November NAC

Posted in National tournaments, Poetry (of sorts) with tags , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2010 by Isabel Ford

The Poetic Muse I will surely incite
With my Thesaurus rhymes and my grammar askew
But bored with my homework, I can’t help but write,
And an update for this blog is long overdue.

For the last few months’ news, I have so much to tell
I got back from a NAC in Wisconsin last week!
Said NAC was a madhouse, but certainly swell
And EPIC if you’re me: just one fencing geek!

Two teammates, Miss Emma and Jared, fenced too
And Adam (from Portland) hung out with our group.
Our coach was a great help, with this “sword thing” we do,
And my mom came, whose kind spirits never once drooped.

The blade demon, Dragzduhl, who lives in my bag
(there’s a fan page on Facebook for him, though he’s mean)
Was absent! I drove him away, I must brag
And started most bouts with NO CARDS, like a queen!!

The epee events used that repechage thing
Which did take more time, but I’d no cause to pout
In the final 8, with no defeats, you’ve got sting
You’ve had a long break while the rest fought it out!

In the end, I came back with two medals of bronze
One was from Junior, and one from Cadet.
(I have to cheat, can’t find a good rhyme for “bronze”)
I was shocked, but it was truly worth all that sweat!

And now, as I sit here with laptop on lap
I’m plotting and planning in my little den
I’m staring at Dallas, TX on my map
I can’t wait to do it all over again!!

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Another Poetry Spasm

Posted in Poetry (of sorts) with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by Isabel Ford

Practicing three hours a day
Through wrist pain that won’t go away
In addition, my elbow and shoulder
Are wrecked (though the ice makes them colder).

I don’t mean to sound like a whiner
Since these are, after all, fairly minor
Compared to what befalls some jocks
Hey, luckily I can still walk.

For sure, my morale is not bleak
There’s a fight in Seattle next week
At the mention of this lovely battle
My epees spontaneously rattle.

But I’ll need to start using more ice
And advil and everything nice
If that fails, I might have to go Vader
With the robotic limbs and lightsaber!

USFA Nationals in Atlanta

Posted in Tournaments with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by Isabel Ford

About a week ago, I came back from a very special ten-day vacation.

I had always wanted to take a vacation that involved fencing, but this was a bit over the top: out of ten days spent in Atlanta, only ONE was spent doing anything other than fencing, watching fencing, or coaching fencing all day. And I loved it.

We left at 3:30 AM on July 4th. I had only had two hours of sleep, so I tried to snooze as much as possible during the drive to Portland and flight from there to Atlanta. I was mainly successful, and the trip was smooth and uninterrupted (except for the scene when I couldn’t fit my bag into the overhead compartment because there were two large fundraising books in the bag. It’s a long story).

Upon arrival at the house that the fencers in our club had rented for the trip, my mom and I took the walk, bus, two trains, and second walk to get to the competition venue. It was only two and a half miles away from the house, but it took between forty-five minutes and an hour to get there by public transport. Arriving at the Georgia World Congress Center, where the tournament was being held, we came in through the front entrance and followed the USFA signs that pointed us to the fencing room. We dragged our fencing equipment over A THIRD OF A MILE of escalators and carpeted floor, amid a caravan of other fencers carrying similar baggage, before we reached our destination.

The next week-and-a-half was a blast. I fenced Cadet (U16), Junior (U19), Senior Team (with my mom and a sallemate, Emma) and Div. 1A, all épée events.

Every day, the fencers from Salem would park their fencing bags in the shadow of a 15-foot-tall inflatable cow (an attention-grabber for Chick-Fil-A) that happened to be situated near the entrance to the fencing area. If you ask me, a fencing tournament is no place for anything inflatable, but the massive cow somehow survived Nationals puncture-free. Unfortunately, no one managed to get a picture of it.

Cadet, on July 5th, was tough. I spent the first half of my pool limping up and down the strip and cursing my injured hip (the price of having competed in another tough tournament the week before Nationals). After my third bout, I realized that my hip only hurt when I lunged awkwardly while lifting my front foot too high and bringing it down too hard. After practicing the painless version of my lunge a few times off-strip, I was able to use it in my next three bouts and had much better luck.

