referred to as "Jim the Impaler" for a while after that tournament.

I never had much interest in fencing sabre after that, for fear of hurting someone. That curbed my desire to fence it on Saturday.

So I read ....and I watched.....until it was finally time to go home.

I completed my online report (to some degree) and have new memberships ready to mail to the USFA. I am waiting on the division secretary's mailing address to send him copies.

Matt asked me if I would come back and do another in December. We got off topic or something and I never answered.

I would go back and do it again, but must see what is happening in December around that date. If I am asked back, I will make the following changes. I would bring my own chair. I would bring something (more than a book) to entertain myself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It doesn't appear I am going to get a lot of fencing in this week.

Tommy worked with me for a while Monday. I think that is going to be about it.

UNC is on Fall Break....I think.

I will miss Wednesday, as it is my oldest daughters birthday.

The big thing for my week is that I will be an official USFA NC tournament observer at Mid South Fencing Club this weekend. It will be my first time in this role.

More on this after the event.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


(This photo used without permission. It was taken by Jen Cox. I am sure she would not mind me using it....if she does...I will remove it.)

I audited a class at Mid-South fencing on Friday. A truly cool bunch of students and an interesting night.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Last night Tommy worked with with me, while the kids class was in progress. I am beginning to understand what he is teaching me, though it may be a while before I am able to use it effectively. It does not have the same instinctive quality that a lunge or circle six have. At this point, it seems to me more like a "luck" thing, though I understand how it avoids a parry. I will try it again in practice bouting the first chance I get.

I am also eager to try the semi-circle beat and pull back tactic he showed me.

I know this does not make sense, but I am recording it here so I will remember.

Coach was a bit late getting there from Chapel Hill and there was one of his old alumni at the club, so lesson time for the advanced class was cut in half as they chatted. We free fenced a while as he waited for Coach.

Coach's lesson for that night was in the form of conversation. The kids don't care for it all that much (They enjoy action.)but I love these types of classes.

The lesson was primarily for Henri and I.

Coach knew we were disappointed in our showing at last weeks tournament.

He asked us about how we felt coming into the tournament. I told him that we had talked and knew we would not place well. I related that we were trying to think about it as just "strip time".

He told us that when we come into a tournament thinking that way we are giving something to our opponent.

The lesson was on the mental game and stopping a negative spiral. Over confidence can be just as bad of course. But the lesson was primarily concerning stopping negativity and mental preparation.

Obviously you could have all the mental game in the world and not beat a vastly superior fencer, but I was reminded of the importance. I had forgotten.

He recommended a book entitled,"The Inner Game of Tennis". This is a book I have heard about sense I started fencing, but have never read. I will need to dig it up. I also looked in my fencing library for the book, "One Touch at a Time", but I must have lent this to someone and never got it back.

Coach offered me his hand to shake during his talk. We shook hands. he asked me what I felt. I said, " A firm hand shake." He asked, " What did I feel?" and I replied, " The same.". He nodded.

He related that when his team is fencing and they come off strip, he will often shake there hand or do a "high five". If their hand shake or high five lacks energy or feels weak after a bad bout, they go sit on the bench. He is measuring their energy and mental state through these actions.

That sort of thing fascinates me.

He talked about the pre game routine. (This is not necessarily part of your warm up, but is just as important.)

The lecture covered so many things, it is not possible to record them all here.

As I stated, this was mostly for Henri and I.

He asked us if we thought we were good fencers. " No ...and of course not." were our reply.

But he thought so. And he told us how proud he was of our fencing. How it was like night and day in compared to two years or so ago.

He went on and on about how extremely proud of us he was. ( Well..." On and on" for Coach.) Oddly enough, he truly meant it. I often do not see what this man sees, but it certainly made me feel better.

As the night closed, Coach (Who turned 65 last week.) told us that if he could get his back fixed up and drop 20 lbs., he was going to compete again. It has been 13 years sense he last competed. He has bad knees and though he likes sabre, he will most likely fence epee as the lunges do not have to be as long. He is unconcerned about winning. He just wants to fence.

I think that is AWESOME! I so hope that he makes it to the point were he can do this.

On the drive back home, I thought about what it would be like to fence him. I would have a lot of mixed emotions about doing that, though I am sure they would vanish as the bout progressed.

So........It was a proud night.

He was very proud of us and I was very proud of him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Last Sunday

Last Sunday I fenced at a NCFDP tournament in Chapel Hill.

I did not win a bout. Neither did my training partner.

My training partner is in a funk over fencing. Last Friday I experienced one of the worst family tragedies I have ever experienced in my life. (It is a personal matter and not one to be shared on line.) It was and is consuming me mentally.

I am sure that the funk and the travesty affected our performance a great deal.

