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On Various Fencing Aspects

Posted by lowendr on January 18, 2015 at 5:45 PM

 Fencing thought of the day: Acceleration is a drag. Just kidding, bad obverse punning does not hide the fact that in order to become an effective fencer one must not just master basic footwork but also control of one's own center of gravity. This, btw, for most humans resides on the inside of the lower spine just above your hips in what people refer to as the small of the back. The fencer also needs to understand their own accelerating and braking tendencies, by which I mean are they zero to full speed in a second, or can they control a gradual speeding. Today I saw a lot of collisions between fencers that were in some cases painful and somewhat dangerous, but mostly they were unnecessary. Someone teach acceleration control!!

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 Fencing thought of the day: Courtesy and courtliness, good sportsmanship, dignity and nobility, these are all prerequisites for the would-be swordsman. Violent and aggressive sports all have rituals that require a genteel, calm, and friendly demeanor before and after the game, and these traditions go back a very long way in history. If you think about it, this is not only nice and dignified, it is also wise and necessary. You cannot become a champion without learning emotional self-control to a high degree. How can you expect to master the blade or master your opponent when you cannot even master yourself?

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 Fencing thought of the day: Once you get over the sharp steel flying at your head, Fencing can be a lot of fun. Once you come to terms with the idea that you're only SYMBOLICALLY being killed or wounded when you're hit, Fencing can be a lot of fun. Once you realize that everyone gets "killed" a lot the first few years while they are learning, Fencing can be a lot of fun. Be glad it's not for real--the only people left standing would be the naturally talented, and there are very, very few of them.

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 Fencing Thought of the Day: You must recognize the difference between a feint and a real attack against you. To learn this, focus on the opponent's hand with the blade in it, and you will eventually notice that their muscle positions are subtly different when they are laying a trap versus going directly for you. Victory lies in not only studying your opponent's moves, but you have to make note of what they do BEFORE they start their move--everyone prepares their attacks differently, and you have only a microsecond to determine this as the blade launches at you.

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 Fencing thought of the day: injuries happen to everyone in most sports, and fencing is no different, but the injuries you do to yourself are probably the worst ones. The form the body must take in the stances is supposed to be the proper way to defend oneself, and if you stretch enough beforehand and you don't fence like a berserker maniac, you ought to be ok. Keep the torso straight, and don't lean over to reach the last inches to touch your opponent, that's what the footwork and lunges are for. Don't distort your body at all, let your legs and sword hand do the work. The more still your torso is, the better foundation it becomes for the launch of the swordhand to the target.

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 Fencing thought of the day: I gave a lesson in very beginner stuff today, and every time I do, I am struck by how much my older perspective values these things and keeps them almost sacred, because without the proper foundation, nothing can be built on. One tip, no matter how old or experienced you are at what you do, taking the occasional inventory and quality-control tour of your own foundations can give you wonderul new perspectives, like what ground currently lies fallow in your skill set, that could be further developed. To extend the architecture metaphor, the better your foundation, and the more it is perfected, the easier it becomes to build even wild and surprising new forms upon it.

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 Fencing thought of the day: one definition of "cool" you might have heard is "grace under pressure." That said, being cool-headed when steel is flying at your body can easily become laziness that may cost you dearly not so far down the line. Cool is not enough, you must also be Aware. Only then can you be Ready. Capital letters are because I want you to think of these things as achievable mental states. Cool. Aware. Ready.

Also, it is very valuable to imagine that these "toys" could actually kill you -- helps to sharpen your focus tremendously!

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 Fencing thought of the day: detailed analysis of your opponent's strengths and weaknesses is essential to creating a successful strategy against them, but don't forget that knowledge will also save your ass from the fire if your initial strategy fails. Like playing chess, you must anticipate possible second and third moves ahead.

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 Fencing thought of the day: Strategy begins on the ground, on your ground. The area you stand on can and should always be considered a tool of your defense and offense. Proper use of this foundation can be the difference that gets you the score. Your home ground is a source of your power, don't forget that, use it.

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 Fencing thought for the day: when launching an attack, all the force in your legs that create the lunge will not matter if your back foot is not 'locked' to the ground in a proper stance. A weak foundation cannot launch a strong attack.

I had just finished giving two hour-long fencing lessons, when this guy asks me if I would like to fence some foil. In this world of formalized dueling-as-sport, the polite thing to do is to accept, especially because I'm a coach there now which means my time is their time and there are few others there to fence with, except I have given two lessons already and I'm wondering how much longer my knees will last, but to myself I say WTH and to the guy I say, "sure, why not?" Five minutes later and I'm acutely cognizant that I am an old guy trying hard to imitate his much younger self of the past. And failing.

Again I hold my own, but I can't handle more than five minutes yet. I thank him for the bout, and he very sincerely thanks me back, and I go sit sit down. I reflect on the fact that all my lunges fell short and there were many instances during the bout where I'd had what I thought was the perfect strategy to defeat what the guy was throwing at me but my body couldn't do the move right if it required a delicate timing or subtle movement at high speed. Like I used to be able to pull off pretty readily, back in the 'ole days. That wasn't so long ago, was it? What happened between then and now was a long period of my body going to rot--I guess that'd be a fair assessment. So I guess the question for me boils down to this: is it possble to un-rot one's self? I hope forcing myself to this pyrrhic practice can be spun as heroic and noble rather than me looking pathetic and the "let's humor-the-lost-cause" guy no one will tell to just give it up, because face it, he's just a harmless old white guy that wants to act like he's a real fencer and relive some glory days in a pathetic attempt to regain lost youth, because no one would really believe you wanted to do such a sport JUST for the workout. Still reflecting, will reformulate strategies to allow for diminished resources, and recalibrate the moves to account for the deficiencies in reaction time, and then try again on Thursday.

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Fencing thought of the day: accumulating experience and taking lessons are all well and fine, but ultimately as you move up in the ranks you will find that the tricky stuff you learned on that way up must be abandoned in favor of the tried-and-true higher probability tactic, and the reason is this: any multiplicity of complex techniques can be easily countered by only one or two simple and direct moves that have been completely mastered.

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