Monday, January 31, 2011

Struggling in Practice

Right now I am in training for no tournament in particular, but Sectionals will be in Georgia extremely soon, and the Queen City ROC in Charlotte comes up in March.

At practice, when I am not coaching, giving lessons, etc. I end up fencing someone in a bout that if it were all on the line, I would beat 10/10 - but lately that ain't happening. I'm not getting blown out, but I am not absolutely dominating the person. Sure, my bodycord maybe having issues, as are my weapons, and last Saturday was my first day back after a high fever, but still. Epee fencing is the wrong sport for someone with a lot of pride, but I would almost rather take a touch in practice then needlessly put 100% into an attack and still fail. Then again, do I have enough gas in the tank to put 100% into every single attack against every opponent at the club 4-5 times a week? My ego is much happier finding a weak spot with a given fencer, exploiting it 5-15 times, and being done with it.

It's one thing if everyone is simply getting better, but I am not sure that's the case. Unless I take care of myself and push myself, I am bound to get slower - that's just life. Maybe I should go ahead and finish P90X before I let my pride get involved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

100 Tournaments Later...

Last Saturday was a heartbreaker: the Atlanta Falcons were knocked out of the playoffs and I was only a few touches shy of renewing my B or even getting my A.

Even though I actually got a good nights sleep, it was a chancy morning. I lost my first pool bout to an unrated fencer who kept swiping at my legs out of range of my counterattack. I didn't know his rating at the time, but he looked like easy pickings so I didn't proceed as carefully as I should have. This development killed me because I still had an A to face in the pool, and I knew he would want to avenge his loss to me from two months ago. While it was a close bout, I couldn't control the distance and got doubles when only singles would do. Thanks to the tiny pool, I only had a 2-2 record. For those following at home, this result breaks my streak of only losing one bout in the pools the last few events.

DEs were better, but disappointing. I faced a new fellow Dunwoody FC fencer in the first round (had I won the U bout I would have had a bye), and while he tried his best, it was over pretty quickly. When the ref starts calling epee bouts like foil with all the phrase d'armes terms to keep busy, you know it's gotten ugly. The next round was against the 6th seed, who at first fenced my seeding, not me. Once I got untangled from his multiple circle parries, it was just a matter of controlling the distance and keeping the score gap uncomfortably large. The next round didn't go so well. I got down by 4 touches right away, which forced me to attack to make a game of it. I caught up, but I never controlled the distance, so any miscues and miscalculations were costly.

I am upset, but I am anxious to get out there and try again. Even though my pool record suffered (so drinking... helps?), I still made another trip to the round of eight, which is happening with more regularity. The key is focusing on the pools, and mastering the distance at all costs.

As I was researching my bouts on, I noticed a cool thing - I have reached 100 events in the database. Of course, AskFred doesn't record NAC or National Championship results, and I have at least 10 or so competitions that are pre-Fred acceptance - so I hit the magic number sometime in 2010. Still, I am hit by the significance.

The records start in May 2005, soon after I moved to Atlanta. Right away I went from an unrated fencer to an E in epee. I also largely gave up my interest in being a three weapon fencer, especially since the major three weapon clubs in town discouraged the practice. The trend from that point was strong results in D and under events, and respectable but not good results in the Open events.

Unfortunately, after I got my B, my Open results didn't improve all that much. In fact, in the first 10 events rated A2 or better after I got my B, I only broke into the top 10 once. And that event was on New Years Day and I was completely hungover. The scary thing is that I could guess if less or more drinking would have improved that particular result. The worst bit is that of the three or four folks in GA who have improved their rating to a B or better in the last six months, most have renewed in just a few tries.

In the last couple years I was more committed to work, and seeing friends, and fencing mostly in the Div I NACs - but my results there are in need of examination as well. Right now I have more flexibility to train, coach, and compete - which is showing up in my Open results. It just sucks that it's taken almost six years for me to get to a consistently good level.

My fencing goals now are to be a constant fixture in the top 4 in Open A2 events, and in the top 32 at Div I NACs. Right now, looking at my last five results I am averaging in the bottom half of the 8 - which means I need to win one more DE per event. Given I haven't been blown out yet, it is a reachable goal. My NAC results have not been so kind.

