Sunday, May 30, 2010


This weekend I attended a one day camp at Charlotte Fencing Academy. It is a good camp and I would recommend it.

I was there for a number of reasons, but the main one was to work on balance.

While playing “THE Drill”, I found that I was leaning forward, waiting on the lunge. (“THE Drill” is something borrowed from a Michael Marx training camp.) My feet were not under me. I tried to be more mindful of that the rest of the day.

I have come up with a couple of theories concerning this lack of balance.

1. Age

2. Leaning forward and not having my feet under me.

3. 235 pounds moving fast forward or fast backwards does not stop as fast as 150 pounds. I can squat 450 pounds or so. My legs are strong. I can push this old heavy body forward with some power, however stopping it is a problem.

4.I try to get past my opponents tip to often and stopping the rush of my body is going to throw me off balance. (Brian called me on the “balance thing” doing this.)

5.All of the above

I am not going to figure this out or fix it in one day. But being aware of it and working on it may help in time.

We played a great game called “War” at this camp. It has other names, but the club, “degeeked” it a bit. It has a lot of the fun of fencing “doubles epee” but is not limited to four people. The kids at our club in Greensboro could not handle this game. They are too young and I am afraid they would get hurt.

During the drill segments of the camp, we worked on a move that began with a check forward (kind of a half advance) and offering an invitation. I rarely use an invitation like this, as nothing demoralizes me more than to offer and invitation and then get hit there. But what interested me about the drill is the check forward or half advance. This check forward is not like the way I do it. Of course I do not check forward very often. I check back all the time. I don’t use half advance or half retreat very often that I am aware of. This is a mistake and I need to go back and review some basic footwork.

A camp like this would be hard thing for me to envision pulling off. Three weapons and fencers of different levels make it difficult. The epee group was at a level where we could be left alone to bout and help each other. There were two new kids there, but they were looked after by the others. I was particularly impressed with a young man named Sam and his guidance and patience in working with a beginner. I saw a side of him I had not seen before.

It was a day well spent.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are We....Or Aren't We?

My training partner (Henri)and I never wanted to be coaches. Being late blooming vet fencers, we wanted to devote ourselves to the learning of all things fencing. Being a late blooming vet fencer, you are constantly aware that your time to compete may be ending at any you best get on with it. Yet, we also felt an obligation to give back to the club and to the people who got us started.

We attended Coaches Collage for FOIL I at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. We did so as we thought we were losing a Foil coach for a year, and we wanted to help out at our local club.

Speaking only for myself, even after taking the FOIL I course, I think Epee is the only weapon I would feel comfortable teaching (up to a low/intermediate level). One of the most difficult things in fencing is .......evaluating yourself. Would I really be a decent Epee coach....or am I fooling myself? Would I want to be?

The Greensboro Fencers' Club is a low level/introductory/recreational club. All the coaches are unpaid volunteers. We have had some success over the years, and partly I believe it is because we encourage students to seek better coaching and instruction (whenever possible). Locally....we are pretty much it.

My training partner and I have been studying under an NCAA coach for the last four years or so in Chapel Hill. We belonged to two clubs. We have always tried to set aside a time for study...improve (hopefully) and keep that time separate from helping at our local club. Of late, we are trying to study at CFA in Charlotte, NC (time and distance are a problem there, but it is worth the effort to study under someone with an excellent program and a different approach to coaching).

I digress. Back to the topic.

At the Greensboro Fencers' Club, my partner and I do the following jobs:

1. Move curtains, chairs, bleachers and open up cabinets prior to class.
2. Get kids dressed out.
3. Wash bib liners.
4. Wash plastrons and uniforms.
5. Order equipment.
6. Repair equipment/get equipment repaired.
7. Communicate with Proehlific Park staff and fulfill their request. Examples: Rosters
8. Communicate with coaches to let them know what is going on.
9. Schmooze with parents to get them involved.
10. Work on getting club T-shirts for the kids.
11. Attend fencing clinics to improve our value to the club.
12. Participate within the Division and Divisional activities. Example: Observer clinic; observe at tournaments; help with set up of Divisional tournaments and represent the club in Divisional matters.
13. Run demos requested by Proehlific Park.
14. Attend functions when invited by Proehlific Park staff.
15. Substitute for other coaches when they are late or absent.
16. Compete.
17. Attend local tournaments with kids.
18. Meet fencers and parents when a fencing vendor is in town and help them choose equipment.
19. Educate parents on fencing.
20. Help with Sectionals.
21. Responsible for competitive class.
22. Work to rebuild a competitive class.
23. Arrange payment for guest coaches.
24. Put away equipment.
25. Keep in contact with former students and parents.
26. Prepare hand outs for new students with vocabulary and web sites.
27. Create and maintain first aid kit.
28. Create and maintain tournament equipment check out log.
29. Private lessons for kids.
30. Dress out and fence with kids preparing for tournaments.
31. Study with other coaches to bring back games and knowledge for the kids.
32. Clean out and organize closets.
33. Maintain relationships with other clubs and coaches.

