Sunday, July 14, 2013


Me: "I am going to test for USFCA certification."
Older coach I admire: " Which one?"
Me: "Moniteur."
Older coach I admire: "You are beyond that."

Me: "I am thinking about testing for USFCA certification."
Younger coach I admire: " Meh." He elaborates on the lack of standardization and that few ever ask for certification and how so many good coaches have none."

I hang on every word these men say. But this time, my own needs and desires out weighed their opinion.

A few weeks back, I taught fencing at a girl scout camp. The camp had some sort of accreditation going on and they asked me for  certificates from the last three years showing that I had certification of some sort. I had my USFCA card. my US Fencing card ( marked professional membership) and something printed from a coaching clinic. They thought that was good. They had no clue what they were looking at.

My state's motto is, "To be, rather than to seem to be." That may be a little off. It is in Latin and I may not remember it correctly. I always liked it. You see where I am going with this. It is another of several.....that I wanted the certification. I will not go into them all here.

Taking the Practical Exam

Every so often a fencer will read the rules and review them. A coach should frequently go for coaching training. In this case, taking the practical made me review things. It made me remember things I had forgotten and I learned a couple of things as well. I met some really good people and I made some new fencing friends. That is a damn fine way to spend a day.

I have never thought of myself as much of a coach. However, in the last year or so, I have noted progress in that regard. I am getting better. I see this as another step in my fencing and coaching journey.

Walter Green

I do not know Walter all that well, but I am adding him to that small list of coaches I admire. This incredibly organized man, gives so much of his time and of himself to fencing. It isn't easy to find a person in the USFCA that will train you and test you. Most of the time, you would need to shell out thousands of dollars and fly to some big USFCA camp to get this sort of thing. I did not ask Walter why he does this. I should have, but it would have taken time away from the practical exam. If I had to guess, I would say that he enjoys the idea of touching the future.

I made a 100 on my practical exam. My little buddy/training partner and I are now USFCA Moniteurs in epee. We talked about this after the day was done. We did not know that we would be so proud to have done this.....but we are.

Next up:  Moniteur d’Escrime Historique

Find someone that has done that before!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Pictured above: Henri Gales showing bout slip which will get her a medal in Vet 60 Women's Epee. Also pictured in the back row making a face: Wes Barja Div II Men's Epee gold medal winner. In the yellow shirt; Wes's Dad ....John. And then me in the Carolina fencing shirt. The guy who ducked like a 13 year old foilist in a DE bout. I wish I had not seen that vid.

I got back from Nationals late Sunday night. This was my first National event in 4 years. Not due to lack of desire, but due to lack of funds. It was my second Summer Nationals. The first was when I had been fencing epee for about a month, but the drive was only an hour and half away. My goal for that event was to get a t-shirt. Mission accomplished. That was nine years ago. In between, I have been to about a half dozen NACs. The ones within driving distance.

I wanted to go to this one for a number of reasons. Most would be the normal reasons that everyone else goes for. But there were two main reasons. One is that for the last couple of years, I have been living National events vicariously through my good friend and training partner, Henri Ellen Gales. ( Henri is a girl. I know that it would be more correct to say women. However, there is a certain type of Southern woman that prefers the term "girl". That is Henri.) She picked up her second national medal. 7th place in Vet 60 Women's epee. Pretty damn impressive for a woman that has been fencing around seven years. I am beyond proud of her! I got to meet many of the friends she has made and now have faces to go with her stories. I had a great time doing this.

The other reason was for self evaluation. Now that I am 61 years old, I have been concerned on how this aging process is effecting my fencing. I have been very concerned. There has not been a large influx of new  young epeeist in my Division and the young ones I fence just get better and better. I know that the best goal for fencing is to just have fun. Sadly, I do not think I could have fun if I was just "pool fodder" or if someone is looking at me and thinking," Well at least the poor old guy is still out there trying." If I reach that point, it is time for me to stop competing. I don't want to stop. I needed to measure myself against other 60 year old men. That is hard to do. I would guess that many of the guys I fenced have been fencing for decades and not the 9 years I have been around. I was very apprehensive. If I did not make the cut, it might be time for me to hang up the blades. As it was, I finished in the lower middle of the pack. I now think ( And I hope I am right about this. ) that I can hang with about 50% to 75% of the pack. This is in part to my legs being better than some of the guys. I never thought that I would compare my legs to many people and they would be better. Who knew? I scored about 4 or 5 toe shots on guys because they were stationary.

I had what I think was a hard pool. I do not know this group of men, so I am basing that on the fact that 4 of the guys in my pool of six were in the top eight. I beat one of those guys and was close with another. The one I beat was due to me me seeing that he was a counter attacker. I got the first point and stopped attacking. Towards the end of the bout with something like 45 seconds on the clock and me being ahead something like 4-3, I noticed that he was still trying to get me to attack. He wasn't watching the time. I retreated past the box so he could not see the clock and stayed there until time ran out. Someone told  me about doing this years ago and this was the first time I ever had the chance to use that info in an event. In this event there were a couple of times when I fenced smart. This was one of them. Don't worry, I want let it go to my head.

I have real problems with the freakishly tall guys that fence French grips and pommel. I have one I can practice with at club that does this.  But he is just to darn good for me. In fact, he took gold in Div II epee. Way to go Wes!!!!!

So.....I ended up in the low middle of the pack. I made the cut. I did not do well, but did better than I thought I might. It left me with the confidence that I needed to continue fencing. What also left me with the confidence to continue were things people said to me in the venue/or via text about my fencing. I hope I always remember to say those types of things to others. These people did not even know what their words were doing for me.

I don't know where the next Vet NAC will be, but if I have the money and it is not to far away, I really want to go. This experience boosted my confidence and I think I can do better. Hope I get to find out.