Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Journey, The Drill and Death

I have been posting so much lately in my journal. I have no idea why.  My father would have referred to it as ,"Running off at the mouth."

The Journey

Thursday night, my training partner and I stepped out into the cool, dark parking lot adjacent to Charlotte Fencing Academy. She turned to look at me as we wrestled our fencing bags out of the trunk and said, "Is this worth it?"

I questioned her about the statement. She explained that she did not mean the instruction, she meant the drive. Class had not started yet and after a days work, she was already a bit tired. We drive four hours (round trip) to train in Charlotte. More if there is bad traffic or construction. We have done this for years. I am not sure how long the trip is to train in Chapel Hill. Round trip may be a around three hours.

I am not sure this makes sense at our age. Or how long this will continue to be doable. For now though, our fencing journey continues. (Double connotation.)

The "Finding the Moment Drill"

Before group lessons at Charlotte Fencing Academy, there is a bit of footwork and then usually some bouncing footwork. The latter part of the footwork being something at which I excel . ( Please note the sarcasm in that last sentence.) The other night, Brian asked us to do our longest lunge and hold it after the bouncing. I did. I looked left. I looked right. I gazed at all the  flexible young ones in both directions again. Some of them significantly shorter than my self. I glanced down at the shortness of my lunge and thought, "Sucks to be me."

Later ,as part of my private lesson, I was asked to do the "finding the moment drill" with another student. (I started to write "younger student", but is always a given.) The "finding the moment drill" is something my coach borrowed from Michael Marx. It has a lot of things you can add to it, but the basic drill is in a shortened strip you are allowed to only lunge to hit your opponent.  No advance lunge; no counters or parries. You can faint a bit and try to use distance, but that is about it. If you have one of the slower and shorter lunges in the class , this is not something you enjoy doing. I know for some of the shorter students, I have heard them call it, " The Bruised Arm Drill." My coach loves this drill. I do  not see the value for some of the class. If you are matched with someone of the same height; skill level and physical ability, then perhaps so. On the other hand, who am I to poo-poo  Michael Marx.

Funeral for a Friend

This week I went to a funeral for a friend. He was a year younger than me. We worked together for around 30 years or so. I had worked with many of the people attending the funeral for a like amount of time. I had not seen most for close to a decade. I did not think that I would be moved to see some of them and yet I was. We would all shake hands or hug. As we did, we would silently (generally) judge how that person had aged. They would be doing the same to me. It may sound strange, but this was not a sad thing for me. It was bitter sweet and in some ways comforting. Perhaps, because you realize you are not alone in this "aging thing".

While I was at the funeral, I saw an old boss of mine. He is 95 and was a WWII pilot. We are Facebook friends and evidently he follows a bit of my life there. I moved to say hello to him and shake his hand. As we began to shake hands, he smiled and his eyes flew open wide and he said, " Jim!.....the fencer!! I think that is great. So great!" He went on and on about it. I don't know why that made me feel good or why it is stuck in my memory. But it is.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Coach and "Southern fried Fencing"

Link to an article on Coach Miller

Southern Fried Fencing

Just finished watching " Southern Fried Fencing" . Parts with students and parents were very moving. $4.99 well spent. I give it two epees up.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snowed In

I have been rather prolific in recording in my journal of late. I am snowed in today, so I am at it again.

Various Thoughts

I wish there was a place on the web, where  people could record tales and stories about older fencing coaches before they are lost.  I can't be the only one who would be interested in such things.

I often hear tales from old coaches, were their coaches would beat there legs with blades when they made a mistake. That sort of thing. Training the way some mean, egotistical bastard trained them. I think about how I love fencing. But these students from (back in the day) must have REALLY loved it to put up with abuse at the hands of some of these old tyrants. Or perhaps they did not love it as much, but their desire to succeed was so great. I also wonder about fencing coaches from the past. There must have been some kind gentle souls back then as well, but I only hear about the mean bastards. Weird.

If I had a fencing club, I think I would have a spot for a " Fencing vocabulary word of the week".

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Just got home from fencing in Chapel Hill. Very interesting night. In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on lunge and a beat to the forte; hit to the cuff; disengage and remise to the cuff. In an effort to remise, I must use little energy in the remise. I did not think I would be able to  do the change of energy part any time soon. Last week when working on my lunge, I told Coach that my legs are stiff. While they are still fairly strong, they are not very flexible. Coach remembered this and we worked on my lunge at first and he reduced the distance he was having me lunge by about nine inches. I was able to do the drill we were working on, with out extending my shoulder. Not only was I better technically in all aspects of my lesson, I was able to do the drill with a change of energy. I am amazed at what good coaches can figure out. It is really amazing.

