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My new-found quest: to become jack of all blades.

May 24, 2011
Fencing at Club Nationals

On the right, fencing at collegiate club nationals

I have written about my fencing a few times here, but I just had a desire to write about it again. As I will link later on, what really drove me to reminisce was finding an old video of my fencing. (One of these days, I’m going to have to transfer all of these personal life entries into my hardcopy journal…)

My fencing history is…weird. I first started fencing…probably in 10th grade? I was on my school’s quiz bowl team, and the coach of that also taught fencing. Quiz bowl and fencing? What a natural combination!

Man…I was so bad then. Things weren’t all that organized back then, and the teacher in question was a reservist who was frequently away, so we didn’t have a lot of instruction. And it was all non-electric. I remember fencing sabre in a tournament at the school — it was, I think, the one time we got out an electric strip. I was so upset because the other people would get points on me even though I hit them first. I didn’t even know anything about right of way.

Anyway, my junior year, I’m pretty sure the coach was gone most of the year, due to service. So, I don’t think I did much of any fencing then. Senior year, I did a little bit of it, but still…not at all serious.

So, for all intents and purposes, when I came to college, I was as new as anyone else.

Those were dark times, my first year. (As an aside, I had enough credits to be a sophomore then, so my first year wasn’t really freshman year). Even worse, for some reason, I didn’t think I needed to go to practice all that much. Maybe it was because for me, winning is everything, so since I wasn’t winning, I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun.

The thing I regret most about my first year of fencing in university is skipping out on coaching lessons. How foolish, I now realize.

Somehow, I was able to go to collegiate club nationals that first year though. I didn’t even have my own equipment then. I found a video of myself fencing back then…it’s really embarrassing now. The knickers I’m wearing aren’t even mine, and the shoes are pretty ratty, not even fencing shoes.

Anyway, as I mentioned in a previous article (I linked it somewhere above), what the coach said then really convinced me to get serious, so I bought my own equipment.

I still wasn’t all that good junior year. We went to club nationals again and didn’t really do all that well at all. (Then again, our team didn’t do well my freshman year either.) I did get my E rating then, but that didn’t really convince me of anything.

Sometime my senior year, I think I learned how to hold an epee properly. I know that my coaches had told me to check my arm position in a mirror, but somehow, I never thought to do so until junior year. (I’m amazingly inept and uncoordinated at these things.)

(Fencing with side mirrors, btw, has been the best thing to happen to me since ever.)

I felt I was getting better that year, but I didn’t go to enough rated USFA tournaments really to see. I renewed my E in a tournament that should’ve netted me a D (but one guy decided not to show up and we couldn’t register anyone else to reach the required number), but in open events, I got crushed.

…that brings us to this year, I guess. Graduate year. This fall, I went to a couple relatively large tournaments…and I didn’t do terribly. I wasn’t great, didn’t improve my rating at all, but I at least felt like I wasn’t being totally outclassed by everyone.

But then came the spring. In January, I went to an enormous tournament. The first day, in the C and Under event, I got 2nd, which was disappointing because I missed out on earning a C, but it was still monumental for me because…hey, I still had earned a D!

And then came the next day’s open event. I remember being seeded after my pools…I hadn’t done too well, but I hadn’t done too poorly…I won my first direct elimination match, but then, my second one…I was matched up against this guy who was a favorite to win the tournament. Some of us at my club had appended “The” in front of his name, because we thought he was Serious Business. I remember the director for that bout commenting with another director about how quickly this match should go (since he wanted to watch another match, which he thought was going to be far more promising.)

I didn’t think I had a chance either. But then…I got the first point.

I was scared as hell during the entire match, and the final score was as close as it possibly could be (15-14), but it was my victory.

…And then I proceeded to get owned by a former Olympic fencer. (Yeah, it was bad).

But what I didn’t realize until after I had been crushinated by the Olympic fencer dude guy was that I had earned my B rating.

I still wasn’t convinced. Even now, I recognize that it could’ve gone either way (15-14 isn’t a confident victory in epee especially)…and really, getting a B rating because the tournament is so large that the top 48 people get ratings can let a lot of people get lucky (and I just scraped 16th for the B anyway!)

…And then there were the foilist guys, who insisted that ratings in epee meant nothing anyway, because epee was just so easy and epee ratings were inflated. (Maybe this is a bad thing to reveal, but the only A-rated epeeists on our team are…foilists.)

Then we had club nationals. I wasn’t expecting us to do all that well, since…well, our team hadn’t done that well before. (I mean, there were teams from A&M that had done well, but they had all gone and graduated…) I mean, I knew our foil team would do splendidly, since they were all awesome and all. But our epee team? I just didn’t think we had that much of a chance.

And then…we went and got 2nd.

…Maybe club nationals isn’t a big deal. I mean, it’s not NCAA collegiate nationals, after all. And yet…looking over the ratings of the various competitors there — most of the top seeded teams were stacked with A-level fencers…yet we had beaten them with our team of two B fencers and a D fencer.

Plenty of people have told me that one should always take fencing ratings with a grain of salt, and I understand what they mean, but…I just have felt a lot more confident ever since then.

My sights aren’t quite on an A in epee anymore, though. I feel that is too narrow. It definitely bothers me a bit when foilists talk trash about epee, but I also have to admit that I’m not really that good at foil, although the first foil tournament I fenced, I earned an E rating (before my unconventional epeeist-in-foil-clothing fencing went exposed for what it was). I definitely went an unconventional route, as opposed to my teammate the Robert Wooley, who started off with foil and became good at it before trying epee. I really dislike the weapon and its rules, but maybe that’s because whenever I practice it, I’m facing the best people on our team when I’m basically a beginner at foil. And for me, winning still is everything…

…but now, I want to get better at it. And sabre too. And I know that I have to take advantage of the fact that there are so many talented people from whom to learn…

And so, I will not stop until I’m the jack of all blades.

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2 Comments
  1. Hey, I was not actually commenting on the post, but for some reason I thought you lived in OK and just wanted to say I hope you are ok with all the tornadoes and things blowing through that area right now.

  2. Fortunately, I live (well, my parents live, and I’m on break here) in a part that didn’t get affected.

    but yeah, the weather is pretty ridiculous this year…

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