Monday, December 17, 2007

No Shining At The Southern Star

The best thing about a pool of 8 is that you have seven chances to pull out a winning record. Unfortunately, I needed all seven chances to hit 4-3. While my loss to the other B in the pool was understandable, I let a clubmate get in my head for a 2-5 loss, and a U from Emory had a good day, beating me 5-4 with a command of the lead the whole time.

D.Es weren't much better... the round of 64 was ok, but I lost miserably to another B 15-10. Somehow, I wasn't catching my opponent's adjustment after I won the lead. I would get a one or two touch lead with an arm touch or parry-riposte, only to give it up when I went on the offensive. I need to learn to sit on a lead.

I need to remember that I won my B by taking my time, not getting over excited, and fighting for each touch. My head was in the game, not thinking about finishing out the bout. I am at my best when I fence one touch at a time. I oughta hire someone to shout that to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Latest Fencing Results

I crapped the bed at Vanderbilt, as usual. I never seem to do as well as I should there. Since it was my first as a B (epee), pools weren't tough - although a D came to play and beat me 5-3. Everyone else I handled pretty well.

My first DE was against a guy who looked like a pirate and refused to attack. My attack was awful that day (hangovers will do that) so I wasn't gonna spend all day chasing him down. I ended up winning 7-5. I lost the next round to an annoying little girl - and I really couldn't keep my head out of the beer I was hoping to drink long enough to beat her down.

It was just as well, I only had one clubmate still in, and we headed to an awesome microbrewery after he was done. Next time - I am bringing plenty of powerade and will go for blood.

Over Thanksgiving weekend I did a foil event in Suwanee. It was fun, after I got over the fact that neither my bodycords or any of my foils worked. I borrowed new foils and bodycords, and got reaquainted with a little thing called the off-target light. This light is what makes foil fencing like shot calling in pool (as opposed to "slop" pool and epee).

A big part of my epee game is hitting the edges and margins, "aim small, miss small." It involves landing on the hand, top or underside of the arm, the back, top edge of the shoulder, neck, and yes - sometimes the groin. I may not start an attack there, but I often end up there. In foil, I have a problem. Most of those areas can be protected by the tiniest shift of the body - and now I am not landing on the lame anymore. Most troublesome.

I also didn't use the coupe much at all, and it is a must have technique in foil - but can get you murdered in epee. I'll get 'em next time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pretty Girl Fencing for Mastercard

I am still experiencing the afterglow from getting my B in epee last weekend. Nothing but fencing related issues have been on my mind - which works out because I am getting ready for the Vandy Cumberland Open this Saturday. And while I was flipping channels (waiting for Ron Paul on the Tonight Show) I came across this Mastercard commercial on cable. It it Penelope Fortier an enchantingly beautiful song called "Favorite Things." And of course, she weaves a touche being scored against her into the song. I actually shed a tear... someone may be cured of cancer.

If Penelope would sing "Favorite Things" at a NAC or at Nationals, I would straight up cry. She has that great a voice.

EDIT: I just checked out Penelope's MySpace Music profile. Let's just say that the music lessons must have came between the stuff on her page and "Favorite Things." I'm not saying she's bad - just that there is a scratchy off harmony thing from the music on her site. But, I am no music critic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tiger Open Epee Results

Mixed Epee: 28 Competitors, a A2 Event
Place Fencer Club Rating* Rating Earned*
1 Lane, Mitchell CFC B2007 A2007
2 Benslimane, Wari GFA B2006 B2007
3 Shaffren, Craig NGFC C2007 B2007
3 Cole, Matthew DFC D2007 B2007
5 Miller, Stuart NGFC A2006
6 Vail, Bruce DFC A2007
7 Seaman, Scott FFA B2007
8 Thompson, Daniel CLEM B2007
9 Caldwell, Laney SB A2007
10 Sanders, Corey CLEM E2007 D2007
11 Kelly, Michael CFC B2007
12 Aldinger, Michael DSOC E2007
13 Newman, Taylor CLEM D2007
14 Bosco, Marianne SB B2007
15 Virkus, Zeb CFC U
16 Hueske, David DSOC C2005
17 Green, Michael CFC B2007
18 Bokhanevich, Dmitriy CLEM U
19 Randall, George CLEM E2006
20 Graves, Joshua UTK U
21 Rowland, William DSOC D2005
22 Floyd, Alaina CLEM U
23 Scott, Caleb CLEM U
24 Benward, Emma CLEM U
25 Patterson, Andy CLEM E2006
26 Dinkel, Scott CLEM U
27 Gutierrez, Pete CLEM U
28 Norris, Ayla CLEM U

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Southeast Doubleheader - And a New B07

Nothing like a good weekend of fencing to make you forget the debauchery of Madison, WI that I have nearly outgrown.

