Friday, December 12, 2008

Fixed Website

It took a bit of doing, but now it should be fixed should now work as is, no special ways of going about it. The official was given to me all of a sudden by Google, who changed something so that my previous work around just broke it. So I had to mess around with all sorts of technical things and it now works. Now to go find all those places I put the old address. I also added a thing to leave comments and whatnot on the Contact Us page of the site. I would like to put the funny looking letters but I don't know how to embed anything into google forms. Oh well.

I am working on the next post, it should be out before Christmas. Have a wonderful season, and Merry Christmas, now if there was only a bit of fencing somewhere during that time...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hawaii Open "Postponed"

I've been looking forward to something larger than a club tournament for the past year. Of course that means that the big tournament over on Oahu is pushed back until 2010 rather than February 2009. Flights might have been as low as 90 dollars round trip from our island. But the mainlanders can't come because they scheduled a tournament on a close weekend and tickets are expensive, so Hawaii cancels. Argh!

In good news I was contacted by a fencer up Kohala ways and I got new fencing gear from Leon Paul! The gear is shiny and the sabre blades have a real nice ring to them. Maybe I can use the bag to get my gear back so that I can fence while back on the mainland over Christmas. I doubt it, but if I contact people then I might be able to, who knows?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Air We Consume

Humans tend to need to breathe even when it would be very nice not to. Of course it doesn't help that some people need to wash their fencing jackets, as the smell could kill several small animals. Though, truth be told, fencing equipment is much easier to clean than Kendo equipment that is dyed with indigo that tends to run. Needless to say the smell in Kendo can be overwhelming. It is very necessary to air out or wash equipment in Hawaii, as anything left in a pile will soon become colorful. And don't even get me started on rust and weapons, or that Hawaii eats everything, maybe I will write a list of materials and how they don't hold up to Hawaii some other day.

On the serious side, breathing during fencing almost needs to be well practiced. Breathing in certain loud ways before an attack or other action can become a tell-tale, so be careful. But the need for release when doing an action, such as a lunge, is very true. Holding your breath while doing any action may harm you, but it is most likely going to slow you down, meaning they will stab you. Smooth breathing is one of the keys to smooth movement. There is a release after the point where a competitor screams and pumps their fist.

Watching the Olympics this past August, I noticed quite a bit of screaming and yelling after a point. I really don't like it, and it gets really annoying on the other side of the strip, I call them screamers. It is used to sway the director so that the confidence in a point is seen and it can be a release although it is not very good.Kendo has a kiai, or a shout that identifies the target and the intention. The kiai is before and during the action whereas the scream in fencing is usually at the end. In Kendo the shout can demoralize the opponent, and also it is a release while the "killing" movement is made. But in fencing the blades are much thinner and an important part of calling the action is listening to the beats and parries. So if a scream was during then a fencer may be warned or possibly carded for anything before the halt.

There is a school of thought that uses "Hey-la!" It can be common, and used as a feint. The "hey" is the bladework and can be drawn out as more parries and attacks are necessary with "La!" being the perfect point. This of course is a form of release, or not being tense when attacking. I think this is from the French school but I am not sure. The big question to most people who aren't just afraid to vocalize, is will it help? I think the answer is yes, but be careful of overuse, or it becoming a tell-tale. But back to just breathing.

On just the breathing side, you should be in good enough shape that a bout with 9 minutes of total fencing won't make you die on the strip. Many people don't think of fencing as to intense, but unless you can stand still with perfect technique, or stunning stationary stabbing, you need to move. If your opponent realizes that you are easily winded, then they can run you up and down the strip, taking advantage of your tiredness to win the bout. The cross training does not need to be intense for those who just want to enjoy the sport, I walk, hike and swim. I also lift weights, do push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, calf-raises, run hills, but I need to do that because I work in a chair most of the day. I am doing better at maintaining an exercise program, but I need to keep my motivation. With all of that, one of the most important exercises seems really easy, but shouldn't be overlooked.

