Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Hiccup

There is nothing like disappointment. Failure happens to everyone. Few ever go undefeated. But to climb so high and trip on a stone at the summit hurts worse than anything.

Yesterday I fenced at the Crown Fencing November Tournament, and it was wild. I was in the large pool, and managed to come out 5-1, losing only to the C10 from my club and was #2 in the pool. After pools I was #4 of 25 in the tournament, and had a relatively easy path to the round of 4 and renewing my B. I also had a not so difficult path from there to the final. Given this, I was asked to help ref the other bouts, coach some of the kids in youth events, and when it came time to fence my first 15 touch bout, I lost. It wasn't a shellacking, it was a brawl. Eight double touches and four points traded off in the first 2:30 - this is not a bout I am controlling. I couldn't get command of the tempo, and I didn't have the presence of mind to just fl├Ęche at him over and over again.

The good news is that I have strung together two strong pool results in A2 level tournaments, and each DE loss so far has been against a clubmate. Losing sucks, a lot, but it is happening a lot less often, and it's against folks with insider knowledge.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So far, so good

Today I competed at the North Georgia Fencing Club November tournament. Last night, I was watching UFC 123 @ Hudson Grile with my closest friends that I just met. I wasn't sure how well I was going to do, but I resolved to be aggressive. My first bout didn't end up that way, until I woke up, but I ended the pool 3-1. When I saw how low I was vs. the other one loss fencers (4-1), it makes me wish I asked for a reseeding when I had the pretext.

In any case the aggressive fencing worked great against folks not from my club. Unfortunately I had to go through two strong club mates to make the round of 4 and renew my rating. I only won one of those bouts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cincinnati NAC - Increasing aggressiveness

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here before or not, but it is worth repeating - fencing Div I is like learning to fence all over again. What works at locals and regional tournaments just doesn't get it done at the higher levels. After watching fencers simply run away from a riposte, no matter how strong my parry, it seemed clear that attacks and counterattacks are the way to victory for me. Which means attacking 10 times more often than I do now. It also means I need to build up the endurance to sustain attacks for a long time. Which means I need to practice attacking over and over and over again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Tournament of New Season... Eh..

I almost didn't make it to this one - even though it was in town and my club was the host. The night before I lost my keys and faced the prospect of having my car towed and rekeyed right before the event. Instead of hoping for the best and going to sleep, I had a few and passed out around 11pm. Turns out that I locked my car keys in the dash, and made it to the tournament in time for check in - but not in time to warm up.

My pool should have been easy - there were only 2As in a 40 person event, which means I should only have one tough bout to worry about. I ended up 2-3, and dropped two losses on a slow kid from Wintrop and another kid who earned his C that afternoon. I didn't even feel like myself until the final bout - which I lost 4-5 (including a touch where the guy managed to try three times to touch me after I left the strip AND fell over in the process when the ref was staring at the scoring box). It was embarrassing, but my DE tree wasn't daunting. Unfortunately, I lost my first DE (second round) to the same guy as in my final pool bout, even though at one point I had a 14-12 lead with 1:00 left in the 2nd period.

Lack of competing and practice probably contributed to my decision to force a swift conclusion to the bout, instead of resting on the 14-12 lead, and sticking to my strong defense. Fencing can be like riding a bike, you don't really forget, but the gamesmanship is what helps you win when faced with even or ususual odds.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Expect to See a Lot of Me in 2010-2011

Ugh, what an awful year. I didn't qualify for anything except Senior Team Men's Epee for Nationals - not even Div III Foil. Although I felt I was improving towards the end of the season - most of it was just mediocre with flashes of horrendousness.

After spending some quality time with my previous years records at AskFred.net, I realized that I only did well when I competed all the damn time. I mean at least two competitions a month, sometimes two seperate competitions a weekend. At that point my results were consistent (top 4 in local Div II/III, top 8/16 in Local Opens), and getting better. I really want my A this season, more than I want to spend Friday nights looking at bar girls who couldn't compete with the women who shop my neighborhood Publix.

When asked by a prominent coach what my long term goal was for fencing, I said I wanted to be a fixture in the top 32 of Div I Men's Epee. Winning a few NACs would be fantastic, but I at least want my name to be mentioned (in a good way). His response was that I should practice more, and maybe quit my job. While it's true I don't practice or compete as much as I did when I had an easier strict 8-5p job; the ability to travel to any club or tournament I please using either cash or points or miles is a great consolation. He compromised on that suggestion if I made the effort to compete more, and travel to see other clubs when I was away with work. That made me feel better.

It's gonna be a long road - but it will be fun, after all fencing is my favorite thing to do. (Seriously, bar none.) I will post more too. ;)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walking the Dog and Tunnel Vision

One of the interesting things about fencing is that not only does it combine fine and gross motor skills like many sports, but each is also asked to draw on a huge library of skills in the middle of the bout. To mitigate this, coaches will teach the fencers to focus on 2-3 key actions, actions with over 80% accuracy that will ensure victory... but what if they don't work? If they don't work, the fencer must go back to that library, which is only possible if he has the presence of mind to analyze the situation on the fly, and either replicate a solution from previous experience - or create one.

