Saturday, May 24, 2008

What if I don't have an ocean to practice in?

Came across this on accident today:

Fencing Workout DVD

I have to admit that I'm curious, but the dates on the website are from January and it indicates no official release date that I can see. Also, the listed exercises don't look much different than what we do at practice for warm-up most nights.

I do find it a little humorous that they haven't removed some of the default template content (the "lorem ipsum") stuff.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Voting is hard work

I'm mostly posting because I haven't posted lately and because it's the Friday before a three-day weekend. Who the heck is working?

I've been thinking that I ought to think about this whole USFA election thing. We got our ballots in the mail this week, but the discussion started on Fencing.Net a long time ago. I also got included on an email from a former coach who wanted to have his say about the slates, though it was pretty mild compared to the online discussions.

There are a lot of people who care about this about it violently. I, however, am not one of these people. I cannot convince myself that the USFA leadership has affected me much one way or the other since I've been a fencer. I pay my dues and in return I get a sub par magazine and a little card that lets me go to tournaments. This is pretty much all I need from the USFA. The NACs and Nationals are gravy, albeit expensive gravy. Of course, since I have been fencing for less than a quadrennial, I've only known the USFA under one administration, so I admit that my remarks are probably naive. And if I were a good fencer then I would be affected quite differently.

The good fencers have a lot more on the line and thus may make their decisions with more fervent check marks. But I'm of the mind that the nominating committee exists for a reason and is not made up of just any ol' schmoes. They already did the hard work of deciding on the best candidates for the job and I'm all about letting someone else do the hard work.

lolcat - this not so hard

Friday, May 09, 2008

Numbers Game

Hello, I am an epee fencer, and...I am an askFRED addict.

There, I said it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step right? And I am admitting to you loyal readers, all dozen of you, that I went slightly nutty earlier this week waiting for the results of Sectionals to be posted. Of course I knew the final results, I was there till the end of the my event, but I just wanted to look at the results, to revisit my bouts and everyone else's. I find numbers comforting in their plainness and somehow find solace in the fact that you can't argue about simple facts on a page(screen). I agonized somewhat over a few "ugly" touches that I got last weekend, but now when I look at the results of those bouts, there's nothing to see but a final concrete score: all touches were equally um, touched.

For validation of my unhealthy obsession, I tried to search for some qualified person's opinion on whether or not reviewing statistics is a valuable tool for athletes. I didn't come up with much, though I'm sure this is as much due to my search-short-attention-span as anything else. Thus, this unqualified blogger is left to make her own observations about the good of staring at numbers and, as I have been known to do, make spreadsheets of them and apply dubious formulas to come up with new, even more dubious, numbers.

I can't convince myself that this is a bad thing, except that it's time spent I could be doing other, more productive, things. I also can't provide any proof that the time spent has done me any good (besides the aforementioned number-induced comfort). I don't think there's anything I can do at practice with the knowledge that I win X% of my pool bouts and Y% of my DEs; though certainly bad percentages must engender a desire to work harder. What I could use is information such as how often I win (or lose) touches on counterattacks, second intention, etc., but I don't yet have the self-awareness for recording this level of detail.

Great, just what I need - one more thing that just takes practice.

Monday, May 05, 2008

2008 Southeast Sectionals

This past weekend was the Southeast Sectional Championships in Columbia, SC. It's the first year I've been to this type of event so I didn't have any particular expectations, though I did expect attendance to be higher. With seven states to pull from, there were only thirteen women in the senior epee event. I suppose it is largely due to the fact that Nationals are on the other side of the country this year and a lot of people, me included, have already written it off. Last year, with a much closer Summer Nationals, there were 23 competitors. Still, there were entire states which had no representation.

Regardless, the thirteen of us that did show up gave a good accounting of ourselves I think. I felt compelled to fence my very best all day without exception and I got to test myself against women that are As, Bs, and Cs which is one of the main reasons I wanted to go.

I was glad to be placed in the "big" pool of seven and I was feeling pretty good, despite having gotten up at 5 am. I had two coaches, my husband, and other cheerers-on to give me confidence and keep me relaxed. I tried my very best to exercise my mindsets and mantras as a means of remaining level and cool and the result was what I think may have been one of my very best pools ever. I was 4-2 with a +11 indicator. My losses were 5-4 and three of my wins where 5-1. My losses, to two very young, very fast girls, were both frustrating . At 4-4 I felt in both cases that I could have gotten the last touch. On the other side of the coin though, I am also proud of the fact that I even got to 4-4 because they were both very good fencers that I probably could not have hung with a couple months ago.

