Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Good Is Your Worst?

I am not a country music fan, but I think Toby Keith and I could be friends. The best part of frequent work trips to Oklahoma City was visiting the famous Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill. But of his many chart toppers, my favorite has a line that I really love...

I ain't as good as I once was
But I'm as good once, as I ever was

When thinking about fencing, especially since I have nine whole years before I age into Veterans competition, the question for me is "How good am I at my worst?"

Over time I've learned headaches don't bother me, shocks and shots to the groin hurt but don't stop me, and I can fight through fatigue. My stomach however is my Achilles' heel. In 2008 at the Dunwoody Southern Star, I managed to shake off the flu long enough to beat a Mexican girl who offered platonic friendship if I took a dive, only to lose in the round of 32 to a patriarch of Div I fencers from Florida.

Thanks to Jersey Mike's subs, I had a wicked stomachache yesterday morning at Dunwoody FC's May Melee VIII and was struggling in pools. When I fenced a Veteran from an area club and I couldn't land a remise, I knew I was in trouble. I won 5-4, but pools didn't go much better from there. A 3-2 pool record matched me with one of my private students in the 32, and it got ugly very quickly. I took some Alka-Seltzer and laid down much of the afternoon, so my student and I could have a better showing in the team event.

So, my personal best thus far is top 4 in an A2, and second place in a B1. When I am fencing my worst, I end up somewhere in the 32 at locals. If I am to reach my goals, my current best needs to be my future worst.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No Promotion Like Self Promotion #2

I started fencing in Minnesota back in 2003. I did beginning foil classes, lost some weight and started gaining some muscle mass. Once I started competing and losing to 12 year old girls I lost a lot of pride too. After a year or so I picked up Epee and fenced both in practice and competition.

After moving to Atlanta, I stuck with one weapon because that was the advice of my coach at the first three weapon club I joined. After a brief break, I joined Decatur Blades fencing, and soon after I earned my first rating and won my first medal - which was stamped with a picture of the tournament organizer's son. Eventually, I joined Dunwoody FC, an Epee only club and I began to win more often.

Above is a picture of all the medals I have won since joining Dunwoody, including...

- An Epee won in a 50 person One Touch tournament
- My USFCA certification as Prevot D'Epee
- The Alpharetta HS team I coached this year
- A card written by a seven year old neighbor I introduced to fencing
- A medallion from the 1976 Montreal Olympic games, a gift for refereeing
- An Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe pin depicting two fencers dueling with guitars
- All the ducks I have earned from national tournaments, my one World Cup appearance, becoming a coach, and becoming the Georgia Division chairman

Fencing 'Round the World

Those of you who have browsed my Twitter feed at the left know I am no saint, but none the less I have been immortalized like the saints in stained glass.

This wonderful work of art (I am on the right) was a gift to the Esgrima Para Todos fencing club in Panama City, Panama. It was presented after a tournament (results posted here) that featured fine competition amongst the local Panamanian clubs and my clubmates from Dunwoody FC.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the trip to Panama because of another engagement, literally. While I missed out on all the fun, my friend had a beautiful and entertaining wedding weekend.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Teaching Directors, Educating Fencers

Today I fenced at Middle Tennessee State U as part of a fencing clinic. The Epee tournament was an A1, and there were many of us who were itching to get a shiny new A rating.

Pools went much better today, but the event was much less top heavy than AFC. I won all my bouts save one; the single win I had at AFC yesterday beat me 0-5 and kept me very humble. It was probably a gift - Salle Bosco fielded a beginning fencer who was fast enough to beat everyone in my pool, save me. It doesn't matter how fast you are - if I know when and where you are going to go, I'll get there first.

DEs went well until the round of 4. Everyone seemed to plant their feet, which opened up a lot of toe touches and counterattacks. In the round of four I faced a club mate. For those of you following along, you know that has been an issue. Today's issue is that I could solidly parry his flèche, but today (and today only), I couldn't seem to get the riposte. My point was on, and there was probably some "Corps á Corps to avoid the touch" business, but no director was going to see that today. Missing those ripostes equalled 6 or so touches left on the table - and I didn't have enough gas to give back 15 solid fléches of my own.

May Melee in Dunwoody next Friday, time to start running with the kids.

Rough Day at AFC

Whether I have a good showing in the DEs or not, I always seem to struggle in Open Epee pools at Atlanta Fencers Club. It is not terribly far from my place, and I usually grab breakfast on the way - but no dice on Saturday.

After two weekends of climbing out of pools undefeated, I serve up a record of 1-3. One of those losses to a fencer who falls forward and remises at the same time. Ugh.

My first DE was difficult, I couldn't control the distance and reliably land touches when timing and the attack were on my side.

