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TALES FROM THE PISTE

(or, how I learned that you can't fleche' with a foil made from Reynolds Wrap)

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My involvement with fencing began in 1981, just after graduating from high school...if you can call dinking away (carefully) with live steel (cavalry sabres) with a friend getting involved. It wasn't until someone yelled "go find a fencing club and get outta the street" out his car window that I thought to see if there was a fencing class at San Diego State University. As it turns out, there was. I stayed with it every semester for the three years I was at SDSU. Randi McKenzie was the instructor, and a very dangerous lady she was --she taught both fencing and archery and could nail you from up close or at 90 meters! I attended the beginners classes during my third and fourth years, both to get in more fencing time and to keep my basics in shape. I ended up doing a lot of instructing to ease the load on Randi.

In the fall of 1983 I left college to march with the Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps and fencing fell by the wayside until 1996, when I discovered SwordPlay Fencing Studio in Burbank, California...only a few miles from where I lived. I quickly regained what I'd lost and started to improve to the point where I entered local USFA competitions, only to get seriously spanked my first few times out. Oh, what a joy to discover the flick...by being on the receiving end!

I am currently unranked in epee, but I am an E01 in foil and an E99 in sabre. My major epee problem is forgetting that there isn't any right-of-way and depending on a foil-like parry-riposte to get me the touch. I keep landing on the target, but it's usually juuuust after that 40 milliseconds the scoring box measures for a double touch. I have taken to wearing purple socks when fencing, so you can spot me across the room now! It's kinda like fencing Barney (I fence you, you fence me. Let's not fleche into a tree...) or Tinky Winky.

SwordPlay is a very nice salle in Burbank, California. It had been primarily a recreational club, but we are staring to get more competitive.

SwordPlay holds informal competitions every Wednesday night. The usual turnout is about 10 for foil.

There is a point standing system kept for salle members that I maintain.

I have some pictures. More will be added in the future.

Some other cool fencing links are:

United States Fencing Association
Pacific Coast Section
Southern California Division

Looking for equipment dealers? Here's a good list compiled by the SoCal Division
SwordPlay Fencing Studio
SwordPlay Point Standings

Also, here's the Salle Aramis picture of the week site, which supplied the sabre picture which is the background to this page.

For those who might be preparing to enter their first official USFA competition and need a primer on what goes on and how to avoid looking like you don't know which end or your weapon is which, check out a little work I call "Choose yer weapon, Laddie!" I've had several people at SwordPlay say this helped them on the strip more than any number of lessons. Keep in mind that this was written for fencers from my own club in the Southern California Division. Most of the info is universal, though.

Lastly, here's a list of things to think about when fencing. I try to keep them in mind when I'm on the strip.

So long, and don't forget...if you're advancing and trip and fall, extend first...maybe you'll get lucky!

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