Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reboot Blog and Fencing Overall?

Just got back from the Dec 2019 NAC at Salt Lake City, my fourth national tournament (two Nationals and now two NACs). As usual the experience got me all eager to fence more, work harder, start taking lessons regularly again, and "git good". For a while now I've been thinking about making a committed effort toward becoming a more serious contender in Vet50, in part because if I don't I will regret it later in life. I have 8 or 9 years before I reach Vet60 and figure it I make a more serious effort I ought to be able to reach the next "plateau" or two before then. As it is now, in the Vet50 and Combined Vet national events I've done, and in other tournaments more generally, my results tend toward "middle of the pack". I'd like to reach a point where I am in the top 20-25% relatively consistently, in Vet50 at least. Or put another way, in an event like this NAC's Vet50, with 70 fencers, to reach the Round of 16 most of the time. The next level would be to often reach the Round of 8 or higher, which seems like a realistic goal if I work harder toward it over 8 years.

But then sometimes when I look at the people who are at this level in Vet50, and I watched a lot of them at this NAC, I despair a little. Mostly I worry that I won't sustain the feeling I have right now, that my dedication will flag and I'll let myself get lazy about it. I've never been great at sustained discipline toward goals in general, and suspect that *that* will be the biggest challenge. Actually writing this right now is helpful in realizing this: It's not just that I'd need to get back to regular lessons and work harder toward competitive-oriented goals, but also, more so, I'd need to be disciplined enough to do so consistently for years. I know what I will need to do to get better at fencing, but I'm less sure how to become more disciplined about staying the course. Well, I mean I know a little about it, but maybe *that* is a topic I should investigate more deeply.

I've made a little list of ideas and plans toward these goals:

1. Start taking lessons again, consistently, with Russ and Chris Aher. I've thought pretty seriously about looking into lessons with Marshall, but I think that is something that can wait for now. The main thing that has gotten in the way of lessons over the last couple years is work. I'm frequently scheduled to work Monday and Wednesday evenings, my fencing nights. This means I either don't go at all or go late and squeeze in maybe an hour of fencing. When I can only go fencing once a week or less on average, and often only for an hour or so, I want to do open bouting, not lessons. I get so much joy out of open bouting and it simply makes life happier overall in many ways, I'm just not willing to trade that for lessons. So what I need to do is make more time, so I can do both. I've been working at Metskers long enough now that I ought to be able to request Monday and Wednesday evening off most of the time. So, starting in January I am going to do that. Also there is Saturday fencing at noon or so, which I used to go to have gotten lazy about. And I often have to work Saturdays. Still, sometimes I don't and can try to start going again when I am able. Also, I just learned that there is some kind of "advanced class" (?) on Thursday evenings now, which is apparently aimed at and attended by some of the club's better fencers, but also costs extra. Still, it is something to look into.

2. Go to fencing camps, especially the Vet ones. I have never gone to any fencing camp, but have wanted to. The timing and cost (and my laziness I guess, letting deadlines pass, etc) have been the main obstacles. Still, I've heard how great these can be and should try to attend one soon, at the very least. There is the NWFC Adult/Vet Camp in May, which Toby kindly sent me a link about but apparently that webpage is gone. It probably it the June 5-7 Camp this year. I just now signed up for NWFC's newsletter, which should help me keep on the top of it. There is also something John Varney has recommended held by Walter Dragonetti in Las Vegas in late summer or early autumn. He says it is Vet-oriented, not really a "camp", and is in part intended as preparation for people going to Vet Worlds. When I asked how to find out more information he said it is on AskFred. It isn't there *now*, not surprising since it is many months off. Still, sometimes to look into more.

3. Take videos of myself fencing. I've been wanting to do this for a long time and did once or twice some years ago. I've been intending to more recently, but have been a bit shy about making it happen. And also unsure how best to do it at SAS. Marshall wants people to do this and has ideas about it, and a go-pro plus tripod for the purpose, so I just need to ask for more information. I have a camera and tripod I could bring too—though finding a strip where such a thing can be set up during open bouting is tricky; there's one strip downstairs that would work well. I was feeling shy about asking other fencers if they minded my filming us, but at the NAC several of us talked about it and how we all wanted to do it. At the very least John Westmaas and Vadim. And I'm sure few if anyone would actually mind. Just gotta get past my shyness about it I guess.

4. Keep track of my progress, goals, etc. This blog would be a good place for that, amd I am hoping to "reboot" it in this way. At the very least I want to start keeping a "fencing notebook" again, not just for keeping track of goals and progress but also for keeping notes about various fencers, like I used to do. When I did that before, years ago now, a lot of the fencers I tried to keep notes about, so I could refer to them when I had to fence them again, were young, developing fencers. These notes didn't work so well since, well, for example I had an entry for Matthew Comes that I started when he was D-rated. Within a year and definitely within 2 years, these notes were useless since he had developed so much. But if my main goal is Vet50 stuff, not only is the number of fencers less, but their styles aren't going to change as quickly as teenage fencers. I've already begun to compile a list of fencers I will need to deal with in Vet50 over the next several years, including some who are currently Vet40 but almost Vet50, like Erich Crannor.

5. Start regularly doing meditation and mindfulness practice, like I used to long ago. This doesn't relate directly to fencing, but I know it would help a lot, and not just for fencing but life in general. Again the key thing, for me, is the discipline to make myself do this, and do it regularly. I have to get better at that kind of discipline. And learn *how* to get better at it, apparently.

6. Spend more time learning about studying things like sports psychology, competitive planning, and related stuff. For a start I want to re-read the LP Epee book I have, especially its "advanced" section, which is mostly about planning for major tournaments, workout regiments (physical and mental), and general high-level approaches to getting results as a higher-level competitor in epee fencing. Also I plan to actually read the book Joel recommended and I bought a while ago, called "Fighting Dirty" (I think?): It's about high-level competitive tennis, but focuses on the psychology aspects in ways applicable to fencing just as well as tennis. Or so Joel said. I own it, I should read it! Further, I'm sure there are many other ways to study these thing of things apart from these two books, that I could look into. In fact, maybe I should dig up Daido Loori's "The Eight Gates of Zen : A Program of Zen Training", which my little list here suddenly reminds me of. Looking it up just now the "eight gates". They are aimed at Zen practice but general enough to be useful in other contexts I think? They are, with my first guess at how it might be transferred to my fencing goals: 1. Zazen (fencing itself, actually doing it); 2. Study with a Teacher (taking lessons, etc.); 3. Buddhist Study (study of fencing); 4. Litugy (hmm, not sure, something to do with "rituals" and group-participation; gotta think about this one); 5. Right Action (Daido means this as the study and practice of the Buddhist/Zen "precepts"; moral and ethical stuff; again not sure how this might be applied here, but some ideas to think about come to mind); 6. Art Practice (practicing creativity stuff, hmm, again not sure but some ideas come to mind); 7. Body Practice (well this can include things from working out to practicing good posture to general body awareness, and so on; some obvious ways this could relate to fencing practice); 8. Work Practice (hmm this could be many things). ANYWAY, more to look into! I'm sure I have a copy of "The Eight Gates of Zen" somewhere at home.

I wrote all this at the Salt Lake City Airport, post-NAC. Got here way early. But it is getting closer to time to go. Better sign off and see if I can publish this to the blog while there's still a little time here. No time to do a thorough check for tpyos.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

2018 Summer Nationals, Div 1-A

So, I've been meaning to write about the 2018 Summer Nationals in St. Louis, and was reminded about it by my one reader (hi!) last weekend. Unfortunately I can't find my notes about it and so much time has passed I've forgotten a lot of the details—apart from a few particularly memorable things.

I fenced in three events at Nationals, three days in a row: Div 1-A, Vet-50, and Div 2 (all men's epee of course). Of the three, I have the least to say about Div 1-A because I got trounced in the pools and cut before the DEs. I have more to say about Vet-50 and Div 2 and will post about those separately (hopefully before another four months have passed).