My thought is that my legs were more fatigued than I could feel, which caused me to move slower. I might take a page from John Normile and keep a chair near the strip for resting during the breaks. He seems to have good results.

Fencing at Firkin

One pint of Sweetwater 420 makes a serviceable thirst quencher at a DE bout break. More than two, and you are going to get drunk very quickly.

My home club hosted a 21 and over fencing tournament (top 4 fenced) at Firkin and Gryphon in Dunwoody on Friday. We were out on the patio in the moonlight fighting away. While it was all in fun, everyone took the event deadly serious. We fenced off for third for the crowd, having me come in fourth - but after pint #3 and a shot of goldschlager with a fencer who just turned 21, I really didn't care. I actually fenced well, surprisingly.

We also entertained the patrons, especially the families with young children. Everyone seemed to enjoy us and have a good time!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Southeast Section Championships

"Well damn."

That was my first thought as I accepted the fact that I lost my first DE in the round of 16 to a good man and fencer from an area club. I needed to only defeat him to make the round of 8 and qualify for Summer Nationals in Reno.

My second thought was, "At least I don't have to drop hundreds of dollars to go to Reno. Reno sucks." Reno does suck, but I thought I had that bout well in hand.

The day started off well enough. In pools I first faced a new but skilled club mate and beat him 5-0. Thanks to a last minute ejection, I was once again in a pool of 5 - but I found a way to win against all my other opponents. A record of 4-0 put me 4th in the seedings and my own tree to the round of 4 (and renewing my B).

For those of you following along at home, this is the second event (and weekend) in a row I have gone undefeated in pools in an A2 event. The last time I was able to string together such success was when I was battling in local D and Under Epee (D2/C2) events.

However, this is not a local A2 with a few tough guys and a ton of Unrated fencers. The Section Championship is notoriously top heavy with the best fencers from around the Southeast United States, which meant that strong A fencers managed to lose one in the pools; after pool seeding is not a guarantor of success.

So after all this effort, I still have not managed to renew my B, and I will not be fencing in D1A competition in Reno.

After publicly pledging my allegiance to the inside of a bottle, one of my coaches took me aside for a chat. He pointed out that while I fell short of my high, but achievable, goals - in the process I became a much better fencer. While that is not its own reward, it is something to be recognized. Also, though I didn't qualify, 10th place is the best result I have posted at Sectionals ever.

Losing sucks, but the season rolls on. There are some fun locals coming up, including a fencing event at Firkin and Gryphon this week. I will have many chances to renew my B, or even get my A before the calendar year comes to a close.

My new goal is to get my A in epee before December 31, 2011. Wish me luck and come aboard!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Lots of Fencing in Charleston

First off, Apple's iPad rocks. I keep a current copy of the USA Fencing rulebook in iBooks for review, but when arguing a call the PDF search function earns its keep.

Second, I decided to go to this event because the chances of getting my B or A were extremely good. It was a large field in the open th mostly unrated fencers, and the rated fencers were known quantities. Also the one touch and team events would make the whole day fun.

It was not to be. While fencing a nearly perfect pool - I was touched only four times in five bouts - I was still not able to control the bout with a C11 in the round of 16. I should have punished him for taking three touches to understand me by making him chase me, but I didn't count on missing. Worse, the next opponent waiting in the round of 8 I have defeated before; beating him again would renew my B. So I now proceed into Sectionals with an old rating, but it is a top heavy event anyway.

The one touch event turned out better. There was no DE tree, just random pairings and an ALIVE or DEAD pile for your name after the bout was over. My first bout was between the pools and DEs of the open, with the same guy I would have had to beat in the 8. With swift determination, I won that bout. The next bout was after losing in the 16, and the poor kid I faced was lucky I didn't kill him for real. After that, I fenced a woman in a pirate wench wig, and she was not happy about losing. I replied, "Lady, this event is all I got." The semi final was against the top epee fencer in my club (and likely the Southeast). I think his loss was assuaged with the top prize in the open.

In the final, I faced the man who denied me my renewed B. The organizer proclaimed that a brand new Epee would go to the winner. In the case of a double touch, we would have to settle for pirate bandanas. In the bout, I danced with him, then I decided to pull him in and attack with a lunge. I put enough on it so a parry-riposte was all but impossible, so a counterattack would be the most effective answer for him. Too bad his counterattack as late.

Team, as usual was a lot of fun. The organizer put a handicap on teams who stacked the deck with rated fencers. Trading our A with his unrated sister seemed to be the happy solution, and gave us the top spot.

Even though I didn't get my A or B, it was a fun tournament. It's also nice when my club takes first prize in each event.