Doesn’t everyone wish he could fence?.....It is violence refined into beauty, it has associations with love, honor and suicidal pride. We think of great fencers-unlike great footballers or junk-bond salesman-as superior beings: air and fire, rather than earth and water. We think of Cyrano, Zorro and the Three Musketeers.
James Traub GQ 1994
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
Yet as sure as there is gray hair and wrinkles around the eyes there are
is my advice for folks over 50 who are starting fencing. In no particular order.
(Of course we are talking epee here.)
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.)
you still have speed (fast hands) don't break that out right away in bouting.
Save it for a bit later in the bout.
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…yes...by 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.
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.)
not compare yourself to someone in their fifties that has been fencing sense
they were eight.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.