First up was the tournament at Birmingham, AL. The Birmingham FC has a great facility with 12 strips, and the tournament was very well run. In the Open Epee event I swept my pool - which happened to be populated with an A07 and former Olympic Medalist (in foil, but it still counts). I ended up #5 out of the pools with a BYE, but got taken out by a fencer from Huntsville who made it to the four. Still, not a bad day.

Next was the Tiger Open in Clemson. I pretty much crapped the bed in the pools, leaving with only one victory and a horrible indicator. However I pulled it together and made it to the four - losing to the eventual winner 15-14. Since the event was an A2, I earned my B07 rating. This was shocking to me, because I signed up for every tournament in a 250 mile radius hoping to earn my C before registration for the Div I Atlanta NAC closed. I can't fence Div II events any more, but I finally broke into Div I and as I told my neighbor, "now I can play with the big boys..."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Beyond The Plateau

Where it not for my clubmate's generous gift for my birthday, I may be hitting a plateau. I have been reading a book on Italian fencing with the spada, and it has made a positive difference so far. Beyond that, I have been carousing WAY too much - and the scale has condemned me. The near term goal is still to earn a C07 before December 4th so I can fence the Atlanta Div I NAC. My performance at the C2 turned D1 event a couple weeks back proved I can fence at a C-Level, I just need to prove it at another tournament. I just hope time doesn't run out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Story of Five Bouts

Imagine with me, if you will, a hot gym filled with fencers, family, and friends. Three events are taking place - the Y10 and Y14 kids have started their pools, and the Div 3 event is in the round of 32 of direct elimination. Let's focus on Div3.

1. Round of 32. The boy I am fencing is about 6'1" and around 240lbs, but he doesn't wear it well. He doesn't move very quickly, or gracefully - so for better or worse he stands still. Nevertheless his reaction time is very fast, even if his reactions are not skillful. At 9-0, he loses confidence, and I become very interested in ending this bout as quicky as possible. Then I begin to attack without fully extending my arm - and a perfect bout is out of reach at 10-1. He manages to score a couple singles when my point glides around his belly instead of sticking it. During the first minute break I regain my composure, relax, and just take my time - anyone can beat me if I start rushing and not taking him seriously. Mind put to rest I end the bout 15-6.

2. Round of 16. The man I am facing is about 6'3 and around 220lbs or so. He has much more skill than the last opponent, but did not move much at all except to fleche or lunge. I have a lot of confidence in my fleche defense against right-handers (my defence against a lefty's fleche needs work), so the score ran in my favor easily.

3. Round of 8. Here I face the #1 seed after pools, standing at 5'9" and around 180lbs. He moves around a lot more than the others, and his fleche is more successful. I open up the distance to give my defense a chance to work - and try to force his fleche by driving him to his own endline. I threw in a few fleches of my own; just over half were successful. Of course, that's enough to win.

4. Round of 4. This girl, standing at a proud 5'10" and weighing around 130lbs, I have fenced twice previously - first at AFC in the final where she earned her D, the second in pools at Vandy where I evened the score. Back then I remembered that she was not confident in her attack, but her counterattack was deadly. I managed to stay ahead, although the close score through each period gave her confidence in her attack. At 14-14, I saw AFC flash before my eyes. We were fencing on a far strip next to a wall and a bleacher - and I didn't even hear the loud clang when my epee struck the bleacher in its wild path to this girl's midsection. I fought the call without success. Again, at 14-14 I knew that an attack was coming, and I couldn't afford to get countered on an advance-lunge. I extended my arm towards her sixte to pull a parry, beat the blade in counter sixte and launched myself at her. I don't know whether it was the initial hit to the upper chest or the safety touch to her flank that won the bout... all I know was this time the light came on with no question.

5. Round of 2, Final. This guy is strong... and unrated. He was the sleeper in this event. Standing at 5'11" and 160lbs, he was lean and mean. He scored first with a fleche. I scored back with a fleche. Then followed up with a fleche so slow, he couldn't believe I got enough pressure on my tip as he backpedaled to get the touche. Through out the bout I managed to stay at least two touches ahead, but every time I got an advance too close, he would fleche successfully or pick my hand. The best I could do was stay ahead in the score, let him chase me down the strip, and through him lunges out of distance to keep it interesting. When ever he backed up, he ate up clock. When he stood his ground, I hit him with a fleche. At 12-10 my arm was too tired to keep extended, and I only pushed him back to make him jump and keep the wide divide between us. Just as he was about to push me off the strip - the director called time. I won.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oh No.... Sprinkle Some Fries On Those CUPCAKES!

