Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Think I am Becoming More of a Watson than a Holmes.

Jeremy Brett. The best Sherlock Holmes EVER!

The Game is Afoot!

This weekend I fenced in Charlottesville, VA in a CFA (Charlottesville Fencing Alliance) tournament. It was my first event of the season. I did fairly well in pools, (for me, that is), winning 4 and losing 2 by 1 point. Both went past 5 points. I finished 10th out of pools with a plus 9 indicator in a field of 32. My first DE was against the 23rd seeded person. I made a huge mistake and lost. Lesson learned, I hope. (I almost did not make this post as I was so embarrassed by my performance at the event.)

It was strange mix of fencers, which I like. It reminds me of past events in my Division.

When I go to a small tournament, I like to have a short warm up, and then fence for a bit. (If I can get a strip and someone to fence.) Then I start my information gathering by watching others warm up. This gives a lot of info, but I do not see everyone warm up.

I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I like to observe people and determine what I can ascertain about them. This is difficult in everyday life. People are more homogenized in comparison to the days of Sherlock Holmes. I learn more about people by walking by their car, than observing them.

The following are a few of the things I look for or listen to when I am at a tournament:

1. Are they wearing fencing shoes?
2. Is their name on the back of their jacket?
3. Are they wearing a jacket with a number or something that indicates it is a club jacket?
4. Do they have a brand new uniform and/or weapon?
5. Are they wearing an FIE uniform?
6. Do they have markings showing they have competed in international events?
7. Are they wearing a club patch? What is it?
8. What is their level of fitness?
9. Are they alone?
10. If they have their name on their jacket, is it old and faded?
11. Is a coach spending more time with one student than another? What is she/he showing them or telling them?
12. Are they using a French grip? Is the grip thick and weighted? Are they tall and using a French grip?
13. Does their mask have a lot of inspection marks?
14. Do they seem to know a lot of people not in their club?
15. Do they seem nervous?
16. Do they seem to have social skills? This is pretty easy to pick out, as most fencers are very limited in this area.
17. Do the fencers or their coaches have foreign accents?
18. Do they have parents/spouse or someone watching them? Can any information be gathered from the way these people are dressed or overheard conversations?
19. Conversations at the registration desk; on the floor or in the changing area.
20. What kind of bag are they using for their equipment? (If any.) Is it a hard case? If so are there stickers or other info on it?

These are just some of my observations, as well as the obvious ones like height, gender and age.

It became clear to me at this tournament that I should back off taking in this kind of information. I am not Sherlock Holmes. My assumptions are not always correct.

For example: There was a young man in my pool wearing an FIE uniform with slight indications of wear, and good and slightly worn fencing shoes. His name on the back of his jacket was slightly faded. I would fence him first in pools and would not get to see him fence prior to that. I suspected he might be an experienced fencer. He wasn’t.

I made an assumption about another fencer in my pool who bowed like he was at a Renaissance festival after saluting. (Once in a while you see some guy that does this sort of thing in local tournaments. I have no idea why!) My assumption was, “OH boy!...A gift….I am going to beat the tar out of this guy.” I did. So far, this assumption has yet to be wrong.

I fenced a couple of times at a club in Las Vegas. The head coach was the former coach for Notre Dame. A quote of his was on a sign hanging in that club. It said, “The answer is on the strip.” I need to remind myself that the information needed is on the strip. I will not quit playing Sherlock Holmes. I like it too much. However, I will remember that he was a fictional character who was almost always correct. I must remember that information I gather prior to fencing someone is an assumption and not to put too much stock in it.

One Other Thing

I noticed in this tournament, that the majority of touches I scored were simple direct attacks, mainly stealing distance, an opponent without a good sense of distance, and counters. Lately, I have spent a lot of time working on various attacks, setting up attacks. I think my “takes” and parry/riposte are not bad, and I like using them. However, in this tournament they rarely “felt” like the right thing to do. An opponent's arm would be too stiff, a new fencer who did weird things that made me question if an action would work on them. There were good fencers who kept the distance open. Some had a long lunge and a fast recovery, and I felt out of distance. I just never felt that I should use some of the things I have been working on or use actions I feel most comfortable doing. I have always heard that simple actions are best, but I felt like something was wrong with what I am doing. I don’t know why I fenced this way. I don’t know if it was the correct thing to do. Maybe I am just overthinking it.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Sometimes this is not a blog, but a fencing journal. Nothing interesting to read here…..move along

I am locking my rear leg sometimes. Must fix. Look for this in others when I attack.

I use to have my en guard drift into four. I worked hard to fix it, but it is back. Must Fix.

I am standing up when I counter (sometimes) and not returning to en guard. Again….must fix.