I had a bye for the first round of direct eliminations. In the second round I met Victoria Wines, a younger A10 who had placed 3rd in Y14 the day before. With no more pain (at least, not that I noticed when full of adrenaline), I won 15-10. Unfortunately, my next bout was against Anna Van Brummen, who beat me 15-12 and went on to win first place. I wound up in 27th.

Finally able to lunge again!

My coach giving me advice during a break

The next day, we watched and rooted for Emma, who was competing in Cadet foil. I also spent quite a while observing Div. 1 women’s épée, hoping to learn something.

Emma getting her weapon checked

The day after that was Senior women’s épée team event, with the relaxingly late check-in time of 6:30 AM. Even the Bout Committee wasn’t fully awake, and between semi-conscious officials and a droopy-eyed fencer, there were some very stupid but very entertaining dialogues concerning registration.

The actual fencing was a blast. We were seeded 24th out of 27 teams, and faced the Windy City team from Chicago (seeded 9th) in the round of 32. They blew us away 45-23, but we learned plenty and had lots of fun.

The Windy City team (photo stolen off Facebook). Left to right: Radanovich, Garina, Vinikov and Speta

A little bit later that day, we had another fencer from Salem competing in Y14 men’s épée. This was Adam’s first national tournament, and he fenced hard!

Adam presenting his épée for inspection

The day after that, I competed in Junior. I was crazy about getting national points, and since I hadn’t had the chance to pick up that many in Cadet, I thought of Junior as my last chance this week.

So when I lost 4 of my 6 pool bouts, I felt I was done for.

When I looked at the DE bracket and saw that I was matched up against Jessica O’Neill-Lyublinsky, who was #1 on Cadet point standings, I REALLY thought I was done for. My goal was to give her as much trouble as I could possibly deal out. I told myself over and over again that “no one is invincible” and told my coach that “it’s time for an upset.” In the end, I beat her 12-7. That was one heck of a tough bout.

Me vs. O'Neill-Lyublinsky

Unfortunately, my next DE bout was with Francesca Bassa, who had been seeded 6th coming out of pools. I lost 15-7, finishing in 60th place. I didn’t mourn my loss of national points. I just crowed about how much fun that was. And it was!

Me fencing Bassa (and getting hit on the toe)

The next day, July 9, was Div. 1A women’s épée. It’s different from Div. 1 in that you don’t have to be on the national Div. 1 points list to compete, but you do have to qualify (there are several ways to do this, I got in by placing in the top 10% at a Regional Open Circuit).

Since there are no national points awarded for any placing in Div. 1A, I felt much less pressure than I had in Cadet and Junior, and I fenced my heart out. After 4 tough DE bouts, I was eventually beaten by Natalie Vie, who went on to win 1st place. I tied for 3rd with Amanda Sirico. That was definitely an awesome day.

I'm the one in whites.

The next day, my coach, Michael Heggen, fenced Veteran-40 men’s épée. I gave him a warm-up lesson and sent him off to go “pick fights” before his event started. The role reversal felt utterly bizarre.

Watching Veteran fencers is a completely different experience from watching Juniors and Cadets. There’s a lot more craftiness, better sportsmanship, and fewer lunges. I learned some very interesting things from coaching Mr. Heggen against these people.

Mr. Heggen about to salute

Another fencer from our club, Jerry, fenced in V-50 men’s épée. This age group is very tough, since some of these fencers compete at Veteran World Championships, but Jerry held his own and finished with a smile on his face.

Jerry on the left

Later that day, my mom fenced Div. 3 (D and under) women’s épée. She competed hard and had a great time!

My mom!

The next day, Mr. Heggen fenced V-40 foil. That was an interesting day, to say the least. Having no experience in electrical foil whatsoever, and a profound dislike of the modern interpretation of right-of-way, I can’t exactly say I was the most effective coach. Hanging around a foil event and trying to watch carefully was an alien experience, but it was quite interesting. Those were some FAST 40+ year olds.

Mr. Heggen fencing foil

A little later, Mr. Heggen and Jerry competed in Veteran men’s team épée, having banded together with two guys from Northwest Fencing Center to form a team. That was definitely an event worth watching. Team fencing has always been my weakness, and I learned a lot by observing.