Breathing well can be its own exercise. Taking into consideration breathing when a person with a sword approaches can seem crazy, but it is essential. The fight or flight principle drops a bunch of adrenaline into the body causing increased heart-rate and faster breathing. Hopefully you won't run from the strip, but not having control while fencing, even if your body is fighting, will be worse for the damage given and taken. You need to be in control, adrenaline is okay, but you need to relax so that your movements are less jerky and you can put the point in line before tying to get a touch. Breathe with the diaphragm as this will greatly reduce how much your arms move when you breathe as well many other benefits suggested by breathing gurus such as singers and swimmers. The better you breathe the better fencing you will do, even if you don't beat more people.

Lastly, dealing with a surprise or a hard hit can cause a fencer to lose too much focus. If you need a second after a hard hit, or someone running into you, ask for it and recover your breathing. If it is just a surprise people still often stop breathing. If they had splashed water on you or thrown you into a river, this might be a good reaction, however, not breathing on the strip will soon slow you down.

When you have thought about breathing and trained, then you can focus more on the technique and allow the under-workings continue to function appropriately when there is stress. So if you have stopped breathing in protest about how much I wrote about it, I can say that I will stop, for now.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tell-tale Twitch

Okay, one of the biggest problems a fencer has is a tell-tale. Well, from what I know that is the biggest problem any fighter has. A preparation before an attack, whether it is a twitch or a pattern it can still tell the opponent that you are about to attack. So there are two things to do with a tell-tale: Eliminate it, and then use fake tell-tales.

First, you either have to be good at self-criticism, or work with a partner. Second, you need a mirror, unless you have a trustworthy partner. The drills are as numerous as the potential situations in which you could show your intention, and also being lazy this late I won't list them but say that the lunge is one of the biggies.

A tell-tale before a lunge can be as subtle as a shift in weight, to a large rotation of the upper body as though trying to gain rotational acceleration from the movement and therefore make the point of the foil move faster. Whatever the physical or mental reason for the tell-tale, it signals the opponent, so whether or not it makes the point go faster, it will give the opponent more time to react.

Subtle: A pattern of breathing, shift in weight, small twist in torso, small pattern with the sword, shuffling, tilt of the head, and many others.

Pronounced: A sigh or making sounds, standing up, hunkering down, large twist in the torso or bringing the off-hand froward, a pattern of heavy beats, a pattern of footwork better defined.

None of the listed things are bad in themselves as long as the patterns don't get too extensive or are repeated often. But if every time you lunge is preceded by the same action, then the opponent will pick up on it, even if they aren't all that observant. Working with a partner should start with a bit of sparring just to watch the other closely. When you see something that is repeated before a lunge or other action, stop the sparring and point it out. Then it is time to breakdown the movement to try to get rid of the unintended movement, so take it slowly and build from there. Beginners won't have too hard a time ironing out a few flaws they have picked up in the first month, but intermediate and advanced fencers might have to work over several weeks to eliminate a habit.

Once you have successfully eliminated all of your quirks, good luck with that, it is time to throw them back in. But wait, isn't that what you just trained out? Yes, but using them as feints can be effective to an extent. This works well against observant, over-analyzing opponents, not against ones who just come in anyway. Make a non-opening tell-tale before lunging, and then do it again before another lunge. Now you have the opponent. You can now play with the opponent for a little while until they figure out that they have been tricked. There are two ways of using feint, one is not to use it at all on the third lunge and just make it clean, completely surprising the very observant, and the other is to make the feint so that they attack into it. Of course with an extremely observant opponent the first one will only work once, and the second may work twice if you are lucky.

There is a psychological side other than just tricking the opponent once. An extremely observant opponent will become extremely cautious because they realize that you have control over your tell-tales. When someone is overly cautious in a competition, it often, but not always, leads to defeat. However the same is true for over-confidence. So in taking control of the bout, don't forget that they might use the shift in their favor.

I shouldn't forget about the breathing thing, that has many interesting side-tracks. I did list breathing as a tell-tale up there, but if you don't breathe correctly or at all, you will be at a severe disadvantage. Just don't make discernible patterns of sounds without intention. So I will write on breathing more and soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Secret to Skewering

Many times I will miss an opponent utterly, or just continue to hit off-target. Both of these things are frustrating, especially after pulling off a wonderful parry. Ben says that it is because I am not lining up the shot, or in other words being hasty, and trying to throw my point out to the opponent without aiming.