Even if I had my notes they would not be much help, since I only jotted down a few general things in the evening after the event. For a while, some time ago now, I had made a habit out of writing some notes after each pool bout and DE. I tried to remember every point and write a quick note about who scored and how, plus any other relevant information. But I fell out of the habit a while ago. Part of my reason for stopping was the feeling that writing stuff down between pool bouts was taking away from watching the other fencers in my pool. I began to think that watching and trying to make plans was more important than writing stuff down.

Which to some degree it is. On the other hand, lately I've been noticing how I often can't clearly remember most touches in a bout even right after it has ended. Part of my goal in trying to write down something about every touch was to get better at understanding each touch: What the action was, how and why the person who scored did so. Was a mistake made? If I got hit, was it because I made a mistake? If so, what was it? Or did my opponent set something up that worked? If so, what was it? What can I do to make sure he can't do it again? And so on. I wanted to get better at analyzing  and understanding touches, so that I could adjust to opponent's tactics and capitalize on openings.

But it is a tricky thing. Especially in a pool bout I don't want to spend too much mental energy and focus on what has already happened. I want a good portion of my focus to be on "one touch at a time": To stay in the present moment as much as possible. Still, there is a balance to be found, and lately I have perhaps swung too far back into *not* analyzing. So I think I might try to start taking notes just after bouts again.

All that is to say: I didn't write anything down at Nationals until many hours after each event. And I didn't write much even then, except for a few notable bouts.

In Div 1-A I didn't have any super-notable bouts. I was quite outclassed and mostly overwhelmed, which was honestly about what I expected. I was surprised to have even qualified for Div 1-A. I think the only Div 1-A ROC I competed at during the 2017-18 season was the Battle in Seattle. Apparently I did well enough there to qualify for Nationals.

Anyway, here is the fencingtimelive link for that event:

I was in Pool #4 on Strip K4 (which oddly enough was the same pool number and strip I had the next day in Vet50). Since I don't remember most of the details I've just compiled a list of the people I fenced, in the order I fenced, with some information about each of them. As usual I did not look up any info about the fencers until afterwards, since I find it doesn't help me to know ratings and such beforehand. I didn't know anyone in my pool at all.

Later I did check each person's rating, post-pool seed, final result, etc, as well as info from the Point Control website (http://www.pointcontrol.info). Point Control takes fencing tournament stats and computes an ELO-like rating, similar to the way chess ratings work. It also tells you the birthdate of each fencer. I think it gets all its info from AskFred. The Point Control ratings I cite below are as of October, so they are probably slightly different from what they were in July. But they should be close. Also, the system isn't perfect by any means. Still, it is pretty good, at least for fencers who compete in tournaments in the AskFred database.

My own Point Control rating, as of October 2018, is 31.71. For comparison, below are the ratings (for epee) for some fencers I know. In short, I can imagine reaching a rating of about 35 in a few years. The upper 30s are harder to imagine. Above 40 gets into an elite realm I can only dream about.

Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu: 45.51
Travis Exum: 44.81
Walter Dragonetti: 44.80
Samuel Larsen; 43.29
Matthew Comes: 43.25
Henry Lange: 42.93
Daniel Volkmann: 42.89
Jay Slater: 41.97
Andrew O. Lee: 40.27
Yuly Suvorov: 39.30
Erich Cranor: 39.30
Monica Exum: 39.10
Tobias Lee: 38.27
Bela Suveg: 37.78
Sean Ameli: 37.09
John Varney: 36.29
Aaron Page: 36.07
Mike Perka: 36.04
Fred Frank: 35.96
Caleb Alger: 35.75
Jeff Johnson: 35.65
Shawn Dodge: 35.31
Mark Benack: 34.40
Andrew Kiluk: 34.16
Alex Rwamashongye: 33.57
Paul Fly: 31.71
Joel Howard: 31.41
Johannes Klein: 31.03
John Comes: 28.92

So anyway, here's my pool results and some info on my opponents (and myself).

Paul Fly. C18. Born 1968. Point Control rating: 31.7. Pool victories: 1 (seven person pool, so I was 1-and-5). Indicator: -11. Post-pool seed: 176 (cut). Final result: 176 (out of 197 total).

And my pool bouts in the order I fenced them:

Robert C. Piraino. Lost 4-5. A17. Born 1984. Point Control rating: 37.01. Victories: 3 of 6. Indicator: 0. Post-pool seed: 97. Final result: 104.

Ziheng Wang. Lost 3-5. C18. Born 2001. Point Control rating: 32.9. Victories: 1 of 6. Indicator: -7. Seed: 168 (cut). Final: 168.

Liam K. McKinley. Won 5-2. A17. Born 2001. Point Control rating: 34.76. Victories: 3 of 6. Indicator: -4. Seed: 111T. Final: 31.

Devin D. Tafoya. Lost 2-5. A18. Born 2000. Point Control rating: 41.51. Victories: 5 of 6. Indicator: +10. Seed: 23T. Final: 38T.

Nowell L. Gibson. Lost 1-5. B18. Born 2004. Point Control rating: 30.89. Victories: 3 of 6. Indicator: +2. Seed: 92. Final: 99.

Alexander J. Javorski. Lost 1-5. B18. Born 2000. Point Control rating: 36.81. Victories: 5 of 6. Indicator: +10. Seed: 20T. Final: 12.

Some observations on all this. All my opponents but one were 18 years old or younger. All had a rating equal to or higher than mine. All but one had a higher Point Control rating. Two fencers won all but one bout, one of whom reached the round of 64, the other the round of 32. Curiously, Liam McKinley, who went 3-3 and was the one person I beat, reached the round of 16, finishing 12th. So the one person I beat had the best final result!

One thing I remember about the pool was how my first two bouts felt decent, although I lost. The first one was close, 5-4. The second was not too bad, 5-3. Then in the third bout I felt particularly focused and determined, and won handily, 5-2. But then my focus flagged for some reason and I lost the next three, 5-2, 5-1, 5-1. I remember watching Nowell Gibson and coming up with a plan. I thought I had a decent chance. But the plan failed badly and the bout was over quickly.

A few other tidbits about this event. Matthew Comes took gold, beating Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu without too much trouble (Matthew also came in 8th in Div 1, which might be even more impressive). Henry Lange came in 5th, and Daniel Volkmann 6th. Andy Faubert came in 23rd, Yuly Suvorov 45th.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that. In summary, I was surprised to have even qualified for Div 1-A and went in expecting to not do very well, but determined to give it my best. And I did feel like I gave it my best, even if as always my best could have been better, heh.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Catching up, local tournaments, end of 2017-2018 season

I've fallen out of the habit of writing here, but here's some quick catching up for the rest of the 2017-2018 season. After the Battle in Seattle I competed in local five tournaments and Summer Nationals. I will try to write a separate post, or posts, about Summer Nationals. I'll also try to write a separate post for the "Western Washington Foil & Epee Challenge Series #4" event, at which I came in 3rd out of 25 and renewed my rating from a C2015 to C2018, yay.

For now I'm just going to write a quick summary of the four other local tournaments, since my results were all average to meh, and I mostly did not take notes:

Seattle International Veteran's Cup ROC: Came in 21st out of 31. My pool opponents and results were Sean Ameli (lost 2-5), Dvorak Franco (lost 4-5, argh), John Varney (won 5-3, woo!), Jeff Lucas (won 5-3), and James Simoni (lost 2-5). My indicator was -3, making my seed 18 out of 31 (my pre-pool seed was 15 thanks for having a C2018 rating; had I still been C2015 my seed would have been about 20).

Being seed 18 I was paired with seed 14, which turned out to be John Varney, argh! I've won pool bouts against him two or three times, including this day, but I've never won a DE, even a vet DE to ten points. I did better this time than usual, being mostly tied to about 5-5, then losing 7-10. Not too bad, but I lost just the same.