No, that is not a one-legged fencer.

Finally, we all had a day off, with no one from SCF participating in any events… and we went back to the convention center anyway. My mom and I wanted to take the referee test for épée, and Mr. Heggen (who had passed the épée test last year) wanted to test for foil.

Sitting in the referee area, in the shadow of the high-and-mighty Bout Committee platform, is a depressing experience. The refs all seemed glum and dejected (and possibly sleep deprived). I don’t really blame them – reffing at a national event doesn’t seem like the most enjoyable job in the world. It could be worse, I suppose. At any length, I passed the test.

After watching a bit of the Veteran Women’s Epée Team event, the three of us ran off to the Georgia Aquarium.

It was MARVELOUS.

One heck of a fish tank!

I swear it's not what it looks like.

Whale shark!!

On our final day at Nationals, my mom fenced V-40 women’s épée. It was very surreal, seeing the enormous and normally deafening, overcrowded, chaotically messy room half empty, with several of the strips having disappeared overnight. But the fencing was far from half-hearted. My mom fenced very well and placed 15th. Go Mom!

My mom saluting before her bout

We watched the last bout of the last event of the last day (V-50 women’s épée), said goodbye to the inflatable cow, and left. What a vacation.

On the trip home, Mr. Heggen persuaded me to take a week off from fencing. At the moment, I was convinced, but for me, taking a break is easier said than done – I stayed away from my épées for a total of three days before giving in, coming back to the salle, and fencing for my normal 4 hours. That was five days ago. And now… it’s time for another tournament!! YAY!!!

Chair Fencing: Side Effects Include Excessive Rhyming

Posted in Poetry (of sorts) with tags , on July 3, 2010 by Isabel Ford

Sparring today with the gang
Hearing the usual “clang”
Annoyed, as I’m sure you’re aware;
As I’ve mentioned, I’m stuck in a chair!

As I seem to learn nothing at all,
As my tactics have hit a hard wall,
I realize (how could the notion have slipped me?)
The obvious question is, “How did he hit me?”

This problem compells me to focus
And see things I wouldn’t have noticed.
To answer myself when I ask
Seems to be the most essential task.

At least it’s good for me….

Posted in Poetry (of sorts) with tags , , , on July 2, 2010 by Isabel Ford

Nationals draws ever closer
But I have to fence in a chair
It’s better than being a poser
Or constantly flicking the air

My partner leans forward, attacking
I’m too tired to parry or beat
Reduced to weak, half-hearted whacking
And parrying now with my feet!

I’ve Been Reduced to Haikus

Posted in Poetry (of sorts) with tags , , , on July 1, 2010 by Isabel Ford

Drilling point control
A thumbtack as a target
Getting so annoyed

Injured, couldn’t lunge
I fenced épée in a chair
And my arm is tired

War of the Roses

Posted in Tournaments with tags , , , , on June 29, 2010 by Isabel Ford

The War of the Roses, a large three-weapon tournament with team and individual events, was held in Beaverton, OR on June 26th and 27th. I competed in Open Epée on Sunday the 27th, an A2 event with 35 fencers signed up. 30 actually did show up.

I had a whale of a time.

Most of my first pool bout, vs. Emily, was something of a game of chicken, with both blades almost completely still, both of us trying to give off as little information about ourselves as possible throughout the bout. At least for those three minutes, her favorite actions were riposte to the shoulder from circular 6 parry (she’s a rightie, I’m a leftie) and picking to the underside of the forearm whenever I got too close.

Being somewhat paranoid about risks (even more than the average épéeist, and even in pools) I simply played the game of chicken, waited for the opportune moment (for her to get my ideal lunge distance), and used my all-time favorite action against righties: graze attack to the outside line. At least, that was my intention; we had one mini train-wreck that ended in some desperate infighting. When both fencers do nothing but remise like their lives depend on it, oftentimes they might as well be throwing dice. This time, the dice fell in my favor. The bout ended 5-2, my victory.

