Friday, January 28, 2011

Truth is Beauty and Beauty Truth

I will never be an "A" fencer, but I can have good technique and form. (Or as much as this aging body will permit.) I can control having good technique and form if I work at it.

The beauty of fencing is important to me. To me. It doesn't matter what anyone else in the world thinks. It is important to me. Beauty in fencing can be different things to different people. But I know what it is to me.

Many times when someone asks the difference between sport fencing and classical fencing the stock answer is, “One is sport and one is art.” I don’t buy that. They are both art.

In the club I started out in, the head coach was a classical fencer. She did not know she was a classical fencer, until starting the club and going to Coach’s College. (Long story, but true….just go with it.) So……it is possible that I was taught some things (early on) that I took as gospel and never learned that they weren’t necessarily true/accurate. On the other hand, I wonder if other people are in the same boat. There is no one to go to that can say, “This is the correct way to do something and everything else is “bull frockey”. (My Dad use to say bull frockey. I don’t think it is dirty, but either way….I am going with it.)

Here is an example. I was taught that your front foot was like a gun sight and that your toes should be pointed straight ahead as you advance or retreat. However, I was watching video of one of the best epee fencers in the U.S. and his front toe is never pointed at target. He is kind of heavy and does not bounce a great deal. His foot work reminds me of an intermediate level boxer. Yet….he is one of our best.

This is the point where I start rambling. I just have to go with it.

Johan Harmenberg states in his book “Epee 2.0 “, that you should use/learn traditional footwork before learning to bounce. I don’t recall him ever saying why you do this though. Was he suffering from self doubt? Was what he was taught when he was younger so ingrained in him, that he could not totally forsake traditional footwork as the way to go? Do you just need to use traditional footwork as a starting point to progress into bouncing? It is a good thing that there is traditional footwork, otherwise you would not find many Vet 50 men (or above) fencing. We don’t bounce very well…or very long.

I sometimes hear people use what I think is the wrong term for an action. It is nothing worth arguing about. It just strikes me as odd. Rather than confront someone over a trivial matter, I would prefer to think that I am correct and quietly feel sort of smug. I often do the same thing when people talk about why there is no target below the waste in sabre. I am not sure I am correct on that one, but I am sure I am closer to correct than the traditional answer.

For some reason, as I search for some kind of truth in fencing, I think about something my Sifu once said. “Never tell someone they can’t do something. They might be the only one who can.” I have no idea why that popped into my mind. I am just sort of rambling around here, trying to figure some things out.

I think an epeeist is more likely to be concerned with truth….or with absolute truth. It is more a part of the weapon.

I was just thinking about all the little things that I believe are true. For example, a tight little “take” using your fingers is better than big ‘take” because you are able to complete the action faster. On the other hand I can think of a time or two, when a big sweeping action works quite well.

I am starting to give up on working out what is true in fencing. I don’t think I will find it today.

Part of what made me want to write all this rambling mess, is a discussion on Fencing Net about coaches that “click the blade” as a sign that the drill is over.
For some reason, the majority of these coaches think it is a bad idea. I think it is such a trivial matter that I can’t believe it is being discussed.

I seem to be in the camp who thinks there is not a DAMN thing wrong with it. There is nothing more beautiful than a coach and student who can run through a half hour of drills without speaking a word. Cues initiating each action and the little “click of the blade” end a sentence in what is truly a conversation of blades. I just love it! It reminds me of a Chinese two man form (kata). It is a joy to watch.

It kind of raises another question for me. If I could be a great fencer, but look like a big goof ball on strip, or be a good middle of the road fencer and always have perfect balance and form, which one would I pick? I really do not know which way I would go.

Yeah I do. I had rather be the artful fencer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I fenced in a tournament this weekend at CFA. I did okay in a pool of five, winning three and losing one. The one I lost to was a left hander. That had some impact, but mostly he was just the superior fencer.

I placed high enough to where I should have had a good chance at winning my first DE. I fenced a young man that was left handed and not a very good fencer. His en guard was neither in four nor six, but somewhere in the middle. He had one action. (A lunge…not a real good one.) I lost to him 15-14. Needless to say, I feel pretty “sucky”.

I was up something like 6 to 3 and I thought I would just double on him for a while and let him panic when the score hit double digits. It was going okay for a few touches and then he caught me and passed me by one. The score was 14-13.He did his lunge and I did a take in two that was beautiful and tied it up 14-14. I have a good take in two. This was the first time I had used it. The next touch I went to counter his lunge and he got the touch. Game over.

Colleen said I gave up control by going for the doubles. Maybe so, but I do not know how I would have had control.

My plan for going into the tournament was to stick with simple direct actions and counters until I felt comfortable trying more complex actions or actions I have been working on. (Or until need dictated a change.)

I think what made me loose and was not using my new or more complex actions. I think what made me not use them was:

A.Being too conservative
B.I was a coward. I was afraid I would fail and they would get the touch.

I am not sure what to do about this. I just do not seem to have a game plan.