Relaxing on strip is better, relaxing shoulders comes and goes, though I am making progress. Do target exercises.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Division (A Double Connotation)

Last Saturday, I attended the NC Divisional Meeting. This is the first Divisional meeting I have attended. My reasons for not attending in the past are:

A. I do not consider myself to be of significance within the Division.

B. I soured on Divisional matters about 5 years ago. While it is much better today, I am still not totally over it.

C. There is no one less political than me.

The reason I decided to attend: one of the topics for discussion from a group of people interested in a splitting the NC Division. I though this was a topic to be discussed. The meeting was interesting, but the “biggie” was saved for last.

If I had known that a petition was already filed and the deed was done, I would not have bothered to attend. I found this out as the topic was brought up. I have no idea why there was a discussion about it after the fact. I figured this is what it must be like to be in a long term relationship with someone, and then one of them breaks up with the other over the phone.

The whole thing was uncomfortable. The seating was almost directly divided (not by design) with the people wanting to leave the Division on one side, and the people wanting it to stay together on the other. I was in the group “that did not want it to split up”. There were crossed arms and tight jaws staring across the room at crossed arms and tight jaws.

I didn’t want to fight with these people. I always felt welcomed when I fenced at their clubs. Fortunately, I don’t think it ever reached the level of “fight”. It still sucked. I left in a hurry, as oddly enough I was heading to the coast.

On the drive down, I analyzed the meeting over and over in my head. I tried to look at things from the side of the group who wanted to leave the Division. I thought about the reasons stated for wanting to leave. The things said and the things unsaid. I thought about why I did not want the split, when in truth, it would not affect me personally at all.

I was born in this state. I had to take a class called “North Carolina History”, which had to be the most boring class ever. I had to learn the state dog and the state sea shell. Yes….there is an official state everything. While naïve, living here all my life has made me sentimental concerning the state and this transferred to the Division. As I looked across the room during the meeting, I realized that a person from another area could not share this type of feeling. I also realized that my emotional attachment to the State and the Division were nice, but it really had no meaningful bearing on what was happening. You could not say, “Hey…Wait…Jim has an emotional attachment to the State. Don’t split it up.” It is not relevant.

Often on AskFred, when I have registered for a tournament, and you have to enter the club affiliation, I have thought I should just put down “Divisional”. I am a member of the Greensboro Fencers' Club (formerly the Downtown Fencing Club.) I have been a member of NCFDP and proudly studied with Coach Miller both in Chapel Hill and Greensboro over the last four years. I was briefly a member of Mid-South Fencers' Club when they were in Greensboro. I am presently affiliated with the Charlotte Fencing Academy. I have studied with Alex Beguinet, and I have lost count of how many seminars I have attended at Raleigh Fencers' Club. I go wherever I can to study fencing in the state. Again, this is an emotional thing and has no real bearing on splitting the Division.

These are some of the reasons given for wanting to leave the Division and my opinion on them. (Please note, that this how I remember it after four days.)

A.“It is too big.” This means the total distance across the state. Not the membership, which has slipped into the three hundreds with USFA memberships. Eh…..maybe…..maybe not. Going across the state from the coast, fencing begins to tapper down in Durham and ends in the line hooking Charlotte and Greensboro. ASU pops up again in the mountains. That is a shame, as I have always thought Winston Salem and Asheville could support good clubs. I guess it is relative to what you consider “big”. Other Divisions have greater distances to drive.

B. Herman brought up that it is a four hour drive to Charlotte for JO’s if a qualifier is held there. I can buy that. There is a tournament in Charlottesville, VA this weekend that I would like to attend. It is about that same distance, and I doubt I will go due to the drive. If you are a coastal club you do have the length and breadth of the about half the state to contend with on one side and England on the other.

C.Greg wants to grow that area in terms of fencing. Short term, I don’t see the need to be another Division to do this. Long term, maybe. The proposed new Division doesn’t expect to divide any money that the current Division has. They said they would start from scratch. So, in the long run, after they had some funds, they could be used to grow that area. If you wanted to get on with it now, you could stay in the present Division and apply for funding.

Here is what I tried to bring up during the meeting. That during this time of economic uncertainty and other reasons, clubs could be lost in the future. The smaller the Division the greater the impact this will have, and the larger it is, the more easily that loss can be absorbed. It went over like a lead balloon.

Here is what was unsaid. How does this split help the current Division? How does this split help the Non-coastal Division? That never came up. Also not mentioned was that part of the reasoning for this had to do with bad blood between people and clubs and some personal agendas (That is an assumption. If I am wrong in that regard, I apologize.)