Well, thanks to lots of alcohol, and the explosion of booze, food, and sweets that was birthday weekend 2007 - I have missed a few practices and I gained a bit of weight. Make that 12 lbs. Plus, I hit the treadmill and the weight room HARD last Sunday, and now I am sore as hell today. All this, and my fencing has suffered dramatically and I have my first tournament of the season in three days.

This is SNAFU barrelling towards FUBAR.

I stopped drinking for the week after the Falcons game last Sunday, and redoubled my efforts in practice - but I am worried about my endurance and my extension. My brain is making the right decisions - but my hand position and execution is screwing up the timing. Worse, I have a lecture on Thursday at Emory, so no practice before my first event first thing Saturday morning.

You might wanna wear a mask...

Right now, the plan is to work out today and get to bed relatively early, eat light tomorrow and work out before the lecture, and stay in Friday at all costs - even if it means inviting any paramours to my place. That, plus extension exercises at home will hopefully reverse the losses I have put on myself over the last few weeks.

Good lord wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And So It Begins - The New Fencing Season

After a short break, the new fencing season has finally begun. Unfortunately, I have already missed two local tournaments because a) I was busy and b) I still need to buy new body cords (see Miami below). Worse, I even broke the last body cord I had that I was using for practice. And my favorite Uhlmann FIE blade finally bit the dust during practice. That is the last time I use an FIE weapon for practice. It feels so much better than all my other weapons, I just like fencing with it.

So after birthday week (this week) and my work with the GA High School Fencing League the weekend of Sept. 22 - my competition season officially starts with my club's first tournament on Sept. 29.

Here is the rest of my fall/winter schedule for 2007:

Oct 27-28 - Birmingham or Clemson, SC (depending on whether AL Division has their act together)
Nov. 3 - Vanderbilt
Nov. 17 - Rome, GA
Dec. 15 - Southern Star, Dunwoody, GA

The crappy part about this schedule is that I need to get a "C" rating by Dec.14 (Dec. 21 if I want to pay triple fees) to compete in the NAC that is coming to Atlanta (15 min from my house) in mid-January. It can be done, but it ain't gonna be easy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

I eBay, Therefore I Epee

Most people choose a weapon to fence based on a coach's recommendation, or personal preference. Other fence whatever weapon is being taught in the area. I ended up fencing epee because of a deal on eBay.

I started fencing foil at Minnesota Sword Club about 4-5 years ago. I was ok, but I was progressing nicely. My coach suggested I look at epee, but I was gung ho on getting foil down first. One of the problems with foil, and fencing in general, is that the blades are very expensive and there is no absolute guarantee it will last more than a single tournament. Spending money on a cheap Blue Gauntlet electric foil taught me that hard lesson. I shelled out $100 for a Santelli foil which came highly recommended, but I really couldn't afford to make many more purchases like that without some guarantee the thing would last. After asking for advice, I figured I could find some decent stuff on eBay - thinking that it may not be the highest quality, but at least it would be a better deal.

That's when I came across a beautiful Uhlmann foil. It had a rainbow coloured FIE blade, red pistol grip, and Leon Paul bayonet socket. Bidding at $45, with few takers. As an experienced eBay-er, I knew that jumping on this deal would be suicide - it would be best to wait it out till the final minutes (or seconds) before bidding. Luckily, the auction would end on a Wednesday night, so I could just stay at work to watch it.

And then I saw it - another Uhlmann FIE weapon, top of the line. Only this weapon was an epee. The current bid was for $50, but this particular weapon retails at nearly $200 - and the seller claimed the weapon was brand new. What's the worst that could happen? If it was a fake, I would just report her to eBay. So I bid on that one too - and won them both. The next week I saw an STM FIE epee, and was able to bring it home for under $100. Did I mention all three weapons came with body cords?

So having originally gone in search of cheap foils - I ended up with a quality FIE foil, and two FIE epees w/body cords at an insane price. Now that I was completely outfitted for competing in epee - I figured I may as well give it a shot.

One last note - all three weapons still function, and are in working order. Best fencing purchase I ever made. Too bad there aren't more deals like this.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer Nationals Aftermath

To get over the whole fiasco in Miami (see below) I went on a five day bender that ended in Northside Hospital. Nothing like spitting blood and having saliva run out of a hole in your face to sober you up. Concrete is hard.