A cool thing about this tournament was Tobias Lee coming in 1st and getting his A rating, yay! On the way he beat Jeff Johnson, Travis Exum, and Sean Ameli. All very impressive!


Western Washington Foil & Epee Challenge Series #5: Having done well in the 4th of these local "challenge" events I had high hopes. Ended up 10th out of 18. Pool was 2-and-3: Joel Howard (won 5-3), Mallika Ketkar (lost 4-5), Garrett Armstrong (lost 2-5, oof), Chung Lu (lost 4-5), and Jeff Lucas (won 5-2).

I was seeded 10th and paired with seed 7, Mark Benack. I thought I had learned enough after the last few times we had fenced to be able to beat him, or at least have a good plan. The plan was pretty good, but I could not completely control impulsive "bad idea" attacks, and I made some other mistakes. I lost 10-15. Ah well. One more step toward controlling "bad idea" impulsivity.

I did write a few notes about this tournament, mostly about mindset and fencing Mallika:

...I enjoyed everything and had fun, but couldn't get into a good competitive headspace—and didn't really try to hard either [to get into that headspace]. I mean, I fenced as well as I could, but I didn't seem to care that I wasn't in the ideal "competitive" headspace. It was fun, and that was enough. Prime example: In my pool bout against Mallika Ketkar I got up 4-1 but managed to lose 4-5. She scored four singles in a row while I only need a double to win. I felt kinda dumb about it, but not too bad—mostly I felt somewhat happy for her—it must have felt great for her! And it wasn't that I wasn't trying my best—more that I was okay with whatever happened. A fine mindset: I had fun after all, which it really my biggest fencing goal—but perhaps this was not the ideal competitive mindset.


Rain City Open: Came in 18th out of 30. Pool was 3-and-2: Joel Howard (won 5-4, phew), Matthew Comes (lost 1-5), Jeff Lucas (won 5-2), Benjamin Duchow (lost 2-3 (didn't know time was running out, sigh)), Evan Bentley-Inouye (won 5-2). Indicator +2. Seeded 15, which paired me with seed 18, Thea Bridger Denz. We had a good bout—basically tied off and on. I don't think either of us ever got more than 2 points up. She was very defensive and most of the action took place at her end of the strip. Her defense was great, very good parries. Near the end she got a slight lead, then I caught up and we reached 14-14. She got the final point and won. I felt bad having lost, but also impressed with her fencing. And even more impressed watching her win her next DE against Mark Benack. Mark was seed 2 and expected, I think, to win without much trouble. Thea fought hard and well, winning 15-13. It was impressive. Mark was quite pissed afterwards, and loudly petulant. I heard someone saying to her afterward something like "wow you really made him upset", to which she said, with cool confidence, "I've been making boys cry since I was ten years old". Love it.

Her next DE was against Andrew Kiluk. Despite Andrew being a clubmate friend I couldn't help but root, at least in part, for Thea, but she lost 15-11. Andrew then lost to Matthew Comes. On the other half of the tableau Steven Benack beat Tobias Lee, so the final was Steven Benack and Matthew Comes. Although they are both in college now and not around for most of the local season, seeing them in the final was awfully familiar. I must have seen them in tournament finals ten times or more. Usually Matthew won, if I remember right. But this time Steven won, 15-10.


Western Washington Division Senior Championships: Came in 17th out of 25 (well at least that's "best" for those who didn't make the 16...um, right?). My pool: Jeff Lucas (won 5-2), Andrew Lee (lost 5-2), Eric Zobel (won 5-4, to my surprise), Eli Weise (lost 4-5, argh), and Jeff Johnson (lost 2-5). Indicator -3. I came out 14th seed and was paired with 19th seed, my clubmate and sometimes drill partner Joel Howard. I think I win more often than not against him in tournaments, but sometimes he just has my number. He certainly did this time, beating me 15-7, yikes. The final was a familiar sight, like at the last tournament, but this time Matthew Come and Andrew Lee. It was a very close bout, but Matthew won, 15-14.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Battle in Seattle 2018, Vet Men's Epee

Good old Battle in Seattle, vet epee. My fourth time? Fifth? Something like that. Obligatory result links:



I did a bit better than I feared, in both the vet and the senior events. In both I felt I could have done slightly better, but was fine, even happy with the results. Winning a DE in both was key to being satisfied. Curiously, perhaps, the vet event felt somewhat harder—there are some tough vets! Plus, the vet field seemed rather top heavy. There were an awful lot of A-rated fencers.

As usual, the vet event felt more socially relaxed and enjoyable the way vet events so often are. Not that people don't fence hard and intensely, but outside of the actual fencing there is a sort of calmness about everything. It's nice.


I had a seven person pool, so six bouts. Nice. I often have trouble in my first pool bout (or first several bouts), but this time things began very well with a 5-0 win against Denis Bridger, a leftie I hadn't fenced before (or even met, I think). Later he asked if I fence lefties at my club a lot, because "you took me apart", as he put it. I said there were a couple in my club I fence semi-regularly (thinking about Chris, Anna, and Shyamala) but not many these days. Still, I said, I was pretty comfortable fencing lefties. I didn't write down anything about the bout. The best I can say now, weeks later, is that it felt relatively straightforward—although I don't remember exactly how so. I think I did a lot of feints and disengages, and was careful about distance. More than that I'm not sure.

I lost my second bout, 3-5, against another Dennis, this one with two Ns: Dennis Clinefelter. Again I don't remember the details. My scribbled notes just say: "Did dumb things. Was unsure, hesitant. Awkward attacks and bad timing." Okay...

Won my third bout, 5-3, against Francis Irwin, another fencer I didn't know. And again I can't remember the details except that he was a leftie and I felt my focus and determination was much improved from the previous bout. As the pool bouts continued I found it easier to get into that mental place of determined focus and semi-anger. Knowing there might not be much fencing left, especially if I did poorly, makes it easier for me to get into that higher energy, somewhat angry headspace. In fact, I deliberately kick it up by thinking about how it might be over all too soon. This, it turns out, seems a decent way to get myself riled up and "angry", making it easier to find that higher energy, focused, determined, competitive groove that sometimes eludes me.

I didn't realize it at the time, because I make a point of not checking peoples' ratings and such beforehand, but apparently my first three bouts were against the lower rated fencers, and the remaining three were higher-rated, very good fencers. I had some suspicion about this, since I had seen the next three before, in other tournaments, and knew they were good, and would be challenging. Still, I don't think I had fenced any of them before—maybe Loeffler and/or Wallace—but long ago if so...I think. In any case, I knew it would be hard, but felt prepared to give it my best. At least I had found something of the right competitive groove.

So, next up with Carl Loeffler. I went in with a vague plan and a notion of what to expect. He seemed fast and strong. Worried about strong blade actions I used some absence of blade, hoping to at least somewhat nullify being taken with binds and beats. What I wasn't expecting was 1) His excellent flicks, and 2) His ability to draw me out with footwork, distance, and general invitation/baiting stuff. In short, he won quite easily, 2-5. My notes say: "Damn flicks! Many times I thought I saw openings and attacked, yet flicks counters and other counterattacks got me." It was a frustrating bout, but impressive too. I mean I was impressed, and think/hope I learned some things.

Then I had the fencer I thought would be the hardest: Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu. Before the December NAC in Portland I had only vaguely heard of him (that last name is memorably long if nothing else). At the NAC I watched him in the vet combined semis and then his victory over Walter Dragonetti in the final. It was quite impressive, watching him and Dragonetti. So I was simultaneously worried and eager to fence him. Worried he might destroy me. Eager to experience and maybe learn something.

