Friday, January 30, 2015

A Simple Conversation

The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.

  Doris Lessing   

This may not be true for all Vet 60 fencers, but it kind of hits home for me.  


Last night rather than a private lesson with my coach, we sat and I asked him questions and opinions about various footwork.    He has a very analytical mind. It is part of what makes him such a good coach.

We talked about using a "slide". Which he demonstrated perfectly and said he used often.

Now in the classes, we do "bouncing" before drills and bouting. aging form of bouncing barely qualifies, but my knees are working again and I hang with the kids. Though bouncing much will never be part of my footwork. During the 3 minute bouncing warm ups, he will call out actions. One if which, is always "slide". As God as my witness, I swear I saw him demonstrate it once and it was not a "slide". I looked at what the kids are doing around me and they are not doing a correct "slide".

Sooooo.....I think to myself.....Coach does not know what a correct "slide" is. I think to myself, he is a great coach, it is okay if he doesn't know one piece of footwork. He is still a good coach. I think to myself, who am I to correct him or say something in front of his students. Bad form. So, I suck it up and do the footwork like the kids I see around me. ( Note: My coach is always in front of the class, so he cannot see the action of the rear leg.) This has been going on for YEARS. A simple conversation cleared it up for me. From now on, I slide correctly.

Conversation, once in while, can be the best private lesson. Just not to often.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Various Thoughts of Late

Vet 60 Stuff

My training partner is a petite woman a year younger than me, She is in excellent physical condition, but with a delicate bone structure. Lately, I have been offering advice on her fencing and preparing for her next national competition. One of the things I advised her to do was to fence in more local competitions. She needs to fence different people.  She needs to fence more left handers. We talked about it. Almost all the local tournaments are open events. Now even if you do have five national medals, if you are a tiny vet 60 woman, you are not going to fair well against many of the young ones or large male fencers. It is just a fact of life and often hard to deal with. She agreed that she could handle mentally the effect of finishing low in a local event, but that is not why she has not fenced in many of late. She is concerned about injury. One big bruiser plowing into her and she would miss a national event. Perhaps, be sidelined or even taken out of the game. She is of course correct. I am a vet 60 fencer and this thought never occurred to me. Partly because, even though I am not that tall, there are few people I fence locally that are not going to bounce off me. I worry about the day when I can no longer (generally) give an adequate account of myself in tournaments. It saddens me that my training partner must also worry about even more things than myself. There must be a host of other things vet fencers must deal with that I have not even considered.  Ours is a hard path. You have got to have a lot of heart to do this. That sounds like self praise. It is. But not just for me.


I look every few days for fencing clinics on Askfred. Lately, I have been wondering why I do that. Clinics these days are expensive. The only one I have gotten much out of lately was one at my own club. The reason was that I got info and suggestions specifically for me. Now if you go to most clinics, you will get some good practice. That is almost a given. Will you learn anything that impacts you specifically? Most of the time, probably not.

I am basing this on the clinics within driving distance of me. Perhaps it is different in other parts of the country.

Most clinics you go to will have an hour or two of exercise, warm ups and games. Often these are fun. Once in a great while you learn something you can use or take back to your club. The longer you fence and the more you travel, the less likely that is. It often seems to me like this is just a filler for clinics. Something to fill in the time. The amount of time doing this should always be reduced.

I have been thinking about and trying to come up with a more creative clinic format lately. I think I am going to set those thoughts to the side for a while now. After doing so, I realized that the format I was designing would only appeal to me.


As I look for clinics, I keep eyeing this expensive USFCA clinic that is a six hour drive from my home. That is pretty close for one of those clinics.

As I look at this, I wish I could ask the leadership of this organization these questions:

1. What is your total active membership?
2. How much money do you folks have in the organizational kitty? I would imagine it would be fairly hefty, with the membership fee and the cost of every step of testing.
3. Why would anyone want to be a member if they were not testing or  going to a clinic where they could get a discount? I can see a couple of reasons for myself, but they do not seem cost effective to me.
4. Do you think the goals of the organization reflect the desires of it's membership? If so, how do you know this?

If I could make one suggestion to this organization that I think would make it more desirable and worth the money for membership, it would be to offer an on-line forum to it's membership. I think this would vacillate more information flow between coaches and give the organization a better insight into the needs and desires of it's membership.

Some of these questions may seem a bit critical of the organization. Maybe they are, but only a tiny bit. Mostly, I am just curious.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lessons Part 2.

I have been thinking about my last post, concerning the coaching/private lesson training lesson my coach gave me. It was great. I learned and remembered a lot.

I felt bad, because I could not give that sort of lesson well.

After some reflection, it occurred to me, that I have rarely been in a situation to give a lesson like that. Our epee class meets once a week for around and hour and a half. On a  good night, we have over a dozen or more epeeist. Only a few are above the beginner stage.

When I give a lesson ( one on one) it has to be shorter and more basic. I generally show an action or two static (with explanation on it's use), then with movement and throw in some vocabulary, which is as quickly forgotten as the fencing action. I get them to try it in a bout or two ( if possible) then rinse and repeat

There are a couple of people I can use my coach;s lesson style on. (If we have the time and they have the desire.) It would take a lot of that to become more proficient in this style of private lesson.

Someday, I hope to be able to give a decent lesson in some sort of adaption of Toomey's style.  I am not sure how or when this will happen, as there is currently no place/time to make it work. But maybe someday. It is a good goal to have.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On the Bench

The other night, as my hand is still resting from injury, I had a lesson in coaching from my coach.
It was fantastic. His ability is so far above my own. I learned and/or remembered a lot.

Test for Prevost. What was I thinking? Thanks for saving me hundreds of dollars and embarrassment. I had never tried to give a lesson like he does. When I did. I was to fast, often my posture was wrong and I was nervous to do so in front of him. I kind of sucked.

Now to be fair to myself. the kids/folks I give lessons to are far below the level of the class that Toomey teaches on our nights together. Most don't even want to do drills. If I give a private lesson I try to keep it around 10 minutes. They can't handle much more. ( I will mention again, our club is almost totally recreational. Once when we tried to make it more competitive, almost all the members quit.) I am okay with it being low level and recreational. I don't have to work as hard. As I do not get paid, working harder does not appeal to me.  Also, I suspect by this summer, I will end my coaching at this club. If I start again, I will start one that is more competitive. I would like to see what I could produce in  that regard.

My injured hand is stiff, but doe not hurt much. I hope to fence next week and take a real lesson. It has been awful watching people fence and just sitting there. I WANT TO PLAY!