The good news is that I am healing quickly, and I still feel myself progressing. This time last year I noticed a difficult plateau in my fencing prowess - no longer. I can hit toe touches at will. My fleches are a little slow, but I can time the remise with my opponent's parry during the fleche - which is awesome. Hand touches are a lot better as well. I also have a shiny not-so-new red Leon Paul rollbag (with steel support plate) which makes me feel awesome.

I can't wait for the new season!

EDIT: A cookie for whoever recognizes the quote in the title box above. (7/27/07)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Miami - Lots of Heat, Some Fencing

Few things I enjoy more than watching fencing. Learning about opponents, commenting on good or bad technique, preparing myself mentally to fence myself are all benefits from hanging around the Summer Nationals venue for a week.

Unfortunately, such dilligence cannot fix a broken bodycord.

Watching my pool in Division II Men's Epee I wasn't too worried. My record was 0-1, but I lost by only one touch. Sure my weapon seemed to be acting funny, but I figured it was just nerves on my part. After another weapon failed shims, and then another failed weights, I started to get nervous.

Soon all my weapons were alternately failing and passing, as my record dipped to 1-3. Knowing I needed to absolutely win the next two bouts just to get past the 80% cut for the direct elimination round didn't help at all. Then came the moment of fear - in my fifth bout I was up 4-2, and was repeatedly stabbing my opponent. No light, no touch. No touch, no halt. With no halt, I had to keep hitting the guy just to keep time running out. My opponent, no fool, pressed his advantage, and won in priority.

By the last bout, record now 1-4, I realized it was a body cord problem, and I just couldn't get my head back into the game. I lost 5-4 on a bad fleche (double-touch), and with only one victory and a -7 indicator, I was four touches out of the DEs.

The worst is that only one kid legitimately beat me, the rest benefited from my non functioning equipment. Never mind I brought four epee weapons (Uhlmann FIE, STM FIE, brand new Leon Paul, brand new PBT), or that both my body cords were certified by the armourers. Getting railed at Nationals by your betters is one thing. Crapping out in the pools in an event you could have won is completely humiliating. The body cord more than anything else was at fault, and now I must remember to buy a brand new cord at every national competition I compete in. See below if you want the old one.

It's there somewhere.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm Going To Miami

Wow, it's hard to believe I am leaving tomorrow. Friday afternoon I make the 10 hour drive to Miami. I should arrive early morning Saturday, unless I make a stop off in Lakeland to visit my friends at Hooters there. Then I will have two days to relax and adjust to the superheated air before fencing in Senior Team Epee on Monday. After that, I get to resist the urge to party like a rockstar before fencing in Div II Men's Epee the next Sunday. Then I drive home.

All indications are looking good. I am faster, I have more endurance, my actions are cleaner, and I am beating people I lost to before and am holding my own against folks used to murdering me. I expect good things.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

GA Division Championship... Too Much Too Soon?

I really wasn't planning to compete in fencing at all in June. Nationals wasn't cheap for me last year, and it was here in Atlanta - just down the road. Sure, I factored the $100 I spent on booze with my friends from out of town in that cost, but still. When rumblings of a new State Championship came up this May, I really was non-plussed. Saving up for what will be an expensive trip to Nationals in Miami meant that fees for another tournament, gas, and the possibility of something else breaking wasn't in the cards. I delayed buying warm ups until this month. Add to that coaching fees, pre-Nationals clinic fees, and entry fees and I have already committed $400 before leaving town. Transportation and lodging aside (I've managed to hold those costs low), I still need to feed myself for a week, buy epee blades and cords, and at least take in South Beach while I am there. Keeping this trip under a grand will be harder than winning gold in both my events.

So while most of my club is fencing in the Mixed (Mixed!) Open Epee State Championship, I will be getting some much needed rest. I will make it up for the team epee event - my team needs all the practice it can get.

Had I known about this event back in December, I probably would have competed. The Vandy tournament was a disaster... and outside lessons learned and the chance to hit on a cute redhead coed, it was a complete waste of time and money. Losing in the Table of 64, and having pre-paid an extra night at my hotel was the ultimate humiliation. Knowing what I know now, I would have easily forgone that to plan to fence in Rome. Scheduling is a bia, right?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I Suppose I Don't Suck

These days I am starving myself. I've managed to drop 16lbs in the last month or so, and I am trying to improve both my quickness and my endurance. The endurance goals are being achieved slowly but surely, the quickness ones are much much harder to hit. Plus I have the great side effect of being near death at the end of every practice - and I'm almost impossible to move in the mornings. It's all worth it when I notice my knickers fit better and I am getting touches that were a lot tougher just two months ago.

