Sunday, March 20, 2011

Still trying to Renew my B

March is almost gone, next weekend I am ref'ing. I have 8 months to renew my B rating, or I drop to a C12 on Jan 1st, 2012. Of course, there is a tournament on that day and I could try to re-earn it then... But I would rather it not come to that.

Personally, having a C is better than having a B. You can still fence Div2 events and beat up on beginners, and at Div I events the ratings below A don't tell you much anyway. Even so, losing it would be embarrassing.

Last Saturday I was in Huntsville, AL for the Rocket City Open. The event was rated a B1, but I knew there were high level fencers in the area that still could come out and make it a A2 event at the last second. Ahh, no such luck. It was good to get out of Georgia and fence different styles, especially with Southeast Sectionals coming up.

My pool seemed to hum along until I lost to the other B in my pool. I rushed the bout, even thought it was to my disadvantage to do so. Then I lost to a girl who fences for her club at Indiana U. Badly. The score after 2:20 was 5-1, and my only touch was a double. Thank heavens no one told me she was a U - I would have done something stupid.

Worst of all, these losses made me forget all about my awesome beat-disarm attack with lunge earlier in the pool. It was pretty cool to see.

Thanks to a 3-2 record, I had to face my teenage girl student whose mother drove us to the event. Well, walking is good for the soul, right? I won 15-6, and kept my distance until the frustration wore off.

Next was the IU girl again. I watched her in her first DE. She never moved much, but she never stood still. And she took away the low line attacks by shifting her butt back and her shoulders forward. Did I mention she was tall? And the weirdest thing was that she was strong. Not really strong, but enough to remise or counterattack through anything I was trying. So I was down 5-3, and we doubled all the way to 13-11. She seemed content to just double out. I wasn't about to lose this early. Since I hit her hand early on, I kept beating and working to her hand. I figured I would either see it eventually, get her to counter and I would catch the top of her arm, or out of frustration or fatigue she would drop her hand. Eventually, she dropped her hand and I fléched for her shoulder. She didn't see it coming because I am just that damned good, and because I hadn't done it to her. It had to be fast because a beat attack would draw her counter, and since I was aiming for her shoulder there was nowhere to remise. Three in a row got me to 14-13. I figured she was all set to counterattack on a fourth flèche, so a nice deep medium speed lunge would be worth a double. 15-14 is good enough.

The next round I faced a guy who is fast enough for his new C11 rating, but still has an en garde of his old E rating. Once I established a lead with touches to the hand, I knew I wouldn't lose it.

The final for my B was against another club mate and child of my ride. Only he was talking smack and not interested in losing. While I executed nice hand touches, most of my points came by punishing his mistakes, not actually making things happen. When in distance I got gun shy instead of mowing him down. When he earned the 13th touch, I fought back hard to make a game of it, but by then I was fencing for pride and not for the gold.

Next time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

10 Worst Misses in Epee

I am training for Sectionals/Nationals right now, and I am trying to correct some of the crazy stuff going on in my game. I don't think I am alone. In no particular order, here are what I see to be the worst almost touches in Epee. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

1. You reach and give your all, but your all is half an inch short. This one sucks. Most likely because the back shoulder is too far forward.

2. You reach and give your all, and your all equals 749 gram-force. Maybe you are looking back at the light, maybe you missed your opponents half-step back, maybe your barrel needs cleaning, maybe you are a pathetic weakling.

3. You go straight for the arm, he dips his hand and extends. Both points land over/under, but only his light is on. It's a gamble, and you lost.

4. He's an ass anyway, flèche to the face! Only fencing masks are molded with a vertical edge with sloping sides - and your point rides one of the sides without catching. Too bad your butt doesn't have sloping sides for his risposte behind his back. The oohs, ahhs, and golf claps don't help either.

5. He attacks just inside distance. You parry in four in opposition, finishing to the neck. But wait, your barrel gets caught in a channel created by his bending bib not allowing a touch. It's unclear whether the curse word you dropped was for the "no touch" or his remise to the nuts.

6. You see it, it's not going anywhere, so you lunge for the foot. Only you should have aimed for the toe and you glance along the shockingly smooth side of that nice unscratched shoe. It's amazing what clarity your eyes can perceive as you are about to be hit in the face.

7. What a fast hand he has. But some of his glove is always open. You go for it with a lunge, and as you land you can feel him smile when you point lands harmlessly on the edge of the bell guard. You've been discovered, and the man is coming...

8. You see his footwork pattern, and you are timing a lunge just below the shoulder just as he steps forward in the middle of a double advance. Your only worry is making sure he doesn't break your blade. You shoot, you miss, you hit solid in the chest. Who knew he would raise his arm?

9. He's short, and/or he ducks. You don't like it. Fie on him. You step forward, he drops, and you extend and advance with a thrust to the face. Only you land on the top of his mask. A little more pressure and you could catch the back rubber edge of the mask. A little less and you could turn it into a sure flick. But here you are in the muddy middle, your point uselessly on his head, and his point in your neck. Fie on you.

10. And he messed up. He got a hair too close and you have a hair trigger. You fire with a straight lunge to the chest. You feel the tip touch him and begin to retreat into the barrel when... No f'ing way. He takes your blade near the barrel in a high parry, off his chest, and ripostes back to yours. His single light, his touch. You check you weapon in disbelief, it works just fine.

Bonus for foilists. You are rated high in Epee, but learned to fence in foil. You're up against a pure foilist who has no intention of losing in front of his girlifriend. It's 14-14, and you've kept it close by being careful and simple. And then he steps in, chest exposed, as naked as Chrissy Teigen is in your dreams. The fact that his weapon arm is creeping forward at half a snails pace is immaterial, he will never get there in time. Let's end this. Two colored lights fire on the scoreboard. Your planned attack in preparation turned out to be a counterattack. You lose.

Good Coaching Week

If you are a good club mate, a social fencer after you win or lose in a tournament, or you enjoy schadenfreude - chances are you've coached before.

Two weeks ago I certified as a Prevot d'Epee through the US Fencing Coaches Association. Last week one of my students, who didn't fence in a private club at the time, won the ladies High School State Championship. This weekend four of my ladies fencers earned third place in the ladies High School Team State Championship.

Two things were evident from these occurrences. Clearly, I know what I am talking about, because many of my fencers have minimal outside training. And also, I really really hate losing.

Watching one of my fencers win easily feels like watching a flower grow and blossom. Watching one lose badly is like standing on the deck of a sinking battleship while saluting the flag. That last bit feels horrible. Seriously, I haven't had a long island ice tea in about two years, but I needed two last night.

The worst is when the match was winnable, but carelessness made the difference. Ugh, oh well.