Saturday, April 6, 2013

Advice for the Over 50 Late Blooming Vet Fencer

People that start fencing after 50. It is a small demographic. Smaller yet are the ones that stay with it.

What are the differences between a person that starts after fifty and a young person starting fencing?

You can't make much distinction. For example, you might say that the older person may have more body weight, but that may not be true. For every example I can think of (off the top of my head) I can I sight someone that makes it not true.

Yet as sure as there is gray hair and wrinkles around the eyes there are differences.

Here is my advice for folks over 50 who are starting fencing. In no particular order. (Of course we are talking epee here.)



1. Hit the gym as much as you can and know what you are doing there. For some, fencing will be exercise. But in general, you exercise so you can fence. You do not fence for exercise. It is a must. (I could spend a lot of time on this, but you are smart. You know what I mean.)


2. If you still have speed (fast hands) don't break that out right away in bouting. Save it for a bit later in the bout.


3. Do not spend very much time trying to read up on what to expect as you pass through your fifties and beyond. What you read will tend to become self fulfilling prophecies. It will bring you down. I know this does not sound like good advice, but it is. Read about exercise… all means. But not so much about what happens to your body as you age. You might just be better than that. Pay attention to stretching and your body. You will be fine.


4. Generally speaking if you are over 50 you have more patience than a male kid in college. Use it. (Okay....this one depends on the two people on strip, but it is close to being true.)


5. Do not compare yourself to someone in their fifties that has been fencing sense they were eight.

6. If possible, find/make a friend near your own age that is a fencer. (Either at your club or on line.) This is the most important and best single thing you can do. I was blessed in this regard. You will need someone to help bring you up when you are discouraged. You will learn faster with the exchange of information between the two of you. If you are lucky, you will laugh a great deal.


7. Concerning learning fast: A bit of bad news here. You may not pick things up as fast as a young person. The good news: Once you do, it is there forever.


8. At some point you will win a bout because someone looked at the gray hair and underestimated you. Sometimes they figure out that they underestimated you, but it is too late. Those victories are yours. Don't worry; you will lose bouts for underestimating others as well. It all balances out.


9. If you are in a club and they are doing physical training or a hell of a warm up and you can't hang; you have worked a full day or already been to the gym, flip off the coach and the teenager that is barely sweating and rest for a while. can do this without the flip off. Just do it mentally. If your coach is descent, they will not give you grief. If they give you grief, find a new coach.

10. If you are competing and you get tired, take your own sweet time about coming to the on guard line. Walk around a minute it, wipe the sweat from your nose. Pretend to tie your shoe or fix a weapon. I do this sometimes just to think about what is happening.


11. You get two minutes between pool bouts (in most cases) and ten minutes between DEs'. Take every frikin' second you need. A ref wants to get on with it...people are waiting.....weigh that against your own needs. If you are okay, get out there and fence. Fencing is about controlling what happens on the strip. This is an easy thing to control.


12. (Or 11 and ½.) Sometimes they are going to “double strip”. This is not the late blooming vet’s friend. You just have to go with it. Often in fencing, as in life, you just have to suck it up.

13. Here is a tricky one. Once you know a bit (And that is the rub. Because as you fence you will often think you know a bit and you then find out you don’t), think for yourself. If you have a young coach, they may not think outside their “young box”. Here is an example. My attacks are limited, in part, because there is no way I can close distance as fast as a young male fencer in decent shape. I need to figure out what I can do to compensate. 13 and ½: Talk with the young coach about this. You don’t have to figure it out alone.


14. If you are an over 50 late blooming vet fencer, you might think it is rude to scream after a touch. I always hated it. However, if you get up by a couple of points on a youngin’, turn and face the end of the strip and let loose with a war cry or scream of some kind. Yep…you kind of seem like a jerk. You want your opponent to be thinking about you being a jerk and not about his fencing. Remember reading earlier about controlling what is happening on the strip? This is another easy one. Note: If you are fencing someone you can beat easily or someone in their first tournament, I say,” Don’t be the jerk.” But that is just me.


15. At some point you will hear coaches talk about the young kids being the future of fencing....blah....blah...blah. They are of course correct. But don't let them “sluff” you off. You are paying for lessons and you bring a lot to the table for the club. Try and balance the truth of the matter, with your own needs. Be nice about it. Smile.

16. Odds are that watching World Cup fencing videos are not going to help you much. Because the odds are, you simply do not have that athletic ability. Watch the good veterans fence. You may pick up something they are doing. Watch with a coach or good fencer. They may pick up something you just don’t have the experience to see.

17. Sometimes you will hear people in their mid to late thirties talk about feeling like veteran fencers, or preparing to be veteran fencers. Reframe from slapping those people. You should look at them with distain and perhaps roll your eyes.