That being said, the latest Georgia Peach Points came out last night, and I must say, I don't suck...

Not bad... I am also the highest placed D and Under on the points list in GA, sorta like being king of the appropriately-disparaging-nicknames. (I hate the scrubs term.)

If you click the picture, you will get the full list - which also shows my piss-poor performance in foil, and my non existant performance in sabre. I haven't competed in sabre in a year, it has been too long.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Melee Indeed....

One of my clubmates and I were talking about superstitions before competition. Not washing clothes, not eating meat... that kind of thing. I revealed that my superstitious behavior involved no beef or beef like meats a full week before competition, and no alcohol for a week before an event. That superstition took root when after I realized I got my best results following those two rules, especially in Statesboro.

So why did I agree to have a drink with one of my neighbors the Wednesday before the May Melee IV at Dunwoody? Sure he was getting married that weekend and I was skipping out on his last Happy Hour and Steak night as a single man, but fencing is more important than friendship right? Right?

The one pitcher didn't do too much damage to me on Saturday in the Div3 event. I won all of my pools except one bout with a lefty. The problem was I didn't back off after getting a 3-1 lead. It seems that one I get three quick touches in a row, I feel I can get 5 quick touches in a row. Losing 3-5 was not only humbling, it set me up to meet the eventual winner of the tournament in the elite eight instead of the quarterfinals. Given I lost to him 14-15 on a lazy attack, had I achieved a perfect pool record, given a couple other things I could have been a C07 today.

After the Div3, I visited one of my friends at the Dunwoody Beer Festival, then went on to watch some stupid puppet show (billed as x-rated by the AJC) with some friends (read: two cute girls I know and a random dude). The whole thing was a complete waste of time and only served to keep me out too late before the Open.

In the Open I was pretty well hammered. I was slow, that was my only real technical mistake.

In the Team Event, Team Coletrain - consisting of three C07's and me, was put up against a team of all lefties from Atlanta Fencers Club. And they consisted of two As and a C07. I think we had an honest chance. Its just that while 3-5 is an ok pool score in an individual event, three guys losing 3-5 means the team score is now 9-15. And that is very much not ok. We were just inexperienced as a team. Not only that, I was put in the unenviable position of trying to regain 15 touches in the second to last bout. After I got the first 5 touches in about 20 seconds, I thought I could easily get the next eight. Unfortunately, my body just completely ran out of gas. Even one of the parents smiled as he saw me "huffing and puffing." I am a relatively decent fencer, but I am no Bruce Vail when it comes to digging a team out of a double digit hole. Give me another three years and I will get there. We ended up losing 29-45, meaning we didn't come close to closing the gap in the end. Horrible.

Speaking of inexperience and Vail, one of his team members was completely changed into his street clothes when Vail's team was up against Charlotte in the last bout. They were only down about 6 points or so, nowhere near the double digits we allowed. Vail pulled it out for the win in the last bout, and the team went on to win the event. It turns out Bruce never noticed his teammate get undressed into street clothes, and then get back into fencing gear once someone pointed out that his team was actually going to win. Bruce probably could have handled it, but I know few others that could. Horrible.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Southeast Sectionals - Murder Was The Case...

Well, Senior Men's Epee is no joke. I ended up losing 5-4 in pools to the guy who pulled 2nd place, which made me feel ok. My other five bouts, including the one I won, were dreadful. It may have been the drinks the night before, or the hanging around with a friend of mine from 'Bama. Most likely I was just really rusty, and needed some more warm up time. Plus I wasn't breathing, or thinking in a competition mode. I didn't have much hope of winning, but placing in the top 3rd was not impossible. Let this be the last time I tank in an A4 event.

Oh, and the USFA hasn't received the GA Division results yet - so officially, I am still an E07. Great...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Can Fence In Iraq, Country Still Sucks

Out of nearly pure curiousity, I began researching fencing opportunities in the Middle East. While Dubai sports a strong fencing program, the Iraqi Fencing Federation was bleed dry by sanctions well before the US invasion in 2003. More recently, the president and secretary-general of the Iraqi Olympic Committee has been kidnapped.

However, supported by US vendors and generous folks at home, the US Army has fledging fencing programs at Camp Victory in Iraq and also Bagram, Afghanistan. The Camp Victory program seems to be mostly dry sabre, but I am sure epee will soon follow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fencing: Evolution of Strategy

As I try to get better at this sport - I realized that there is an evolution in skill and thinking in fencing. I am sure this evolution is in all sports, but in fencing it seems to be much more apparent. Here are the levels.