I fenced better tonight as well. Not great, but better. After my lesson in Charlotte last week, it became clear to me that I was not focusing on near target nearly enough. Hey...I was working on other things and it just kind of fell through the cracks. I used it with some success tonight. I also had a couple of touches from lessons fairly long ago in Charlotte, when I was having trouble dealing with fencers that fenced with absence of blade. What I did worked pretty well , against a much better fencer than myself.

In summation, I did not fence well and my lesson was not perfection technically, but I made and could see that things were better. Improvement. It is so very satisfying.

I look forward to seeing if this holds true in Charlotte when I fence, provided it is not snowed out this week.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Stupid Vet Brain

Fenced at both my clubs this week. I did not fence that well, nor was I very good at my private lessons. With Coach Miller, I worked on my lunge and a beat to the forte; hit to the cuff; disengage and remise to the cuff. In an effort to remise, you must relax your arm after the disengage. I had the hardest time doing that. My body and mind just go into a "target-hit-it" kind of mode. Switching energy is hard for me to do. It is less a tempo change than an energy change. Not that I don't need to work on tempo changes as well.

Somewhere, when we were working on my lunge, ( It was more than that, but to difficult to explain) Coach was talking about my lunge and said, "Your blade work is so good." I think it had something to do with the distance and energy in my lunge not being adequate, but my blade work was good. I lost track of what he was saying for a moment, because Coach told me, "Your blade work is so good." I wanted to revile in that for a moment. Later, as I flubbed continually trying to relax my arm for the remise, I wondered what the heck he saw in my actions I wasn't seeing.  Coach told me, "Your blade work is so good." I just don't see it, yet I want to believe it.

Another example. My private lessons with Coach Toomey were hand shots and disengages. My disengages are almost always to big. Part of that is the stupid way I learned disengages when I started fencing. Circle the tip tight around the bell guard, as apposed to just "drop the tip". My weapon arm does not want to be constantly extending as I do some actions either. It is frustrating at times. Can I train my aging brain to fix bad things logged in muscle memory? Sometimes, I just want to say, " Hey Brian.....the only way I can make that tighter is if I try and throw a rope around the blades with my off weapon hand.." I mean dang......that looked pretty tight to me." Brian is seeing something I am not seeing.  That or he is just trying to see if he can make a vet fencers head explode. ( Note to Toomey: Not complaining or whining here. Grateful for all you do for me.)

Coach told me, "Your blade work is so good."  Maybe he is just seeing the things I do fairly well. "Takes" for example. I don't know. All I do know is that correcting actions that you have done wrong or poorly for a long period of time is one of the hardest things in fencing for me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


 January 12th, I will have been fencing 12 years. It is reflection time once again. The question for this anniversary is, "Have I been successful?"

It is at this point, someone will ask, "What do you mean by successful?" The answer is," I am not entirely sure."

Did I learn a great deal during these years and have some fun doing it?  Yep. Within the limitations of starting at 51 and starting in a dead zone for fencing, did I give it all I could have. "Pretty much.....I could have done a bit more." Did I give back to the sport and to my training partner who supported me? "Yes....I would say so." Did I have a high rating? "Nope."  Was I a good coach? Teamed with my training partner, I would say, in some respects "no" and in some respects, "yes". We were really good with the kids and balanced each other out so well. Questions like this go on and on.

The answer (I think) is ..........fairly.

Has it been worth the effort I put in to it? Yes....without a doubt.

Okay. Reflection time is over. I feel pretty good about it.

HEMA....kind of.

I saw some people knocking HEMA on Facebook this week. I took a 10 week Introduction to German Long Sword class. I enjoyed it. It hardly means I have any knowledge of HEMA. However, I don't see why people are knocking it. Particularly, if they haven't tried it.  The only reason I can see for some coaches knocking it, is that they may be competing against it for students dollars. I think I wrote this because I hate negativity.

I use to read a coaches blog. Knowledgeable  person, but he was so negative and intolerant of such little things, ( Non-fencing related...generally.) I quit reading his entries. I just don't see how anyone could be a good coach ( no matter how much they know) if they are intolerant and negative.