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!