My second bout was against Cory, a NCAA fencer who does foil as well as épée. This bout was a slow one; Cory fights very defensively, constantly parrying in the air with circular and semi-circular motions and hardly ever attacking. For the last few months, I had been relying too much on waiting for my opponent to make mistakes that I could take advantage of (instead of creating the opportunity myself) with the result that I was thrown off by someone who fences the same way. Cory scored the first touch, followed by a double, at which point I came to my senses and asked the ref for the amount of time remaining. I’m really glad I did, it was 3 seconds. I had no choice but to CHARGE.

Charge I did, taking the blade with a low-line bind that hit something–somehow–before time ran out. My opponent adamantly claimed that I hit the floor, the ref maintained that she hadn’t seen anything hit the floor and couldn’t be sure, and I still have no idea what I hit. Luckily, the ref gave me the benefit of the doubt, flipped the coin, gave Cory the priority, and we went into overtime with the score 2-2.

I learned something important here. Although Cory, having won the coin flip, would win the bout if I failed to score a touch during our 1 minute of overtime, she was afraid. So when I started trying to intimidate her, probing a bit more deeply than usual with my point and pushing her down the strip, she appeared to want to get it over with quickly before I got too desperate and aggressive. Which meant that, for the first time in the bout, she would attack. Unfortunately for her, that was what I had been wanting her to do for the last 3 minutes, and I scored the last touch on a riposte to her flank. She was mad.

My third bout was against Archie, a V-60 fencer with one trick that I had tried and tried to beat last time and simply couldn’t–an attack on the blade with a fleche. I had always had trouble fencing him. So this time, I fenced with my arm down, where he couldn’t get at my blade, and defended myself with distance. He still got me on a few fleches, but I didn’t feel completely helpless, having used a few genius tricks of my own (now if I could only remember what they were!). My last touch was scored on a direct attack when he seemed to thinking too much of attacking and not of defense. The bout ended, 5-4, my win. Whew.

My next bout was against Maria, a very crafty V-40 fencer. It was a tricky bout. Her favorite action (at least that I had seen) was a short-distance fleche, usually with a beat. Unfortunately, I was a bit dim and didn’t realize that she was looking for a very specific distance, one that was just too close for me to react in time, so I kept coming forward with glorious dreams of attacking and hitting and would instead see her light turn on as she ran past me. Maria won, 5-2.

My last bout, the final one in the pool, was against Richard from Salle Trois Armes. He was a lefty. I used my best action the entire time–graze attack to his inside line–and won 5-0.

The wait between pools and direct eliminations was most pleasantly short, and before I knew it, every fencer was crowding around the window where the DE brackets had been taped up. I was still eating Oreos a ways away while chatting with my mom, and when a teammate walked by and told us, “You two are fencing each other, and the winner gets either me or Kris” I basically wilted. Out of 30 fencers I could have drawn for the first DE, it had to be my MOM.

While waiting for our bout, we sat together and watched the bout between our teammate (Jared) and Kris, which would decide whom the winner of our bout would face in the round of 16. It was an interesting bout, with both fencers seeming to play a very tempo-based game. Jared won 15-11.

Soon enough it was time for the Mother vs. Daughter bout. I noticed with vague amusement that it was reffed by a good friend of mine who fences foil and sabre (with a deep-seated horror of épée). Noticing Jared sitting at the end of the strip, presumably with the intention of analyzing how his possible opponents were fencing today, I was resolved to show as little about my fencing as possible and use no unnecessary movements. Having been beaten by my mom in practice a few times in the last two months, I was resolved to make her do all the work this time: I would wait and wait and wait for her to make all the mistakes. Yes, I was going to try to out-patience someone over 40.

It was arduous. After the first period, the score was 1-1. I had barely even moved my blade during those whole three minutes, and she had barely attacked. How we avoided getting yellow-carded for non-combativity is a mystery. During the 1-minute break, I closed my eyes and told myself that she’s just another fencer, just another opponent.

Most of the second period was the same, with the score staying close. During the second 1-minute break, I knelt on the metal strip, which closely resembled a 14-meter cheese-grater, and simply tried to calm myself down. I had forgotten to bring a water bottle with me to the strip, but wasn’t suffering any ill consequences as far as I could tell. After I felt like a minute had passed, I stood up and noticed that our ref was lying on the floor, with the appearance of being asleep. Ignoring decorum, I prodded him in the stomach until he stood up, looking groggy and slightly annoyed.

