We are Moving!

Hey friends and faithful supporters! I wanted to give you the heads up that my blog will be migrating to the wordpress platform within the next month. I have registered the domain name of thefencingcoach.com. Wordpress is a better platform for text-based blogging, and I will be migrating all of my published content over there. Thank you all for your support, and I hope you will continue reading as I switch to the new domain.

-Damien

Brawn over Brains? Putting Non-Combativity in Perspective

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Talking to fencers about the rule book is like listening to Rabbis study the Talmud. After Mike Still’s thoughtful post in favor of non-combativity, another Brandeis teammate Alex Powell has provided my third guest post against the non-combativity rules. He’s a smart child. I included a picture of me hitting him with a fleche because I’m an asshole.

Hi! My name is Alex, a former Brandeis Epee fencer and (unfortunate) teammate of Damien’s.  After reading my buddy Mike’s thoughtful post on the benefits of Non-combativity in Epee, I am tempted to put my two cents into the discussion of the new rule’s place in our sport.  I respect Mike and Damien’s praise and approval of non-combativity, and while I agree with impetus behind the rule, I believe the rule is being misused in its present incarnation and is actually causing more harm to the sport than good.

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Non-Combativity, Bringing the Attention to Epee

Hey faithful readers! I am pleased to include my former college teammate Mike Still, who has been kind of enough to provide my second guest post. Here, Mike discusses non-combativity and what it has brought to the game of fencing (namely epee).I plan to do a post soon on how to properly incorporate the rule into your tactics.  I have included an obligatory picture of Mike and I in college, with what appears to be Mike trying to milk me.

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The concept of the Non-Combativity rule is an excellent addition to the sport of epee.  Shocker right?   I hated it at first too and like most of us by now have that stinger that they shoulda won but lost because they didn’t quite use non-combativity right.  Well I do actually think the rule is good but think it might still need to be tweaked. 

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Breaking Down the Film: 2012 NAC Division I Men’s Epee Gold Medal Bout—Soren Thompson v. Jason Pryor

Note: this is a new series I intend to start running on the blog, which involves my spectating of bouts and subsequently analyzing the tape. I hope you’ll find this useful. Your feedback is appreciated!

The 2012 North American Cup marked the return of Olympic staple Soren Thompson, who had been recovering from a knee injury. Thompson had a tough road to the finals, facing Andras Peterdi (15-13), Justin Dion (15-10), Lorenzo Casertano (15-8), Jimmy Moody (12-10), Alex Tsinis (15-10), and Andras Horanyi (10-8) before losing in the finals to Jason Pryor.

Pryor had been hot the whole day, with most of his opponents never even breaking the 10 touch barrier with him, including a 15-2 victory in the semis over my ol’ buddy Graham Wicas.

We got some great fencing in this final bout, and it was nice to see Soren back on the competitive circuit once again. Anyhow, here’s my analysis of the bout:

Period 1: Pryor and Thompson are both exceptionally patient fencers who often draw non-combativity. The first period of this bout was spent “dancing,” as Jason called it. Both fencers seemed intent on feeling each other out before making any serious commitments to attack. As a french grip user wary of Thompson’s significant height/reach advantage and strong blade work, Pryor approaches the bout by keeping massive distance and constantly changing his lines to avoid presenting an easy blade take. After one minute of movement, non-combativity is drawn, advancing to period 2.

Period 2: Pryor opens up period 2 with a quick toe touch. If there was a tactical wheel in Pryor’s mind, it’s as if he told himself to look for the attack to Thompson’s foot first and foremost. After Pryor takes the lead, Thompson pushes him to his 2-meter zone almost exclusively for the remainder of the bout. Pryor dominates this period by making short picks to Thompson’s hand. Period ends with Pryor winning 6-3.

Period 3: Once again the period begins with Thompson pursuing Pryor to his 2-meter zone, where the bout continues to be fenced. Up until the third period, Thompson never commits to a single full action, and finally rediscovers his explosive attacks (hopefully not residual knee issues). Thompson begins to turn the tide by finally committing to his full attacks, tying the score at 10-10 with a fleche into Pryor’s preparation. Pryor manages to take a two touch lead with excellently timed baits and counter attacks to take the score to 12-10. By this point, there is only 16 seconds left, forcing Thompson to go on the aggressive. Pryor wins 15-12, baiting off Thompson’s quick offensive.

Overall: Pryor won this bout with phenomenal control of distance and the clock and by drawing Thompson to his end of the strip almost exclusively for the entirety of the bout. There, Pryor was able to snipe, snipe, and snipe Thompson’s hand/foot/short targets and keep him at bay.

Thompson remained tentative for much of the bout, not extending and committing into his full attacks until period 3. Had Thompson discovered his full attacks earlier in the bout, this story might have had a different ending.

Those who watched this bout got a real viewing pleasure, and hopefully we’ll be able to watch them match up again.

Breaking Down the Film: 2012 NAC Division I Men’s Epee Gold Medal Bout—Soren Thompson v. Jason Pryor

Note: this is a new series I intend to start running on the blog, which involves my spectating of bouts and subsequently analyzing the tape. I hope you’ll find this useful. Your feedback is appreciated!

The 2012 North American Cup marked the return of Olympic staple Soren Thompson, who had been recovering from a knee injury. Thompson had a tough road to the finals, facing Andras Peterdi (15-13), Justin Dion (15-10), Lorenzo Casertano (15-8), Jimmy Moody (12-10), Alex Tsinis (15-10), and Andras Horanyi (10-8) before losing in the finals to Jason Pryor.

Pryor had been hot the whole day, with most of his opponents never even breaking the 10 touch barrier with him, including a 15-2 victory in the semis over my ol’ buddy Graham Wicas.

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Assessing the 2013-2013 Rule Changes

Today the USFA released an 11 page rules digest on changes to effect competition in the 2012-2013 season. I shuffled through all 40 new approved rules and dumbed them down to “What you need to know,” “Other key takeaways,” and the “Why the hell didn’t the USFA address this rule” category. Read on.

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Relearning Fencing

The day Hurricane Sandy made landfall, I was involved in an accident that knocked me unconscious. Hours before the hurricane struck, I went to move my car away from a tree. En route back to my apartment, the forces of wind and gravity played their part, and a 15-20 pound tree branch struck me in the head. When I awoke, I was in George Washington University Hospital, unaware of how I got there and completely discombobulated.

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It`s my first steps on Tumblr and because of You. I found Your text on Facebook and I really appreciate it as mother of two fencers -16 and 13 years old. We live in Poland where tradition of fencing is very deep. I try to help my sons as much as I can, or shall I write "we" together with my husband. Everything You wrote is so true (maybe except getting to college because of different system of education). I wait for next adivsing thoughts from You. Best wishes Mirella

Thank you very much for your kind words. Poland does indeed have an excellent fencing tradition, and I have the privilege to learn from Janusz Smolenski, a polish coach. Thanks for reading.

Proper Methods of Strip Coaching

In the highest echelons of competitive fencing, the difference between the best and the very best is narrow. More often than not, matches from the top 16 onward are decided by 2 points or less, with the exception of the occasional wunderkind who bludgeons his/her opponents with ease from tournament start to finish. I have always subscribed to the belief that the coach’s fundamental role is to prepare his students for competition—and once the competition begins, the athlete must rely on their “home run” actions, mental game, and athleticism and hope for the best. Where the coach can play a make or break role for a fencer is in strip coaching.

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