There was discussion on this not being in line with NCUSFA Mission statement and some other things that I hope I never have to understand regarding USFA rules and regulations.

Perhaps a petition should be submitted not to split the division. If so....for gods sake....don't tell anyone or talk about it before hand. Evidently, this is the way it is done.

I have no idea if Divisions or Division qualifiers will even have a place in the near future. I have no idea what will happen next or when. What I do know is that my opinion has changed from “ I would like the Division to stay together” to “ Okay…Hell…Whatever.”

Also at the Division Meeting…….

I found out at each meeting the board wrestles with the restrictions Divisional Observers have placed on them. Good! I think that they should rethink the whole thing. The whole thing is based on thinking someone will do something wrong; be biased or cheat. I have fenced at every club in this state except one and my feeling is that no one is going to intentionally cheat or do anything wrong. There will be some bad calls reffing. If you don’t think a Divisional Observer is an honorable person, don’t let them observe. It is THE most boring job in the world. You should check membership and check safety. At that point you do almost nothing until you get home. I say if they want to ref….let them ref. If they want to fence….let them fence. It reminds me of the rule about wearing a knee brace outside of your uniform. A blade might get hung in it. Well...it might....but what are the odds. Trust people to do the right thing and loosen up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Follow up to Circle Six


See what you think Thomas.

In reading this, it seems that many factors go in to what type of action to use.

Three of which are: Distance; speed and trajectory.
Oddly enough, that DOES sound like rocket science.

Enough on this topic, I have over thought it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Circle Six in Opposition

Cast of Characters:

Brian Toomey: Coach and Owner of Charlotte Fencing Academy.

Ron Miller: Coach of the University of North Carolina Fencing Team (NCAA team) and both father and grandfather to North Carolina fencing.

Tommy Dietz: “A” rated Epeeist and Coach at the Greensboro Fencers' Club. Tommy started fencing in Greensboro, and then studied at Charlotte Fencing Academy. He is a member of the Charlotte Fencing Academy. It really gets confusing trying to label him.

Henri Gales: A petite woman fencer (yes…woman…Henri Ellen) who appears to be a perfect Southern Belle (except for the fact that she is a vicious little fencer and if you pour holy water on her skin, it will sizzle and blister.)

Jim Kent: Just another late blooming vet fencer.

(Note: An out of state friend asked me to clarify about people mentioned in my journal.)

Circle Six

Thursday evening I went to the Charlotte Fencing Academy. Generally, we head down on Fridays. (We pay a strip fee to fence.....though we often get more out of it than just fencing.) We have been going on Fridays due to length of driving time (three to four hours round trip). Brian was kind enough to include us in the drill segment. It was a simple drill, circle six in opposition or a form of circle six opposition.

The drill has often occupied my thoughts since then for a number of reasons. Coach Toomey's circle six is different from the way previously instructed by Coach Miller. (Yes……I know that just as there are different ways to do a beat, there may be different ways to do other simple actions.) What continually goes through my mind is……”Which is the superior action?……Or is there a superior action?”

For the last four years or so, I have been working to have some degree of technical proficiency. Coach Miller is a great coach for that. In his training, circle 6 in opposition is a cork screw motion continually moving forward, and the action is more of a “J” than a circle. (This was imperative as circle six in opposition or the drill “Six Wall” was the foundation for most other drills.) In Brian's version, the action has more of a “V”, and there is a split second of holding the blade after the “take” before going in. (Note: If Toomey reads this, there will be a comment on my description of the action. Please read that, as I am sure there will meaningful comment and correction.)

Technically, the “cork screw action” that continually moves forward seems superior as it takes less time. I have spent a lot of time trying to make that action autonomic. However, the drill in Charlotte was designed to be more tactical. The drill was designed to be like what actually happens on strip. The coach is not wearing a sleeve, nor has his elbow bent to form the perfect pocket for the attack. The cue is not resting the tip on the bell guard. The coach is not helping you to succeed in the action.

I cannot objectively evaluate myself as far as fencing actions or fencing in general. I can however, evaluate my training partner (Henri) somewhat objectively. I would say that her blade work is pretty good. She might be better at it than me, but we should be on a similar level. I am going to watch her and try and draw some sort of conclusion concerning what makes more sense for our level regarding circle six in opposition. I would like to form some type of conclusion.

Yet another note: Coach Toomey often states, “Fencing is not rocket science.” However, it is complicated enough to make my small mind ponder things for hours and hours.

I have also spent twice a week in Greensboro training with Tommy. He has been working with me on: relaxing my shoulder; flicks; and, stealing distance tactics. The things I study with him seem more difficult than circle six. Yet, basics are always important.

I wonder if I will ever be able to make the things I am learning effective on strip?