I didn't expect to win, although I certainly tried. And I didn't. He beat me 3-5, which was not as bad as I had feared. I had been vaguely planning to try to be very careful and defensive, and okay if the score didn't get to five (losing 0-3 is better than losing 0-5!). But he got me a few times with very good fleches that came out of the blue and hit before it seemed they should—even knowing he's a French grip pommeler and that he is known for his fleches. After getting hit by a couple of those I tried to be ready and better prepared for more—giving myself extra distance, thinking I might be able to duck one, etc. Yet he got another one or two. I realized after that those fleches came immediately after exchanges, when I was least prepared, having been distracted by the exchange, and perhaps a bit off-balance, or leaning, or not at an ideal distance, etc. Still, I did get 3 points and felt okay about that (3-5 is better than 0-5!).

My final pool bout was with Patric Wallace. I'd watched him in the past and knew he was strong and fast. Despite feeling prepared and working hard in the bout, he decimated me, 1-5.

So I finished the pool 2-and-4. Fourth place out of seven, with a -4 indicator. ...well, could be worse.


My little section of the DE tableau:

When the DE tableau was posted I saw I'd have James Neale. I think I've fenced him before and lost (though I now realize I had partially confused him with David Jensen—at least misremembered some past bouts). I knew he was a very good fencer and I was worried. Later I checked and he's an A2017 from Fencers' Club). But, thinking this DE could well be the end of the day's fencing for me helped me get more fully into that "angry" headspace I "discovered" at the Portland NAC ("damnit I'm not ready to be done!"). I think that headspace helped me quite a lot in this DE. I was energized and on. And I won!

John Comes had been in the same pool as Neale and very helpfully gave me some intel and advice. He said Neale was good at hand hits and binds, so I had to be very careful about sticking my blade and arm out. This info, along with my misremembering past bouts with Jensen and Neale (one of whom beat me using lots of binding fleches), made me decide to try using a strong absence-of-blade approach.

It seemed to work pretty well. I might be wrong, but I got the feeling that my absence-of-blade effectively denied him his strongest tactics and attacks, and, maybe?, frustrated him somewhat. It felt a little like putting some of the ideas from Epee 2.0 into practice and having it actually work: "Identify your opponent's strengths and don't give them the opportunity to use them". The other main concept being "draw your opponent into your own strengths." This, I felt, I did not do as well, but perhaps to some degree I was able to.

In any case, as we fenced and it seemed that this absence tactic was working pretty well, I continued and made it an even stronger absence—that is, holding my blade down and back far enough that he couldn't reach it (or my hand) at all, at normal distance. I remembered Marshall taking about absence of blade a month or so ago, and demonstrating just how far back it "should be". Farther back than my instincts tend to want. Tip quite near the floor.

The absence tactic made things into a game of distance, feinting, and drawing out. I made a couple of foolish attacks early on, but wised up and got better at drawing him out while not getting drawn out or overextended myself. We went back and forth, more or less tied to about 6-6 (with vet DEs only to 10). As we fenced I felt like I got better at this absence-and-drawing-out distance-game approach. I got some singles, making up for my early foolish mistakes. Then a lead of a point or two, giving me confidence and helping with the drawing-out.

The first period ended 9-6. This felt quite nice. I tried to not get complacent during the break. The second period began and I kept "doing what worked". Too often after a break I think "oh they will change tactics so I should too, as a preemptive measure". No no! Especially with a lead, stick with what was working. Maaybe have something to change to if what was working no longer works, but only then.

Anyway, after a short bit he attacked and I counterattacked to the leg. We doubled. So I won, 10-7. Woohoo!

So I made the 16. My second DE was against Mark Segal, a leftie fencer I had seen in various tournaments over the years, and enjoyed watching, but had never fenced myself. We had a great bout, mostly tied off-and-on to about 6-6. I even got up a point or two a couple times. I got some nice-feeling prime ripostes—reminding me of fencing leftie Chris at SAS. I also got some results from broken time stuff. However, he got me too many times with a relatively simple advance-lunge to my thigh/knee. I should have wised up after two of these, but he probably got me four times that way, including the final touch.

The first period ended 6-9—he having gotten a nice lead after the 6-6 tie (and a curious inversion of my previous DE). I think I got a single early in the second period. Then he got me with his leg shot. Just after he said "that's all I got!", with the implied suggestion that I had done quite well otherwise. Still, that leg shot was enough. I wonder if I fell for it so many times because, in part, I was misjudging the distance I needed due to his left-handedness. I needed just a bit more distance than I thought, and I find I sometimes misjudge how much I need with lefties: Sometimes they are closer than it feels.

Still, it was a good, enjoyable bout. I felt like I could have won—he didn't destroy me. I held my own pretty well. Perhaps if I had made a better distance adjustment...? Not only was the fencing fun, but I liked him. He seems like a fun guy. Hopefully I'll get to fence him more in the future.

In summary, I was okay, even happy with my fencing overall. My pool was a bit frustrating, but the DEs felt quite good. And I made the 16. But because my pool wasn't great I ended up finishing at the lower end of the 16: 14th out of 34. Not bad, given my pre-pool seed of 21 (and post-pool seed of 20). Mark Segal went on to finish 3rd, beating Erich Cranor 10-3 (!), then losing to Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu 10-6. The final was Tepedelenlioglu and Dragonetti—a rematch of the vet combined final at the Portland NAC. I didn't stay to watch, but saw later than Metmet won, 10-8. I wonder if it was as odd a bout as the Portland final.

Here's the upper part of the final results. I feel like I'm in pretty good company.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Portland NAC, December 2017

My first NAC, and it was a blast. That it was in Portland and I could drive was a key factor in making sure I went. So far the only tournament I've ever flown to was Summer Nationals 2015. That was my first National level tournament, and this NAC my second. But being a NAC I was able to fence Div2 without having to qualify, which was nice.

Here is the USFA results link, although I'm not sure how long it will continue to work: http://www.usafencing.org/dec2017nac

There are a million things I could write about this NAC, and would like to. But if I tried I would never finish and never post. So instead I'm posting some fairly quick notes and a general write-up. Here goes.

As a C had a good preliminary seed: 20 out of 57. Went down from there. I didn't look at any opponent's rating or anything all weekend, screw that.

Here is my pool results and some brief notes I scribbled out.

My pool bouts:

Eric Wang. Lost 4-5. Fast lefty. Got down 2-3. Doubled to 3-4. Nice single to  wrist, 4-4. Tried  patience and distance waiting for opportunity. Then, his fast fleche, my flat foot not-retreat. Nice touch, 4-5. I felt okay for at least catching up to 4-5.

Nikolas Corrales. Lost 2-5. Flicky beaty guy—took a few touches to wake up, morning fencing ugh. Got focused and active, but too late. Down 1-4. He'd beat and repeatedly flick. Upped my energy and footwork. Scored with what I've nicknamed (and written about in other posts) "Dragonetti fleche", 2-4. Final touch—thought it was a double but no, so I lost 2-5, ouch. Russ gave good advice after. Hard to figure people out in 5 points.

Alexander Kim. Lost 4-5. Energy up, great start. Got up 4-2. Had some nice, fun infighting-y primes. Thinking i could pressure him into a mistake I increased pressure but ended up actually attacking, and too deep. He adjusted, catching my deeper feints and attacks. I had a nice beat thigh attack—half inch short while he made a lovely weird hit to my back. Then he surprised me with a fleche almost off the line, damn, 4-4. Final more of same—my pressure and his good distance and blade catching. 4-5, damn. Being up 4-2 and losing is so frustrating.

Tobyn Dessauer. Won 5-1. Finally won one. Push push push pull. Shallow shallow. Got a couple nice "4-6 opp" (incl. the final point). Felt great—can handle this, and won't lose all bouts.

McPherson ("Mack", I think) Beale. Lost 1-5. Ouch! Very nice NWFC guy. I had a plan from watching him—low lines, thigh, foot; perhaps strong takes, even the Penner crossover attack (didn't find chance to try it). He hit my arm a lot. I tried a high line, he hit under my wrist. I went low he hit top wrist. Jeez!