  1. Complete confusion. At this point, you really don't know what is going on. You try to apply lessons you just learned only minutes ago, and you fail miserably. In foil and saber, you are doomed to being murdered and embarassed by attacks and parry-ripostes that never seem to work. Worse, you will never have a call go your way. In epee, you are actually kinda dangerous. If a fencer doesn't perceive your lack of experience, he will offer cues you will miss - and he might actually open himself up to your wild flailing about and actually get hit.
  2. Nervousness. Here the lessons are starting to take hold. Lots of defense, not much attack. Attacks will often fail, although sudden direct attacks might work. At this stage you may take the lead in a bout, and then lose suddenly because you are not experienced enough to notice adjustments in an opponents tactics.
  3. Anticipation. After a lot of experience, and many lost bouts, you will start to notice patterns and trends. With fencers at or below a certain level, you can anticipate how they will attack, or how they will defend against your attack, and you can use that information against them. For example, if Fencer A consistently uses a parry four then riposte, you can feint to four, then attack in sixte, with a parry four after to make sure there is no double touch (esp. in epee).
  4. Manipulation. After a ton of experience, and many lost and won bouts, you will start to notice a lot more patterns, trends, and styles. Once you recognize a fencer with a certain style, you can manipulate him into a set of patterns and tactics so that you aren't chasing him any more with your tip or edge - you need only direct him to where your tip or edge is going to be. For example, if you see a fencer who enjoys going for the toe, you can fence in a lowline guard for much of the bout. At the right time, raise your guard and step an extra half advance out of distance. This will direct your opponent to the opportunity he has been waiting for, and as he goes for your toe - you can nail him in the face.

I will let you know if I make it past #4.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's About GD Time

Right now I don't feel a sense of accomplishment. I only feel relief. For a week, no drinking, light meals, working out and fencing every night (even at home when class was unavailable), because God forbid I tell all the girls in Miami I am coming to visit this summer and I don't even qualify. Right now I am reminded of the words of Captain John Paul Jones.

When an Enemy think a design against them improbable they can always be Surprised and Attacked with Advantage. - it is true I must run great risque - but no Gallant action was ever performed without danger - therefore, tho' I cannot insure Success I will endeavour to deserve it. (italics mine)

Well, praise God I did deserve it today. Even though the GA Division 2 Men's Epee Qualifier event was stacked with C's - I managed to hold on and didn't lose a bout until I reached the final four. Which means I qualify to go to Summer Nationals. And I finally got my D07 classification. Also, my club team, Dunwoody FC (The Coletrain)*, won Men's Epee today and we also qualify. Man, I really do have a ball down here in Statesboro.

Tommorow is Division 3 Men's Epee. Next stop, C07.

*Seriously... That's the name of the team. Not even my idea. Not sure how many folks in the club even read the website!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Vanderbilt - Horrible

This is me... Cue in Godfather theme.

Well, it could have gone worse, but I doubt it. Well, given that I tied for last place, it really couldn't have gone worse. It was the worst performance for me in two years.

I made it to the round of 8 in Div3 Mens epee at the Vandy tournament, lost in the round of 64(!!) in the Open. Not a single win in the open. It was just a crappy day all around. I was slow, and according to everyone who saw me, my arm was too low.

This event doesn't get a grumpy tag because I really got beat. I don't feel frustrated; I simply feel that I need to work harder on some things to improve. I need to focus more on mentally preparing to win - rather than enjoying Happy Hour (2 for 1s!) and trying to find my favorite Nashville bar.

I don't think I could have advanced beyond the 16 in the open, but if I did I would have gotten my D. I could have won the Div3, it would have been tough, but it was mine to lose. I am disappointed in myself, but then again - I need to sharpen my technique. I am getting a private lesson this evening that should help.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

For Fun or Glory?

After a murderous pool performance, I finally battled back to reach the round of eight at the Fencing Fools tournament in Warner Robbins, GA. My record was 1/4 and I didn't even want to think about my indicator - until I win my first DE against a C2007. Then I learn that four of the five people in my pool (including myself) made the round of eight. So there is no one who can say I didn't have the toughest pool in the room. Unfortunately, I got knocked out by the top seed, an A2007, so a C was out of reach. But because of my crappy pool record, a D was out of reach as well - going to a guy who had a much easier pool and the voice of a 4 year old girl.

I was upset for at least a few days - even flirting with hot blondes and drinking tequila after the event did little to calm me down. It makes me wonder - what am I doing all this for? I love to fence, but winning makes me feel good, and glory makes me feel better. I am the kind of guy who is more inspired by praise than cash. I'm a guy who finds it hard to leave the group to hit on the lonely hottie at the bar when the older horny blonde woman is massaging my bald head.