My mom and I fought the third period in earnest. I felt screams ripping from my lips with every sudden movement, and my mom attempted to make a points run (which I was just barely able to check). In the final minute, we took turns going on the offense according to who was leading, and the time ran out at 10-9, my victory.

During my ten-minute rest between that bout and my next bout with Jared, I attempted to eat, but my nervous stomach only accepted the food reluctantly. I gave up and tried to think about what I would do against Jared.

Our bout started slowly. For the first minute of the bout, we pushed and pulled each other up and down the strip. I was watching for mistakes, I don’t know what he was doing. Eventually, he chased me to my end of the strip, there was a parry-riposte phrase, he kept it up one tempo longer than I did, and scored the first touch. As we walked back to the guard lines, I told myself to “wake up, idiot” and soon enough, the score was 3-1, my lead.

Eventually, it was time for the 1-minute break. I stood with my eyes closed, told myself that I had never seen him before, that we had never practiced together or fenced for the same high school team before and that I didn’t care about beating him any more than I cared about beating anyone else in this tournament. This is a problem I have to deal with whenever I compete against someone with whom I train every day.

The second period was an angry one. Jared alternated between charging at me with a flying lunge, and fencing at a normal pace, but kept pushing me down the strip either way. There was lots of screaming from both sides, there were several corps-a-corps calls, and at one point, during some rather desperate infighting, Jared sprinted past me, twisted around behind me, and ended up on the floor with the reel-cord wrapped around his neck.

I was a bit conflicted as to whether I should let him push me back (as I’ve had very good results from bracing myself against the end-line before) or whether I should go on the attack, but after some mixed and not especially felicitous results from using the former option too much, I took my chances with the latter. If nothing else, it bought me time and prevented him from charging (the score was still very close).

At the second break, I knelt on the cheese-grater strip again, gulped some water and just zoned out, not wanting to think about anything.

A minute into the third period. The score was 14-13, my lead. He was going to charge. I wanted to counterattack and perhaps win with a double, but no, he hit the side of my mask before my ill-timed counterattack could get anywhere near him. 14-14. He came forward aggressively, and I had no clue what I was doing–I randomly stuck my point in his direction as he tried to take my blade, and somehow, miraculously, my light came on. 15-14, my win. I’m still surprised I didn’t faint.

My last bout, in the round of 8, was against Ryan, a nice kid from NWFC. I ate some more, calmed myself down, and sat with my back against a locker and tried to think. I had pulled a muscle in my hip during the third period of my last bout. I didn’t want to injure myself so close to Nationals (my first event is on July 5), but I would not be happy if caution cost me a victory.

The first period was a bit disheartening. I was trying my best to conceal any information about my fencing (keeping my blade as still as possible) while soaking up any patterns I saw in his, but Ryan, like many fencers from his club, had a good fleche and was really picking up points on it whenever I got too close. By the time he had gained a 4-1 lead, I was, to say the least, frustrated. It seemed a few attacks were in order, and I ended up bringing the score to 4-4 on attacks to the arm and flank, but I simply couldn’t do anything about that dang fleche, no matter how many times I told myself not to let him get close enough (he was looking for a very specific distance).

After the first break, which I had spent trying to think of ways to defeat the fleche, I went on offense again. Apparently, if I timed my direct attacks right, after pushing him a ways down the strip, he would not be prepared for them. Unfortunately, you usually need more than one trick in your bag to win a bout, and that one trick was all I had. I hit him twice on a riposte during his fleche, but it was definitely not something I could use consistently. He hit me on infighting once.

At 11-11, the one consistent trick in my bag wore out. I suppose I should have realized that if I used a direct attack over and over again, he would eventually start parrying, which is what he did. I should also have made the effort to find a new trick to counter his solution for my old trick (i.e. second-intention or a compound attack), but my brain had apparently run out of batteries, and the bout ended 15-11, Ryan’s win. I was out of the tournament, finishing 6th overall.

My mom finished 26th, and my 2 sallemates, Jared and Adam, finished 12th and 15th, respectively. And so ended a good day of stabbing, killing and roses.