Gau-Shieng Lin. Lost 3-5. Gah. Russ said I kept getting caught in 6. Weird how sometimes people catch my blade and i don't understand and cant escape, but it is just a plain old 6. Often from a 6 parry i pronate, prime-y, easily, instinctively, fast. Sometimes i feel caught up in a trap i don't understand, even instinctively, like this.

So, bad pool: one and five, -7 indicator. Made me 52nd seed out of 57 for DEs. Made me anxious about what high seed I'd get for DE, but at least no one was higher rated than C.

Went better than the pool. Here's part of the DE tableau and my notes.

First I had Edward Worth. 13th seed, E16 (would have guessed C or maybe D, fenced very well). from Bend I think (High Desert FC, Oregon). His pool: 4 and 2, +5 indicator (I didn't look at any of this before DE, just that he was 13th seed (actually i thought 12th, but whatever)). Feeling pissed about my bad pool and having to face a high seed. Realized/decided to channeled my pissed feeling into a kind of anger and energy, determination, which turned out to work quite well (and again on Monday). A new approach for me? Controlled anger?

Edward almost didn't show up in time. The refs called and called, while I was on strip all ready. Announcement on PA called him 3 times, "final warning". They knew he was there and gave him a minute more than strictly required. I was fine with that. Didn't want to win that way (but a little voice was hoping anyway). Finally he ran over, seeming flustered, and knocked over a rail en route, heh. He got a red card for "over 3 minutes" (after final call? not sure how that works). So i started with one point. Seeing him looking flustered I thought to start hard and maybe take advantage of his flusteredness. Plus i had that "angry" thing going (not really anger? need better word).

I got up 5-0 or 5-1 rather quickly, maybe in part due to the flustered thing? Maybe in part the "anger-determination thing? One touch on his hand as he lifted his blade, nice. Another toe touch, nice! Feeling good. Then maybe he finally got over flusteredness, and/or I started to get complacent. He started scoring, and I stopped. He caught up and took the lead. I think 5-8 at the break. Russ said infighting wasn't working for me and to avoid it (my usual prime-y infighting failed). Also that I was freezing with blade contact—needed to retreat not freeze! Make him fall short, etc—kinda the usual advice but so helpful to have Russ tell me anyway, even if its mostly the same thing he usually tells me, heh.

Fought hard and caught up, 8-9, 9-9. Patient and active. Not freezing, better footwork, mostly staying shallow, better distance. We were tied-ish to about 10. Then i got one, then another, 12-10. Did a up-beat and hit under wrist, nice. Ended with a double. So won 15-11. Felt awesome, having screwed up my good start, adjusted (with Russ's help), and not becoming stupid near the end (like I often do), and for beating this high seed from my lowly seed spot. Made the day.

Second DE was with Joseph Smay. Seed: 45T. D17 from Boise (only looked this up after). Young (late teens? early 20s?), nice (we chatted several times after the DE and over weekend). He ended up 15th (earning a D I think, but was already a D17).

I fought very hard—maybe too hard, ie, apt to risky and impulsive stuff. We were mostly tied-ish all the way to 13-13. Russ was elsewhere, and in my one break Kundry offered what she could. I don't think she saw too much of the bout and couldn't offer larger picture strategic advice, but it was nice to have her there. She told me I hadn't retreated from one of his attacks and should have, etc. Later, Jeff Lucas, who was watching and had had Smay in his pool (I think) said he wanted to tell me to hold back a little more and draw Smay out (I had had a lead yet kept pressing and attacking, and was a point or two up at break I think), and that Smay is more a counterattacker and I could have drawn him out and then gone straight in. But with Kundry coaching me he didn't think it was his place to (which was probably right—you can't have two people coaching you in the break, but maybe one and then another is okay, I'm not sure).

Smay was using a French grip and I had been beating a lot. At 13-13 had plan, based on various observations made up til then: beat hard, feint hard to foot, then catch the high counterattack. But my foot feint was too deep and became real attack instead of feint, maybe? He got my shoulder while I was still low. Damn, 13-14. I tried something similar (second intention, beat-feint-catch), but it failed. So I lost 13-15. My scribbled notes say: "damn—close! still, fine, won 1st DE and felt good. gave it my all and then some". At the end Smay shook hands and said something like "whoa you had me sweating", and he was clearly tired out. We fenced hard—maybe I fenced harder than he expected or wanted. I wished I could fence him again—figured a lot out by the end. Felt I could beat him if I had another chance. Ah well. Still felt fine about the event overall, mainly due to that first DE.

Final results (table cuts off, there were 57 fencers). Thanks to winning my first DE I made the 32. But due to my bad pool I came in 31st.

On Saturday I did not have an event, but went and watched a bunch. Also spent a couple hours or more practicing with Jeff Lucas, which was awesome. I wish we could do that more. We're great "fencing partners/buddies". Lots of talk of tactics and various actions, drilling a bit, etc.

Sunday was Vet50. Slighty better pool than Div2 but lost first DE, ended up pissed—turned that feeling into "anger" next day for Combined Vet Epee. In Vet50, my preliminary seed: 45 out of 65. There were (counting now), god, 20 As and 13 Bs. Huh, that helps me feel better now (two As in my pool, four people with national points). Again, did not look at ratings or anything at all until after/now.


Edward Bourguignon. U, 61th seed; ORION, Oregon. Won 5-4.
Tied-ish, me up a bit. Beat a lot, mostly resulting in doubles. Stopped beating and worked on distance—Marshall approved afterwards (he called out some helpful things during bout). Energy felt good, focus..ok.... Got up 4-3, saw opening and went, but deep, doubled. So 5-4. Okay. Marshall commented on my going too deep a lot. He was right—except once i tried Jeff's fleche-to-back-shoulder Cody Mattern thing; it was a double but felt pretty good, though still something to work on.

Stephen Lee. E17; 57th seed; HLBRSDT, North CA. Lost 3-4.
Crazy..ish. Kept pushing him to end of strip. Tried forcing him off, but carefully! And almost did once but got hit. Ref said she was really almost almost about to call halt for off strip end, it was so close (after i realized I could use practice when other person is pushed to end—i get impulsive (though better this time than usual)—Marshall had some good advice about it, should ask him more later). Anyway, had trouble getting through Lee's parries, sweeps, etc. He got a lovely hand hit—maybe i was too active (big)? Trying to overwhelm. He retreated a lot when I feinted (feints to foot a lot). Got a nice leg touch. Still, got to 2-4, guh. One exchange I couldn't tell who got—turned out I did. Close close. I got one the ref called for me, then changed her mind and said floor—I agreed. Wasn't 100% sure but it probably was floor. Got a single, 3-4. His defense was great. I kept pushing and looking for openings and feeling good, and...time ran out!? Being at his strip end i couldn't see the time—was this tactic of his? Keeping me in a place where I wouldn't notice the time running out? Anyway, I lost. Still, 3-4 is better than 3-5. Then again, 4-4 and overtime would have been better. I had no idea the time was running out, was quite surprised.

Robert Malleck. C15/55; 36th seed; FENCERS, Metro NYC). Won 5-2.
Bit uncertain at first—but got tempo control. Good leg hit. Bizarre infighting, he scored (I thought I did, but no). Then i got a nice prime touch. Ended 5-2. Felt good, felt I controlled the bout.

Bela Suveg. A16/24; 16th seed. Lost 3-5.
Based on another tournament where I beat him 5-0, I had plan involving hand hits/threats, but I overfocused on hand & disruptions. With his big sweeps I thought I saw openings and went—but deeper than intended—he parries well, and strong, and holds his parries, preventing my remises, resulting in singles for him. Down 2-4 then finally got nice hand hit (after refocusing on shoulder instead of hand!). fFnal action—another sweep and opening?? I go hard, he parried and hit he solidly in chest. VERY FINAL point, heh. Ah, 3-5, not too bad with Bela (although I did beat him 5-0 that one time, usually he beats me badly).