Somedays I do this for exercise, some days I do it for fun... but on competition days, I do this to win - and when I don't, I feel like crap. There has got to be a better way to deal with these emotions while my subconscious waits for my body to start winning all the time.

Right now I am focusing on Divisionals. I want to qualify for Div2 and Div3 - but Div2 could be interesting. Having a D will help my initial seeding, which is why I am fencing in Vandy on Saturday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I Think I'm Getting Better

This is a vast improvement from my fencing just a year ago. From DFC's March Wind outdoor fencing event.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kendo vs. Fencing

Just for fun... Personally I think that an epee fencer is not going to be so ambitious if he was facing a sharp katana vs. a wooden shinai. Shinai's rarely hurt when they hit you - unless you make no attempt to parry and your drunken neighbor hits you in the back. Sorry D.

This next one is a fencing commercial that played during the NCAA March Madness tournament. The fencing was very nicely choreographed and shot.

Searching For the Perfect Epee

I have never had great luck with weapons. Especially epees. When I started to pick up epee, I was mainly a foil competitor, but epee was a small deal for adults at Minnesota Sword. This meant that if I picked up epee, I was guaranteed virtually private lessons for free, since there were only two or three adults learning epee with me. The first weapons I bought for epee competition actually came from eBay - an Uhlmann FIE from some lady who bought the best of the line for class, then realized she hated the sport; and an STM FIE from some guy who just got tired of playing. I bought these weapons at a huge discount three years ago, and they are the only ones that are still in my gig bag.

As for the others...
  • Leon Paul epees are nice, but the tips always fail shims for the first tournament. I learned this after buying two and hearing from others. The gutter blades protect the wire, but they vibrate like a tuning fork, and I had one snap in my hands.
  • BF Blade snapped in my hands at Birmingham. Totally inflexible.
  • Non Leon Paul tips are worthless... the screws pop out all the time, and there is nothing that pisses me off more as a director than some guy who brings a weapon to the strip without screws in.

I would buy only Uhlmann FIEs, but a) they are expensive as hell and b) the wires at the tip tend to corrode, causing the weapon to pass tests but be completely worthless in the bout. I never will forget fencing a VERY good B rated fencer in a pool bout. I had a chance to at least lose respectably 4-5 - but my weapon refused to go off, even after nailing the guy square in the chest. It passed a test by the director, so I had to resign myself to run away as much as possible.

I realize that expecting a piece of steel and electronics to work consistently under obvious duress is a little nuts - but if Panasonic can make a Toughbook laptop, I want a durable epee too.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Meet Me At Zaban Park - We Cross Swords At Dawn

Fencing outdoors in Georgia never really sounds like a good idea. There is the heat, the pollen, the bugs, the humidity - all this before you calculate the health of the equipment, logistics for keeping the fencers healthy, and trying to adjust to moving around outside - on a rubberized concrete basketball court no less.

But the DFC's March Wind competition went about as well as it could. And the cool March winds were actually quite welcome. The original venue dropped out at the last second, and my club had no choice but to fence outside or cancel. A lot of folks didn't show up at all - but thankfully the Open was still an A1 event with 15 no shows. The DivIII Epee event dropped to a D1, which took the wind out of everyone who was hoping to power to the four and at least be guaranteed a D in the promised C2. But as I have said before on this blog - local C2s are pipe dreams without a huge number of D fencers. If there aren't more than six D's in a C2 - expect no ratings changes to occur, or for less than 4 D's to advance to the round of 8. I suppose it's just as well - it's better to play to win it all than to play just to make it to the final four.

My performance in both events doesn't bare mentioning - not good, not bad, just adjust and move on. The one bonus was that I had a chance to test out my new Triplette weapon and my rewired Uhlmann FIE epee - both received at the Georgia High School Fencing League championships. Directing from 9am to 7pm was worth it to get my Uhlmann fixed for free.

Next up, fencing at Vanderbilt Easter Weekend.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

15-14 In the Final - So Close, Yet So Far

"Sometimes nothing you do makes any difference"

Holy crap. Not again. After I got railed in the AFC Peach State Open in Open Epee, I figured I had a shot at my D in the E and Under. Of course, it was a D1 - which meant I had to win. And I got close, too close. I handly won my pool, in fact there was only one match I didn't dominate - the final. At 14-13 in my favor, I went for one final fleche to end it all, and came up short. At 14-14, I tried to set up an opening for a wrist flick/touch that never came.