On the other hand, we knew we were primarily canon fodder going in (We were simply out classed.) and were trying to look at it as just strip time. None the less I had expected better showings.

I am starting to believe that I will never fence significantly better than I do at this moment in time.

In part, it is due to age. Also training and strip time.

The limitations on training are (In regards to available clubs /places to train):
(The views below are incredibly brief and not all inclusive of information.)

Club 1. Good group lessons. No one to really fence with.

Club 2. Excellent technical training, but no one to fence with at an appropriate level and a lack of strips.

Club 3. I may be technically superior to the coach in blade work drills. I am not sure what I would learn or if there would be enough fencers available for decent strip time

Club 4. Drive time is to far away. Couple gas cost with dues and it may be to expensive. Also return trip would put arrival home very late at night.

I am starting to think that the training is not going to make that much difference in performance. It might....but how much?

Perhaps it is just time to do the best I can with what I have available.

I always told myself that I would compete as long as I felt like I was giving a decent account of myself. (The decent account thing has to be through my eyes only.)

I know that my level of fencing is in the " D and Under " category. I doubt I will be able to upgrade that.

Last week I won a small low level tournamnt. This week I was target practice in an A1 event.

The hardest thing in fencing is evaluating yourself. ( Well....that and getting kids to pair up or line up correctly for drills.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009


(Former North Carolina governor's mansion in New Bern, NC)

Joseph Cadole Memorial Fencing Tournament

This weekend three old friends and I were having a "guys weekend". My brother and I have house at the coast and my friends like to fish, so we went there.

Fishing off a pier is not for me, so I left them on Saturday and went to fence at a tournament in New Bern.

There was a fair sized foil event going on when I got there, with around 16 fencers participating.

None of my teammates were with me, so I had to entertain myself by watching foil. I watched the RoW refs for a while to see if my call was like theirs.

I got bored with that pretty quick. Fortunately, there was something better to watch. There was a young girl fencing foil named Ellie Cooper. She has the nicest mixture of tight attacks and feminine athletic grace that it is just beautiful to watch. She moves like a dancer. It reminded me of the quote under the title of my journal," violence refined into beauty".

Pools started faster than I expected, so I never had a chance to warm up. There were 4 "E's" in the tournament , but only 9 fencers, so it was not a D1 event.

Skipping over a lot of meaningless details, I won and renewed my rating.

In the final bout I fenced a young man named Joshua Harvey. He is a handsome young man. (I always feel a little weird saying that...but he is.) He is also a real nice kid. After the bout, he came over and said, " I just want to shake your hand again".

We talked for a while.

In the bout I was down 14-12. I made a toe shot and a cuff shot to tie it up. In the end, he went for a toe shot and I did one of those unnamed (yet standard) moves were your feet jump back and your blade goes forward.

In the last two entries in my journal I have posted that I did not fence well. That was true this time as well.....BUT.....some times I made good actions. I guess that is progress.

I thought that I made some good clean moves, but you never know if that is what it looks like from the side lines. They could have been awful for all I know.

I thought a lot about how things look in fencing as I drove back to the beach house.

I thought about how people look after a bout when they come up to shake your hand. I hate it when they look ticked off. I like it when they have an air of grace and dignity in victory or defeat. I shoot for that. I wonder if I pull it off?

I had two strange things happen during this tournament that never happened to me before.

In pools, we began to double strip on the middle strips. These strips were to close together and the refs had to stand shoulder to shoulder. There was not more than 4 feet between strips.

I got a yellow card for turning my back. I heard the foil ref call halt. I thought my opponent must have scored and turned to walk back to the en guard line. I was winning big, so it did not matter.

In my first DE I was fencing the second oldest guy (after me). I would say 40ish. He was a pretty good fencer and we had a good bout going. I was a point or two ahead in the second period. During the break, I saw our fairly new ref having excited words with a young kid holding the timer.

It seems that our last period was 5 minutes long, rather than 3. The ref asked us what we wanted to do about it. I am winning and don't want to be a jerk and we were having a good bout, so I told them to just ignore it and go on. All I could think of as I walked to the line was, " I hope I don't loose because of that decision".

I turned it up a notch after that and won the bout with room to spare. So in the end, the decision may have helped me

Hey.....This was a small low rated tournament......NOT the Olympics.

On the drive home, I thought about a tournament I was in in Raleigh. We had to ref out of pools. I was reffing and was unfamiliar with the timer. The bout started and after the first touch, I realized the timer was not on. I just acted like I was looking at the timer for the rest of the whole pool bout. It seemed like it was over quick enough to be under 3 minutes. I never told anyone, until now.

These kind of things make you a bit more forgiving when a young man lets the time go by.