John Jones. B16/43; 25th seed; TCFC Marx Fencing New England. Lost 4-5.
Got to 4-4. final point: we both went for the same thing at the same time, clashed bell guards and my tip missed, his hit—pure luck, as Chris Aher said (who was watching), and Jones too, afterwards. Jones got first point when I got too close, trying some absence. But as Aher said I adjusted to good distance such that jones couldn't do that attack again, so that's good. And again there were a couple of exchanged I couldn't tell who had hit/scored. Good bout. Bit distracted. Must focus! Also, nice having Chris Aher watching—I felt like our club was particularly good at having someone watching clubmate bouts, even in pools, most of the time. I think Kundry helped make sure that happened (she had a spreadsheet of all SAS fencers and events, making sure at the very least we all had someone to coach us in DEs). There were also quite a lot of us there, and I felt like most of us tried to watch each other's bouts when we could.

Jeffrey Hudson. A17/7 (7 points), 5th prelim seed; Ohio. Lost 2-5.
Amazing fleches, surprised me. Varney called out "distance!" (nice to have clubmates watching!). I adjusted and thought I had plenty of distance. He fleched again and I felt like i had plenty of time to deal with it but he still got me, after 2-3 blade actions during fleche and my retreating (beats and then ending up like infighting). Then more of same. Afterward Varney and Hudson both said I needed 5 inches more distance than what I had thought sufficient—and that my distance was okay for most fencers, but Hudson's fleches really require a bit more. Also, Varney said i needed to retreat more, I was freezing a lot when fleched. Gotta keep working on that.

So, out of pools, I was 48th seed out of 65; two and four, -3 indicator. Not too bad.

Did not go so well. Here's part of the DE tableau and my notes.

My DE was with Earl Hergert, A16/38; Medeo FC, New Jersey (his pool: 4 and 3; +4 indicator).

He got up a lot fast. Period ended 2-5, I think (Vet so only to 10). Marshall (who was coaching me because Russ was busy with someone else) gave excellent advice: I was leaning forward too much and couldn't retreat and needed to, and i was reacting to him, because i was unsure: Lefty, me trying to be cautious and careful, maybe draw him out, and looking for shallow stuff, but it wasn't working. Marshall asked "Can you fleche?" "Heh oh yes." "Do it." "Really??" Against this guy that seemed very risky, as far as I could tell. But I tried a fleche and scored. Marshall called out "same thing"—and I scored again. Then again, though felt a bit lucky the 3rd time.

By then it was about 7-8 and i got cautious again—close score now! It had become a real bout. Also, three fleches seemed pushing my luck, especially with the 3rd one having felt kinda lucky. Surely he'd be expecting it now and have a defense ready, right? So I became careful again, like earlier in the bout. Wrong idea—he scored and scored and won. Marshall said I should have kept doing what was working (those fleches), not gone back to what hadn't been working. But said otherwise I adjusted well, fixed my lean/balance and retreats, etc. Hergert said "nice comeback". It was too! If only the bout was to 15 i might have had a chance to adjust one more time. And if only I hadn't gotten down so far at the start, I could easily imagine winning. Should have kept fleching! Interesting insight—opposite of usual situation (shallow shallow!).

Still, pissed to have it all over so soon. Channeled that into determination the next day, which was much better. My place in final results (can't see it here, but John Varney came in first place, woo!):

Monday was the Combined Vet Epee event. I did well, for me, and was very happy with the result. I didn't take notes during the event (and sometimes I think I'm better off when I don't). So I don't have the kind of play-by-play info of the previous events. I could write quite a bit anyway, but can't spend forever on this post. So instead, here's screenshots of my pool, DE, and final results, followed by a more general post I wrote about the NAC as a whole. It repeats some things I wrote above, but also has some info about the Combined Vet event. Perhaps I'll try to add additional notes, details, insights, etc, later.

I went to the Portland NAC, my second national-level event, and holy crap I loved it. I did Div2 and vet epee. Watching the Div1 people was very cool. So many are scary good.

My Div2 pool was pretty bad. In one bout I got up 4-2 only to get stupid and complacent, thinking I had it, and "fencing not to lose" as someone put it, and losing 4-5. Bad pool, low seed, so I faced a much higher seed in DE. I was angry about my pool and successfully channeled the anger into focus and determination. Although I love tournament fencing I'm not a naturally competitive "must win" kind of person, which makes is easier to deal with losing but also makes it harder to actually win. Trying to find the right mental balance and ways to get my head into a "winning" headspace has been a challenge. So it was very interesting and encouraging to channel that pool frustration into anger into focus and determination.

In this DE I quickly got up five points or so. Then my opponent got his head on right, while my anger-focus flagged, and soon he caught up and got three points ahead. That was enough to rekindle the anger-focus thing. The rest was hard fought, more or less tied to about 10-10. Then I got a couple points up, say 12-10. Now I'm extremely good at managing to lose when I'm up a couple points near the end like this. There's a ton of mental stuff that plays into it, which I've been struggling to figure out for a while. This time I didn't blow it and won.

That made up for the bad pool, but more so, I felt like I learned quite a lot about the mental stuff I've been trying to figure out for a while now. Went into the second DE with even more determination and "anger"-focus-energy, deliberately turning it up. It was a great bout, more or less tied to about 13-13. I turned it up even more and tried a second intention thing that was probably a good plan, but in my new-found anger-energy headspace the feint came out overcommitted and I got hit with a counterattack. Tried again, same result. So I lost but felt like I learned more about this mental stuff—just where is the point between productive determination and too much. Felt good, like I was just reaching a new and very useful mental level.

But then I got trashed in vet50. My pool was ok, but not great. In my DE I tried to be careful and cautious, looking for shallow targets and such, but could not figure this guy out, could not figure out what to do. I was letting him control the bout and was paying for it. I think the period ended 2-5 (and vet DEs only to 10). In the break my coach corrected a couple things and, to my surprise said instead of being cautious I should just fleche this guy. I was surprised because I felt like this guy had a strong defense (thus my being cautious). I was like "seriously? you're saying I should start fleching? well okay, if you say so I'll try it".

Surprise surprise, coach was right, and during the second period I scored several singles with fleches, getting the score to 7-8, iirc. Then my stupid brain did what it likes to do and started to think I could win after all, which made me nervous, which made me revert to being cautious. The last fleche I made hadn't worked quite as well (though still a single light), and my stupid brain said "he's sure to have adjusted and fleching won't work now". So I ended up returning to the way I was at the start of the DE, with predictable results, in hindsight anyway.

All this made me really frustrated. The next day was vet combined and I very deliberately made myself feel angry about the vet50 event, and very purposefully channeled the anger into energy, determination, and focus. It was similar to what I had done in div2, but better. I was able to tap into the mental stuff I had figured out in div2 and do it again, better. Result: I had an acceptably decent, even good pool, for me. Three and three. Every single bout ended 5-4.

Before the DEs I continued working on this anger-channeling mental thing. It was weird because I am not naturally angry. I had to actively make myself mad. I walked around forcing myself to frown and seethe—to myself anyway: whenever anyone actually talked to me I was suddenly all smiles and happiness. Then I'd go back to stalking around with a vengeful grimace. These DEs would be the last fencing of the NAC, and damnit, I was going to win.

Well, to cut to the point, after the pools my seed was 44 out of 95. I won my first DE. It was with Leo Caamano (U; NAFAN, West Rock; 85th seed; won 10-6). It wasn't a blow out or anything, but I think I had the lead all the way. Second DE was the best. It was with Bruce McGuffin (C14; New England; 21st seed); won 10-5). Not only did my funny anger-focus mental thing seem well balanced and very useful, but twice I saw problems and solutions, and made tactical adjustments that worked. And that is something else I've been struggling with for a long time. Seeing a tactical problem isn't too hard, but seeing a solution has been very hard for me. And even then, seeing a solution and being able to execute it at a higher level event with someone I've never fenced or even seen before, well that's not something I had experienced before. Winning that bout felt so good, like I had reached a mental place I had been trying to find for years. In a funny way I felt simultaneously overjoyed, "finally, major progress in the mental stuff!" but also "of course I won, damnit, and nothing can stop me from continuing to win!"

