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?


Thomas William Jensen said...

To your final question, obviously you will, if you haven't already. Riposte: is there a significant difference in the finger work in the two methods you describe? My natural approach to a circle six was a "cork screwing" motion which I was performing with a significant amount of wrist action (which is slow). My coach has directed me to do more of a "J" action using my fingers almost exclusively. I'm very interested in your thoughts.

The Gray Epee said...

Technically, the “only fingers….no wrist…very tight…cork screw motion …always going in…”j” motion is correct. It works great in drills. It makes sense. But in the “heat of combat” and the way I worked on it last Friday, a little wrist was okay. It was even like a small transfer, followed by an attack.

I would talk to your coach about it, I haven’t come to much of a conclusion other than when I am fencing, my natural action becomes more like the lesson I worked on Thursday.

Let me know if you come to some sort of conclusion yourself. I would be interested.

cobalt said...

And in case anyone hasn't figured out yet. Cobalt = Toomey.

Ok, now I'll throw out the kicker: I coach both a corkscrew style action and a segmented action for different circumstances. (Though honestly, I almost always use the V...though I prefer calling it a teardrop. A former NYAC fencer showed it to me years ago and I can't unsee it now. It works more often than staying too close to the bellguard)

The circumstance we were setting up is a situation where you're drawing your opponent to attack and more importantly, to set up strong parry riposte distance. A corkscrew going forward can end up in you getting into trouble if you're opponent is stronger. Have your opponent fight your blade when you're making the corkscrew and see what happens.

The corkscrew going forward works particularly well if I'm intending to attack into my opponent and need to get their blade out of the way.

Honestly, there's arguments for both. Allen Evans wrote a whole big discussion about this topic.

The other thing to remember about my drills/lessons. Is that frequently I have a hidden agenda. Mostly I was trying to get you all comfortable with being able to parry/riposte at a close range. When I fenced Henri the week before, I could literally push her to the end of strip and dominate her distance, because she wasn't comfortable with me taking the distance fairly close. (Yes, I know it's shocking to hear Henri having a problem with close distances :P )

You should use your fingers for your parries. If I ever cheat, it's not intentional

cobalt said...

Also, regarding sleeve, pocket, etc...

To steal Coach Marx's interpretation: In basketball, when you practice, do they make the basket bigger?

I've never had an opponent willingly help me score on them. Now, as a coach, you should start off slow. But as the drill progesses, a few more realistic scenarios should be added in.

Take my lesson with Henri for example. During the entire time we were doing just a circle 6 riposte.

1 - Start statically. then I started throwing in the concept of me fighting the blade. Then I removed the blade entirely. Then I tried to counterparry. She should be able to finish the riposte to the same place in all those situations. Her shoulder should be relaxed and her blade should bend correctly.

2 - Now with basic movement. All of the above scenarios while she's trying to retreat. The trick is to time your riposte as you finish your retreat.

3 - Welcome to reality. Don't wait, bait. Draw me with an invitation to attack. All of the previous scenarios apply.

Her next trick is to try to fence with just a circle 6, an attack, and a counterattack. Now you really get to test that circle 6 under fire. Let's see if that arm/body gets panicky then :)