The secret is to parry, put the point in line, and at this point two things might happen: The opponent might very well run onto the point with a strong enough attack, and you will be pointing at his target, or the opponent will stop making it necessary to extend the arm for the riposte, as well as possibly lunging. However the basic physics lesson for today is that an opponent who is coming toward you tends to continue coming unless fleet of foot and able to stop on a dime.

So, parry, point-in-line, riposte in one fluid motion will make many rpiostes much better. There are many other bladework ideas in foil, but I will cover more later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Resetting the Counter

Just a quick note that whatever counter I was using before had some really weird links. Just to click on it sent me to some probate thingy. Oh well, I suspect that I won't quite get the 400+ visitors I had before, but that is certainly alright. I will put up a new post about my struggles with bladework soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008


With any martial art footwork is the foundation for the rest of the movement. If you don't know this or are just beginning a martial art, then you will here this quite often. Fencing is no different, and in fact it can play into high-level strategy as well. Though what I am going to cover is pretty basic.

In both of the gyms we practice in, there is a problem with the stickiness of the floor and the potential for tripping and/or twisting an ankle. This is caused by humidity, a clean floor, and not having one of those fancy grounded-metal strips. The problem people have is that they don't quite pick their feet up all the way and their toe catches on the sticky floor, causing them to fall or reel. Sometimes it is just due to inexperience with the floor or basic footwork, but sometimes it is due to people trying to be sneaky by leaving their toe to slide along the floor so that it seems that they haven't lifted their foot. This can be used as a tactic but shows a few flaws.

The first problem is the physical part: The top of the foot becomes extended while the heel is lifted and the toe is left on the strip. This is bad for two reasons, first is that the foot is in a precarious position and if rolled it may sustain more injury because of already being extended. The second is that this shows poor conditioning for those fencers who do know better. I know that it may be hard at the end of the day to maintain good foot technique, but if the fencer is already tired in the middle of the first bout and can't keep the toe from dragging, then there is something that needs to be done, such as drills or cross-training.

The second problem is the audio part: The toe dragging on a sticky surface may make a squeak that is loud and clear, and alerts the opponent to the intended movement. Even when not on a tacky surface the sound of a shoe sliding can give warning, even if it may only be subliminal. But of course this can also be used as a feint, to make the opponent think you are going to do something. But this is along the same lines as stomping, just a bit more subtle.

The third problem is the knee: Someone who is trying to be sneaky about their toe may forget about the knee. Whenever the heel comes off the floor, the knee comes up, and the knee is closer to the opponent's focus than the toe. Some will even lift the heel very high as though it would help them. Again, it is more easily seen by the opponent and puts the foot and ankle in danger.

Footwork should consist of the feet leaving the floor in a normal manner but still promotes the correct posture. The feet should never be lifted far above the floor, this is wasteful and unproductive. The foot should travel parallel to the floor as close as one is able to control it without touching the floor accidentally.

I will probably write more on this subject later on.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Turning a New Blade

Rather than just blog at random, I have come to a decision that I could help myself, my club, and potentially our website by blogging about fencing. The nice thing is that the title for the blog doesn't need to be changed, only a few other things do, but anyway. Go checkout the website at And come fence with us!!

Today I was walking like I have been for the last few weeks for my noon break up and down the hill. This a really sticky affair as it is usually well near 80 for both humidity and temperature. I was stopped by someone from one of the other telescopes and he asked me when and where fencing met. I was wearing my Hawaii Island Fencing T-shirt so I wasn't too surprised. Hopefully we will see him Monday.

Last night I posted about 10 photos taken by Bill Harby of Imagery Ink of our fencing club fencing in the old Mountain View Gym, if you would like to look at the photos, they are at the website and are copyrighted. Bill used to fence with the club but has taken a long hiatus, but hopefully he will start lessons where he is now.

Some of these posts might get technical, but hopefully I will be able to add in some drawings and the like as we go along.

Friday, June 20, 2008

So I do have a blog...

Well it has certainly been a while. So long in fact that many things have changed, specifically I am living and working on the Big Island, Hawaii. Talk about a change. If I were to move to any place that was much more different from Wyoming it would have to have a foreign language. Oh yeah, I guess the locals have a pidgin dialect that is actually considered a creole which is one level below being a recognized language.

Anyway, I should really start writing again, although I write in several other places about many different things, hmmm... Well then I don't know. I will write sporadically, how about that? Maybe a bit more frequency than once every 10 months.

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