My next DE was with Erich Crannor (A17; NWFC, Oregon; 12th seed). I lost 5-10, but so what? I gave it my best, fenced well, and learned, and afterward easily let go of the anger and was happy, yet still determined for the bigger future picture.

Finally, to end this long post, let me say I really enjoyed spending the weekend with everyone there. The fencing community is truly a wonderful thing. I'm extremely happy to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seattle International Veterans Cup, 2017

Seattle International Veterans Cup, 2017


How nice to have a tournament and feel like I did well. Beyond my expectations at least. There were 26 fencers and nearly all of them were as good or better than me, on average. Also, the Battle in Seattle was still fresh in my mind, where I had more trouble in the Vet event than the regular Senior event. These good vets may tend to be a little slower than the 20 year olds, but they are wily and smart. I expected to struggle in this one.

But I arrived with plenty of time to check in and warm up, and quickly felt growing confidence. I warmed up with several people and perhaps worked harder than necessary for mere warm up bouts. But I think I get more out of warming up hard than easing into it. Several people over the course of the day told me I was moving really well, which was great to hear. I felt like I was—putting my all into the kind of in-and-out footwork I’ve been working on for so long now. And also trying to change up footwork stuff a lot, opening up space, closing, slowing down, speeding up. Lots of check steps and half lunges, trying to set traps. I think I got some decent results from “retreat check steps”—starting to step back but not actually, and perhaps turning into an attack instead.

Anyway, to the pool.

I was in a pool of seven, so six bouts for me. Three people were left handed, sigh. And among them, Erich Cranor and Bela Suveg, both scary good fencers. The third leftie was Ommer Bruce, who I’ve seen a few times and maybe fenced. I didn’t quite know what to expect of him. I thought he would be quite tough for me, but perhaps not quite as tough as Erich and Bela. There was also John Comes, who over the years I’ve been more or less on par with. And Jonathan Brace, a clubmate who I “should” be able to beat, but you never know. And finally, Ed Bourguignon, who looked familiar but I don’t think I’d fenced before.

The very first pool bout was Erich Cranor and me. I hooked up and almost on a whim checked my epee’s screws. I had checked everything the day before and upon arriving, but who knows, maybe something happened during my warm up bouts. To my surprise a screw was missing. These NEPS, “new epee screws”, almost never fall out, in my experience. I replace contact springs and whole tips far more often than screws these days. But I was definitely missing a screw just then, good thing I looked.

I quickly switched to my second epee. Although I’d like to have three or four identical epees I have not yet figured out “the perfect setup”. So I have 4-5 Frankenepees instead. For a while I had more or less settled on LP’s standard “FIE blade”, and have a couple LP bladed epees. But a few months ago Marshall, after watching me fence a bit (at the Leon Auriol Open perhaps?) said I would benefit from using a nice stiff BF blade. After a while I got one and have been enjoying it very much. That was the one missing a screw, of course. So I switched to one of my LPs. Would I have done better with Erich if I had the BF? Who knows. Probably not, or not much.

But I can pretend it is an excuse: Erich beat me 5-0. I felt like I had not fenced badly. He scored several lovely touches on my hand and forearm. Once or twice I might have over-committed and opened myself up to easy counterattacks. But generally I felt simply outmatched rather than feeling like I fenced badly. Still, not the best start. On the other hand, I figured I got the hardest bout over first and things could only get better.

And they did. My next bout was with Bela Suveg. We hadn’t fenced in a long time, but when we have he’s decimated me. And I’ve watched him enough to know how good he is. Still, I put my all into the bout, doing footwork as fast as I could, all the in-and-out, check steps, and so on. Also, after Erich I had quickly put a new screw into the BF epee and used it for the rest of the day.

For whatever reason, I was in the zone that bout, seeing things as they happened in that wonderful focused way that can be so hard to find sometimes. I watched him do his strong sweeping low line parries when I probe at his hand. After trying to set up a little pattern of probes I did another in a half lunge, disengaged his sweep and put my point right on his hand. It felt just right. Must be that extra-stiff BF blade, haha. Well, maybe a little—it sure seems like the tip stays far more stable than on my other epees.

Anyway, I kept up the same stuff and after a bit managed to hit his hand again, in a similar way. It wasn’t as pretty, but hit more directly on his hand and felt quite nice. After that we maneuvered around and he seemed more careful about protecting his hand. After a while I managed to make the distance close a bit using a “retreat check step” which he advanced into, at least a little bit. I made some kind of feint, half lunge, then renewed deep to his body, hitting. He counterattacked, but a bit late, too close and too high. My deep lunge had brought my head down and his blade ended up over my head.

After that I worked on being patient—I was up three points after all—yet still as active as possible footworkwise. Time passed as we probe and maneuvered. Finally he fleched. I had my blade turned to point a bit to my left, and lowish—part of something I’ve been practicing and exploring ever since watching Joseph Choo at the Battle in Seattle. I think Bela attempted some deceptive blade action as he fleched, but from my blade’s lowish, somewhat septime-y position I was able to lift up into a high septime, basically nullifying whatever Bela was trying to do with his blade. That was exactly the kind of thing I had seen Choo doing and had been trying myself. It wasn’t pretty in this case, but got Bela’s blade out of the way. Then, as he passed on my left I was able to drop the point and angle it to hit his thigh. Perhaps in this case it helped that he’s left-handed and was thus closer as he passed, maybe. Still, I was a little surprised that I had hit. And I wasn’t sure if the ref (Zoey) would give me the point—maybe he had passed? But she gave it to me. So yay, 4-0, wow.

So then, being nicely up, I continued trying to be very patient, yet active on my feet. There was a decent amount of time left, but still, Bela had to come to me. I could just wait. I tried using footwork stuff to draw his attack, but he was careful. After a while he was edging forward while I kept trying to draw him out. I also tried to keep pressure toward his hand, looking for another hand hit possibility. After a bit of this there was a moment where it seemed like he had edged just close enough and was, perhaps, concerned about my focus on his hand. I made another half lunge toward his hand then renewed and dropped to his foot. My point landed perfectly. His counterattack was high and late. I won 5-0! Against Bela, wow. And ending with a toe touch? Wonderful! I was elated. He was not happy and shook my hand with a grim firmness. As I walked back and unhooked John Comes congratulated me with an impressed expression.

That win was so unexpected and unexpectedly good, I figured I would be quite pleased even if everything fell apart in the rest of the pool. I felt super good—not really because I beat Bela, it could have been any “very good” fencer and felt as good. Mostly it was the wonderful feeling that comes from being in the zone, working my hardest, seeing details at speed and, most of all, being able to capitalize on it all, with two or three touches that felt pretty much perfect.

Also I figured the 5-0 win exactly made up for the 5-0 loss. After the bad start I was perfectly even. And those were the two toughest fencers in my pool, I figured. So I felt pretty good about the situation.

Next bout was with John Comes. We’ve fenced in tournaments quite a lot since I started at SAS. Sometimes I beat him easily, sometimes he beats me easily. Sometimes we have very close bouts. This time it was a very close bout. Things began well for me. I think I got the first two points. One with a hard beat attack, the other a retreating counterattack that landed nicely on his hand. Then, maybe I was overeager, but I attacked too deeply. My point landed, but deep, while his counterattack hit my shoulder. A single light for him. Then, after a bit, we attacked simultaneously and had a clashing double touch, making the score 3-2. I started trying to be more careful but also, I soon realized, slowed down my footwork a bit. Somehow we ended up infighting. I made a decent parry but couldn’t get a riposte in before he was passing me and going off strip. As he did he made a last-ditch prime-like attempt. His tip went into my shoe and scored. So it was tied 3-3. Hmm.