The sense of failure was overwhelming. I was so upset, I drove home in a huff and nearly put my fist through my car window. Thank God I bought a boxing dummy... I put on Limp Biskit's "Break Stuff" (only one of three LB songs worth listening to) and screamed and roared and beat on the thing until I was too tired to be angry.

The worst was that no one seemed to think I fenced poorly, it simply just wasn't my day. I made some mistakes - like trying to run up the score when I was already two touches ahead, or not playing to my strengths and just beating her around - but nothing incredibly fatal.

I am sure I will be fine in time for the Dundwoody FC March Wind - but the sense of frustration and need for self-destruction is hard to contain. I'd get drunk, but I have work tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Road To Miami Goes Through Statesboro

It looks like Georgia Southern University in Statesboro is hosting the GA Divisional Qualifiers, again. GSU has a great facility, I know some good people there - but man, the drive down there S-U-X sucks. Plus, since I will be going for Div II, Div III, and hopefully Senior Team - I will need to stay two nights there. More money, more problems.

As I've mentioned before, I usually do really well in Statesboro. And there is no reason that won't be true this time. I am twice the fencer I was a year ago - faster, stronger, smarter, and most importantly... lighter. The problem is that a) I have friends in Miami, so I am more invested in trying to qualify so I can visit them, and b) not being able to crawl out of bed with a hangover and drive 20 minutes to the venue makes the whole thing seem a bit more serious. The last 3rd place medal I picked up started with a hangover and me getting railed by a guy I fence all the time in my first bout of the day. That kind of obnoxiousness can't happen in Statesboro.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"I Don't Care About You... I Care About Fencing"

Fencing is my favorite pastime. More than football, more than girls, more than just about anything.

The last person I had to explain this to was an 8 year old who wanted to take my club's beginner's class. Unfortunately for him, there was an Regional Youth Circuit (RYC) tournament going on... so he was the only one in the class. The kid never fenced before, and learned the joys of teaching your body to hold an en garde position. Anyone who has ever fenced before remembers that the first time hurts... a lot.

Of course, this kid didn't suck it up like most future successful fencers do, he decided to moan and cry. And he even got upset that his pain didn't bother me. Or that I freely admitted that I really could care less. Which was true... if he wanted to make an effort, I was more than willing to help him along. But I don't baby anyone, not even the little ones in my family. It's just not dignified.

On a similar note, I had a conversation with a cute girl from Houston the night before Men's Division III Epee qualifiers. She wanted me to assemble a crew and come and hang out with her and her friends. I demurred, because I had to be on the road to Statesboro in less than five hours. Then she said I could come alone, and I knew what that meant. And I still said no. That was the day fencing officially became my favorite thing to do.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

So Close, Yet So Far...

I did everything I was supposed to do. I had a rough start in the pools at the AFC Grand Prix (D and Under Epee), but I made the most of it. My record was 2-3, but my two wins were decisive (5-0, 5-1) which helped my indicator. I came in at 18th of 27 before the DEs, and I fought tooth and nail all the way to the semifinal. One strong high schooler kept me from the final round, but I should have been happy because I would have earned my D07.

But it doesn't always happen that way. Because most of the Ds got knocked out of the tournament before the round of 8, the whole event was downgraded from a C2 to a D1. So for me to win my D, I would have had to win it all. Not to say I didn't try to win it all anyway, but it would have been nice to have a new rating to reward me for the slogging I was doing all day. I will just have to settle for a third place medal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Year - More Fencing

With my first competition of the new year coming up in Statesboro, I am pretty excited.

The last time I was in Statesboro I renewed my "E" and qualified for DivIII Nationals, so there is some good karma there. I have also been watching what I eat and trying to get on the treadmill more. Will Smith said in Reader's Digest that you meet your worst enemy on the treadmill - your lazy self. This is the guy that says that you have run enough, you are running too hard, and that three miles is just as good as five. Smith also said he uses the treadmill to learn about other people - and that he has nothing to fear from the kind of guy that commits himself to running five miles, but stops at three. I am not a Will Smith fan, but I want him to fear me - so I do everything I can to go the whole boat every time.

Another reason I am trying to slim down is a speed issue. I think my bladework is relatively solid - but while parry-ripostes aren't that common at the local level in epee, they still work extremely well if the speed is there. And I fear holiday meals, late nights at the bar, and brewskies watching football have slowed me down considerably. My ultimate goal weight is right around 215-220lbs - which is crazy to imagine that I would actually be almost svelte at that number. I guess I am a big guy.