On the Greensboro Fencers' Club roster, we are listed as assistant coaches. Are we? Even though we do not believe we know enough, should we think of ourselves as coaches? Does this fit in with "the reality of need outweighs the desire for perfection" in my previous post?. Does it matter one way or the other?

These aren't big questions, but I have been pondering them of late.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Reality of Need


I attended Sectionals a couple of weeks ago. More than that, I helped with Sectionals. There was a call for help with the tournament, but in some way I feel that I invited myself.

I got there around 2:00 Friday and brought in pamphlets and stuffed bags for fencers. I carried chairs, tables and all manner of things upstairs. I ran various errands and helped with set up. There was small group of good people doing this. A few alway seem to be involved in this sort of thing. It is a job even more thankless than reffing.

In my mind I was thinking of a Jackson Browne song whose lyrics talk about "Roadies: setting up for a concert". The Load Out / Stay - Live 1978. "Pack it up and tear it down....they're the first to come and the last to leave."

It wasn't just set up, good people floated in at the end to help with pack up as well.

I have set up for a lot of tournaments, but this was the highest level tournament with which I have been involved. I learned a neat trick for smoothing out copper strips using a table which I had not seen before. That copper strip was the beginning of my learning experience and a thing I have been reflecting.

As I looked at this ancient strip, with duck tape and wrinkles and more than a couple of holes, I thought about a question on the Epee Ref exam which questions what to do if a hole is found in the strip during a tournament.

The reality of need outweighs the desire for perfection. We were lucky to have this strip, and although it had some holes and duct tape, we were still lucky to have it.

Mostly, the Refs at the event whom I knew were very good and very professional. One was not. That Ref will not be corrected because the reality of need outweighs the desire for perfection.

There was a thread on concerning the rules regarding names on jackets at national events, and if this applies to qualifiers. I watched as an NC fencer received a Red Card for this. Whatever the correct verdict is on this discussion, if you fence at a tournament of this level, you should have your name on your jacket or leg.....or lame. You should know that. I am not worried about it one way or the other. "Me and mine" have our names on our jacket.....right color......more or less the right size. The reality of a need to make a call outweighed the need for the perfection of the call.

I suspect that in most every tournament you could find an error or fault. There is a fine line between "nit picking" and violation of the rules. What is it? Where is it? Most everyone seems to know where it is. Depending on who you are, and how tolerant you are this gray area may be wider or narrower. Still, it is an unspoken agreement. Weird....huh?

I do not recall ever criticizing any tournament. I never feel like I know enough to do so for one thing.(There was one I should have criticized, but even that was such a learning experience I will not do so).

In fencing at this event, in the initial seed I was ranked one away from the bottom. I knew I was very much outclassed going in to the event. I figured this is how it would end up. In retrospect, I think I should have just kept my money.

My one and only DE was 15-10. My Allstar blade broke on the last touch. (I hate that. It was a blade that I think was made in Germany, before they started having them made in China). I had to salute at the end with a broken blade, half of it was dangling. Greg Spahr was kind enough to critique my bout. He pointed out a lot of useful things. Some I knew and did not utilize. For example, I was fencing a guy who was using a French grip and pommeling. I never miss something like that, but I did this time and didn't even know. The reason was that I had already given up....or at least just wanted to get it over with. I don't EVER give up, no matter the score or who I am fencing. The fact that I did that really bothers me.

Message in a Bottle

More and more of late, I want to talk with someone who is an expert on late blooming vet fencers. Sadly, I don't truly believe one exists. I thought about asking this question on, but that is a message in a bottle. I have some theories now about people that start fencing in their fifties, and I would like to verify them or correct them if I am wrong.

Gorilla Tape

I noticed as we were taking up strips and cords that the red tape and the Gorilla tape were pulling the finish of the gym floor. I am afraid some day someone is going to get a bill for damages at a tournament. I am thinking that in this instance, need and desire should be kicked to the curb and just use painters tape.

Fencing at Charlotte Fencing Academy

Tommy, Henri and I went down to CFA two weeks ago. We got in a little bouting and had a critique of our fencing from Brian. He pointed out my balance was not good. This is the second time he has stated this. I sort of brushed it off the first time he said so, as I thought it was my knee. I was thinking about doing it again, because I was fencing Miles. For me, Miles "means attacking out of distance". I have to look into it though. The same call twice means there is a problem. I am not sure what it is. I don't feel off balance......unless I attack out of distance. I am also considering that as you age, your balance declines. Is this an age thing.....the way I move....other.......some combination of the two? Damn.....another thing to think about.