I don’t exactly remember the next couple of points. I think I scored one, then he scored, taking us to 4-4, la belle. We maneuvered for a while, trying to find openings and set traps. Finally I saw an opening and went for it. A nice lunge that landed near his shoulder or collarbone. He had made a counterattack, but it seemed like his blade was too far out of line. I won! But when I looked at the lights, his was on and mine wasn’t. I realized his counterattack had *just barely* managed to nick my elbow. So he won, 5-4. Afterwards he said it was a very close bout and that final point could easily have gone either way. And he had also thought it might have been mine until seeing the lights. We both agreed that it was a good bout.

Next I had Jonathan Brace. We fence now and then in the club, so I had an idea about how it might go. And it went pretty much as I thought it would. He kept attacking from too far, giving me fairly straightforward counterattack points. In this way we got to 4-0. Then he attacked just as I was lifting my blade for some reason. He hit my arm nicely. I got the final point and won, 5-1.

Then I had Ommer Bruce, the french-grip leftie who I didn’t know well. I had watched him in other pool bouts and gotten some sense of his style. His footwork was interesting: He tended to stay rather still, giving the impression of being slow, but he could suddenly fleche, surprisingly fast. He could also retreat faster than his rather static stance would suggest. Having seen that I knew I had to at least be careful. Mostly I did the same stuff I had been doing—very active footwork, lots of feints, attempts to set traps, etc.

We had a good, hard fought bout. I have forgotten how the first few points went, but somehow or other we got to 2-2. Then he fleched. I managed to parry and riposte in a prime-y way as he passed. Then he scored in a way I can’t remember, tying it up again at 3-3. Again he fleched and again I managed a parry-riposte. It was awkward and ugly, and I barely stayed on the strip. As I scored I half-fell off strip, stumbling back-first into the wall. Still, I got the point. More maneuvering and then, maybe remembering my toe touch with Bela, I went low, after trying to pressure his hand. Bad timing though—right as I dropped my blade low he fleched. My tip was nowhere near his foot and his fleche easily landed. So we were tied at 4-4. I don’t remember the last point exactly, but it was mine. I think there was an opening and I took it, but it was close.

So now I had a 5-0 loss, a 5-0 win, a 5-4, and a 5-4 win. Very symmetrical. Plus the 5-1 win against Jonathan. Not bad, not bad. My final bout was with Ed Bourguignon. I had started the pool with almost no idea about his fencing. But I had plenty of time to watch him fencing others and felt like I had a good chance. He seemed susceptible to traps. I got the sense that he hadn’t been fencing all that long, or maybe not too frequently. Anyway, it turned out he was susceptible to traps. I won 5-1, and almost all the points were fairly simple traps. Things like low line feints until a high counterattack was drawn, which could be taken with a six opposition lunge. Or several beats followed by a fake beat, disengage, six take. At 3-0 I began some kind of setup trap prep and he made a straight lunge into my prep, scoring. I simplified for the last two points.

So I ended up four and two, with a +8 indicator. Far better than I had expected I’d do. I ended up getting the 6th seed, out of 26 mostly very tough fencers. Yay. With 26 fencers the top six got byes for the round of 32. So to my surprise I got the last of those byes. I’d almost rather not have, so I could have had a winnable DE. Somehow getting a bye doesn’t feel as good as winning a DE. Then again, with only six byes I felt pretty good about getting one.

Once the tableau was up I saw I would face the winner of a bout between Joel Howard and Travis Exum. Seeing that my heart sank. It seemed highly likely that Travis would beat Joel, then beat me. And that’s exactly what happened. In fact Travis went on to beat everyone, taking 1st place in the end. Before the DEs Travis said he didn’t do so well in the pools. Tobias had beaten him in the pools and talked to me a bit about it, and other tactical and strategic stuff. Watching Travis fence Joel, plus having warmed up with him a bit, I thought maybe he was having an off day and I had a chance.

Also, after some of the things Tobias had talked about, especially stuff about fencing better fencers, I considered trying to keep the score as low as possible with Travis. Perhaps I could try for non-combativity. Maybe I should have. But I worried about my own ability to stay focused and highly active if I went that way. Also, I knew from practice that if I let Travis set stuff up he tends to score on me. Could I have gone for non-combativity while also actively disrupting his set ups? Maybe. Next time?

In any case, things began decently enough. I think we tied at 3-3. Then I attempted a surprise attack fairly quickly off the line. It failed. Then he got another point, and another. Before I knew it I was behind and felt I had to attack if I hoped to catch up. Travis was happy to play a defensive game, although he certainly kept the pressure on. Things went badly and soon the score was 3-7. I killed time until the period ended, hoping I could somehow reset and come up with a desperate plan in the break.

In the second period I was more careful, knowing I needed lots of singles. I managed to get one point, but he got the rest, winning 10-4. Ah well, here is where I need to be happier about getting a bye instead of winning a DE before losing one.

Anyway, the bye put me into the 16, and Travis kept me out of the 8. Thanks to my decent pool I ended up coming in 11th overall, just before Erich Cranor and Jeff Johnson, and above people like Eli Delgado and Fred Frank. So that’s good! Still, after the pool I had been hoping I might make the 8, since doing so would renew my C rating, which is getting dusty.

On the other hand, if I had seeded one or two places higher I would probably have had to face Sean Ameli, Fred Frank, or Eli Delgado, or Bela Suveg. I can’t imagine I’d have done much better with any of them than I did with Travis.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Catching up!

Haven’t posted here in a year. My last post was on the 2016 Battle in Seattle, and the 2017 Battle in Seattle happened just a couple weeks ago. Time to get back on it.

I stopped posting after several tournaments in which I did poorly and felt no desire to write about. Then inertia and life built up. Also, since getting my C I have had far fewer tournaments to go to, and tend to do meh. Last weekend there was a C and under tournament in Tacoma that drew over 20 fencers. That would have been ideal, but alas, I could not go. On the plus side, Alex Rwamashongye came in 1st and got his C. We fence a lot at the club. It was nice to see him do so well.

Looking at AskFred, it seems that I’ve had 11 tournaments since my last post here:

Three small “Open Epee” tournaments at SAS. I did alright at these. Middle of the pack.

The 2016 WWD Divional Qualifier. I came in dead last.

The 2016 Rain City Open. I came in 2nd to last. This was just a couple weeks after the Qualifier tournament, and the double whammy of bad results played a big role in my not posting here. There was also a vet epee event at Rain City Open, at which I came in second! But there were only four fencers, so.

The 2016 Seattle International Veteran’s Cup. I did alright.

The WWD Division Championship. I did horrible, coming in second last. Sigh.

BladeFest 2016. I did poorly in the Senior event but good (2nd out of 15) in the Veteran event.

The 2016 Leon Auriol Open. I did meh, but could have been worse.

The RCFC “Home for the Holidays” tournament. I did pretty good and hope to write more about it in a later post.

And finally the 2017 Battle in Seattle. I did meh in the Vet event and wasn’t too pleased. In the Senior event I did better than I feared and was happy enough with my fencing. I should write a post about it.

And that’s it since last year. I went to more tournaments the first couple of years of this blog, and of my return to fencing. Many were events I could not do now—U and under, E or D and under, etc. I miss those in some ways. Sometimes I imagine dropping to a D rating, if I don’t renew my C within a couple years, and being able to do Div 3 stuff again. But….I’d rather get better, haha.

Maybe the next thing for me is to start going to NACs, especially the Vet ones. I might be able to go to the April NAC in Baltimore, for the vet events. And then, looking farther into the future, I’ll age into Vet50 in a couple years. I daydream about becoming a much stronger competitor in the Vet/Vet50 category. Maybe if I work hard, go to NACs, etc, I could be a high/highish level Vet fencer by the time I reach Vet60.

We’ll see. I certainly don’t plan to stop!