The problem with this is that there is a person on the other end of the strip with a metal weapon in his hand, and he's coming for you. Only the quarterback in tackle football, and maybe the defensive secondary unit faces a similar dilemma - how to match solutions from a wide body of knowledge to a specific high pressure situation instantaeously. Most folks in such a situation freeze up because they can only see what is directly in front of them - hence "tunnel vision."

Tunnel vision is a phenomenon of the mind and body working in concert against an athlete's, or anyone's welfare. It's overfocusing on the most immediate issue, instead of taking in as much information as possible and making an informed decision. If you are running for your life in an open field - tunnel vision is ok. If you are running for your life in a jungle, the jaguar on the tree above you can get you just as good as the one on your tail. But if your field of vision is clear, and your mind is open - you can avoid them both.

When coaching from the sidelines, especially in fencing, sometimes it's not as important to convince a competent fencer to try a certain action as to get him to see the whole picture. If a 4-8 parry riposte will be more effective than a simple 4 parry-riposte - telling him might help, if he can see when to set it up. But if he has tunnel vision, that may not be possible.

Some of my coaching, like "Walk the dog" is less a suggestion on what to do, but a way of mentally pulling the fencer out of the chase. His body is still on guard with weapon at the ready, his drilling and training have made immediate parries automatic - but instead of being consumed by the madness of the moment, his conscious mind has now regained control and his eyes are able to see the entire field instead of the fencer that has confounded him. Much like the Pro Bowl level quarterbacks able to pick the perfect spot and receiver to pass the ball to as men the size and speed of rocketpowered refridgerators try to smash him - so can a fencer with a completely clear mind execute common and uncommon actions with ease. After all if the fencer has done his job in practice, somewhere in his mind he has the solution to victory - a coach need only help him clear his mind so he can find it on his own.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Georgia Southern - Fencing Fools Tournament

Again, I lament the day that 4-4 out of the pools was not a good record. Based on the field, I really should have been 7-1, maybe 6-2 if I was still tired from the road trip. I got beat by a D who fenced like he was gonna rob me, and another guy (who eventually won) who I beat in a gold medal the last time I fenced him. The good news is that I didn't cough up any ratings, and I got a chance to fence some different styles than the ones I encounter all the time in Metro ATL.

I ended up in third place - and the trophy was a frameable picture of your best touch in the semi-final with my name on it. My touch was a quick hand touch in the middle of my opponents ill advised flick preparation. I won't post it here, because my opponent's "trophy" is a picture of him stabbing me in the throat and I am just taking it like a rank beginner. You can find my "trophy" on Twitter if you know how to find me.

Either way, April is gonna be busy:
- Georgia Divisonal Qualifiers - Div III Men's Foil
- Div I NAC in VA Beach - Men's Epee
- Southeast Sectional Qualifiers and Championship - Men's Epee

Wish me luck!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Never Give Up - In Fencing or In Life

I have been busy with work and life - both fencing and blogging have fallen off a bit. But, I will be back soon. Until then, here is a classic from 'Tales from the Dark Side" I hope you will enjoy.
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This past weekend I helped referree a tournament for the Georgia High School Fencing League. Mostly this involved wearing a jacket and tie in a hot and humid gym, and looking mean and cross as I directed bouts. That was pretty easy because I was wearing a jacket and tie in a hot and humid gym. During the DEs one thing I noticed that pained me was how a lot of the kids seemed to give up in the third period when they were only down a few touches. It's one thing to get murdered, or to try something and fail. It is quite another to give up hope. I firmly believe if you give up hope in sports, you will give up hope in real life. Even if you know you can't win, you play for pride - just so your psyche remembers to hold on when it really counts.

It reminds me of my first official date in Indianapolis, back in 2001. She was a pretty petite blonde, who was introduced to me by her identical twin sister. I was excited about our date, but I also didn't want to screw up the golden opportunity to tell the story of the genesis of our relationship six years later. The plan was for her to meet me at my place, and I would drive us downtown to Palamino's in the Indy Circle Center.

Things got hairy when I was looking for street parking for about five minutes, and Ginger got tired of waiting. Just at that moment, I saw a space right across the street from the restaurant. I eased in front of the space, and as I prepared to back up to execute the perfect parallel park - Jerry Seinfeld started directing. Yes, a late model yellow Corvette pulls halfway into the space, just stopping where I am halfway in. Sonofabitch.

I make motions telling him to move on, and he flips me off. Personally, I was ready to just give in - I was hungry too - but then I heard Ginger speak. "You aren't seriously gonna let this guy have this space, ARE YOU?" You see, this is why women are responsible for all the violence in the world. If one of my guy friends said that, I might brush him off. But on a first date with a hot girl who wants a manly man, there is no way I am giving in to some douchebag in a penis car. So I start honking, a lot. Then I flip him the bird - with both hands. And for good measure, I back into the space at speed, at the same time. He is driving a brand new sports car, I am driving a company car that I was gonna wreck sometime anyway. Guess who got the space?She smiled lovingly and tossled her hair when I executed the best parallel parking job of my life.

Honestly, the rest of the date was wrought with bullshit (racist waitress who kept giving her wine in a soiled glass, neighbors who ambushed Ginger when she got back to my place - eliminating any chance of a "nightcap") - but I doubt I would have dated her for a year if I gave into that yellow Corvette.

Sometimes you gotta know when to fold them; but if it is time to hold 'em, you fight to the very end.