To reach both goals I need to focus and fight for every touch in the pool like it is the Olympic final, and to jealously guard the distance like a drunken princess.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Shoutouts and Postings

There's no promotion without self-promotion, so check me out on the new services website Betterfly. My posting on the Atlanta Sports page is here.

Also, check out, the online home of the Alpharetta (GA) High School fencing team. These are the guys the snow demons have rescued from my training today. Seriously, three inches of ice and snow in Atlanta have shut down this city like the Death Star.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Eight Long Months...

High school kids in Georgia have it easy. My only exposure to fencing in rural Missouri was through the local public library and luxury car commercials. For a high school freshman interested in competitive fencing and the potential to be good, there are these options.

1. Georgia HS League Monthly tournaments
2. Under 14 Events
3. Under 16 Events
4. Under 20 Events
5. Local Open tournaments

And these are just the Open competitions. From there...
5. Div III D and Under
6. Div II C and Under

And if the kid gets good (after all that tournament exposure)...
7. Div I C and above events
8. World Cups (if invited)

That is a ton of fencing,which is why you see so many fencers go from U to A in epee in only a few short years. It look me much longer to get my B.

In any case, after a long eight month drought, I finally returned to the medal round and left with a bronze in Augusta. I fenced well, but ran into some minor stamina issues. Not that I was too tired to fence, I just was losing the ability to think critically while fencing. And that ability is my singular unique strength.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Getting Good Again

Years ago, I was a fan of a certain action. It's called ducking.

I used to be really good at it too. Unfortunately so many of the fencers above 6' tall (and therefore taller than me) in Georgia tend to fence everyone like they are children. They come on guard normally, then drop their arms half way to the ground. Every now and again I can take my opponents blade up and work my weapon into parry prime, but rarely do I see an opportunity to duck like above in a tournament. Given that the last two guys to beat me in DEs were over six feet tall, I need to find a way to bring this action back.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

When a 5-1 Result Sucks

In a High School tournament, I once lectured a student after she won a bout 5-0. Even though she won handily, she made mistakes that other better fencers could capitalize on later in the day (and did). To her credit, she took my stern lecture with grace and maturity before celebrating her dominating win with her proud mother and friends.

Yesterday, at the Dunwoody New Year's Day tournament, one of my clubmates was none too impressed with my 5-1 pool record. He wanted me to win them all (helping his place in the seeding), and he said my indicator was way too high, with my wins peppered with too many 5-3 results. I countered I had to spot my opponents 3 touches because I was completely nauseous and hungover from New Year's Eve. He wasn't convinced, nor should he have been.

Personally, I fully expected to get slaughtered by every fencer great and small, but having such a high seed after pools (6th of 27) and losing my first DE after the bye was horrible. I didn't expect to win the tournament or even renew my rating yesterday, but the landing hurts more from the higher you fall. I don't regret meeting the cute redhead from Columbia,SC just before midnight, but I wish I was more discriminating about what I drank.

The good news is that this is the third local tournament in a row where I have turned in a one loss record, and each DE loss has been to a Dunwoody fencer. Good pool results are essential at National tournaments and qualifiers, so this is very good. At some point I need to renew my rating this year, else I would drop to a C12 next year. At a local, this means I need to start winning DEs. So, either I start creaming my own on a regular basis, or hit the road and earn my rating out of the area.

Cody Mattern is Cool - 2010 Atlanta NAC

Finally, another NAC on home turf, less than 20min from my house. Plus I know where the good parking is, and I have brand new weapons. Unfortunately, even with plenty of sleep I still turned in the same result as the Cincinnati NAC, a 1-5 result but with a better indicator.

Again, I didn't feel outclassed, but at least this time my coach hit upon the main issue. As my footwork gets faster, I am tending to miss. Not by much, but I am missing enough to turn possible singles to doubles or worse. Back to the target speed I go!

However, I did get a chance to meet Cody Mattern, one of the top fencers in the US, and pretty cool too. He is fun to watch because he doesn't have many actions that a good epee coach anywhere can't teach you. He just happens to do them very very well.

Oh, and I did find one picture of me fencing. Too bad you only see my arm and epee, but I got the touch!