So, overall still happy and feeling good at the end of pools and I was surprised to see that I was seeded 4th. There were lots of upsets going on in both pools I think. In the first round DE I was up against a girl that I had beat in the pool 5-1, but I started the first round too cautious and slow and at the first break it was 10-6 for her. Thankfully, I had some good coaching at the break and at the end of the second period it was 13-11 for me. I grabbed my last two points pretty quickly with fast straight attacks in the third period. My coach told me he saw three completely different fencers in the three periods and I need to sit back and consider how to get rid of the first and be the second two more often.

I clung tightly to those second two fencers in the round of 8 when I was slated against the A who had beaten me in the pool. This girl is awesome - her attacks and hand movements were deadly fast, but I still felt like I could hang with her. I'm glad I had gotten to fence her in the pool and knew what to expect. I felt great in the beginning; never discount the great mental boost that you can give yourself by getting the first touch. After that the score stayed really tight - I think I led twice and scored on a fleche and a toe-touch - more mental boosts for me. At the break it was 12-11 for her, but I think the break was detrimental to me - giving me an entire minute to cogitate on the necessity of my getting single lights from here on out. I rejoined the fight with a sense of overwhelming imperative. I have to attack and I have to get the touch. Such was the weight of this thought upon my mind that I forgot pretty much everything else, including moving and actually attacking. So it was that the last three touches were scored in the manner that my coach has been warning me about for weeks. I got in the bubble and I stopped. And I lost 15-11.

My final placing was 6th because of another upset, but I'm cool with that. I feel like except for those last three touches of the last bout I fenced pretty awesomely. I also qualified for Div IA for the first time and was awarded a giant hunting knife which I will try to take a picture of and post. I'm a little scared of it. The top four got awesome samurai swords so that's my goal for next year.

This tournament, more than any before, has left me with a lot to think about. I've been reliving those last three touches all weekend. Also, the gold medalist was one of my 5-1 victories in the pools so I can't help but think what if I had been on the other side of the bracket and fought her in a DE? I guess the what-ifs keep it fun, keep me returning; no one likes to leave questions unanswered. Maybe I can answer them next year.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Debasing fencing masks...and toilet seats

This is a real life Fight Club (pre-dating the movie) in Silicon Valley. A lot of the protective head gear they're wearing is fencing masks, which rather offends me. While I've always secretly wanted to know how I would fare in a fist fight, these guys seem more than a little ridiculous. To me, this video just reinforces the dignified, but dynamic and strenuous aspects of fencing. Fencing is in itself a fight club - albeit one with strict rules and plenty of protection. As our coach said to us only Wednesday night: You always want your opponent to leave the strip feeling like he's been in a dogfight.

Oh yeah, and how can something be "semi-lethal"??

Thursday, May 01, 2008

No Sprechen Fechtsport

Last night practice was solely a preparation for Sectionals. We fenced a lot of bouts, mimicking both pool bouts and DEs not so much to practice fencing, but moreso to practice mindsets. And maintaining a proper mindset, for me, is at least as challenging as maintaining proper form. It was a great, well-timed practice but it is the practices that challenge me the most that usually leave me the most frustrated. My frustration actually came to a head last night and I swallowed my pride and I just said to our coach, "I don't get it. I can't see what you say I should be seeing." Of course he was kind and reexplained things to me but I felt a bit deflated for the rest of the night.

Something that he's been drilling into us, me especially, for a while now is that the way to fence is to move in and out of the bubble. You move in the bubble, look for opportunities and move back out. In and out. When you move in and see an opportunity for attack, you take it - quickly! - and then get right back out, whether or not you were successful. So I'm in there looking for these opportunities but I don't really know what it is I'm looking for. I'm trying to create reactions in my opponents, but I don't really know how to identify these reactions or what to do with them when I get them. So I get in the bubble and I look for...something...and I forget to get out. I enter the sacred bubble temple sending prayers to the fencing heavens that they may grace me with a sign of exactly what it is I'm supposed to be doing in there. But the heavens are silent, or the devotee is blind and deaf; either way, I'm just not getting it.

I resign myself to the fact that this must be a function of time and experience and that slowly the great Truth will be revealed to me. The funny thing is, some of my most successful attacks are when I quit thinking about this most important tenet and fall back upon my animal instincts (rabid bunny mostly). At the Sword in the Stone, my single lights against the A fencer in my DEs came when I just went after him, throwing in a few beats and double disengages when they seemed appropriate. Maybe I do see the opportunities - sort of subconsciously - and it's only when allowing my brain to get in the way that I botch it up. Wouldn't be the first time my brain has let me down.

I guess the important point for the day is that I'm looking forward to Sectionals this weekend; I'm going to exercise my mindsets and just try to have fun. I finished the practice last night with one of my most fun touches ever - a fleche disengage. Fear the bunny!