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A Newbie Guide to Fencing (Part 3 – Practicing on Your Own)

I decided to change up this series of posts a bit since no one is having any fencing tournaments now with the coronavirus outbreak. There are a lot of coaches and clubs providing online fencing classes. If you aren’t up for a full class, read on for my thoughts on what else you can be doing to work on your fencing, even when you can’t attend a normal practice.

You can find Part 1 and Part 2 of this guide here:

One problem with trying to do a class at home is that not everyone has a good place for this. Challenges include unsuitable flooring, obstacles (furniture, pets, ceilings, etc.), unreliable internet, or noise concerns with neighbors. Other factors that may be keeping you from practice could include schedule constraints, low motivation, or illness (wash your hands, everyone!).

Many people are constructing creative fencing dummies to practice attack skills. You can also purchase targets from vendors online. However, if there is any single thing that will be most important to maintaining or improving your fencing during this inadvertent off-season, it will be to practice your footwork. Even if you can’t do anything else, keep those leg muscles active.

Here are some further thoughts on how to do some basic footwork practice and stay in fencing shape while stuck at home:

  • Use the best flooring you have. If you’re worried about a lack of cushioning or a slippery surface, go more slowly with your footwork to avoid injury.
  • Put your fencing socks and shoes on for this practice. I tried without once, and it made my plantar fascia hurt.
  • Even if you only have a small space available, that will be enough to stand on guard, take a couple advances and retreats, and hold a lunge.
  • Start simple. Stand on guard. Bend your knees.
  • Use a mirror if you have one around. Check your form.
  • Do a simple drill of two advances, one retreat. Repeat. Do the opposite – two retreats, one advance. Adjust as necessary to stay in your floor space. Set a timer. Go for 30 seconds and then stand up and relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this 30/30 routine several times. The exact number of times will depend on your current fitness.
  • Now do that same drill but vary the speed of the steps. One slow advance, one fast advance, one quick retreat. Or you could do one fast advance, one longer slow advance, and then a quick retreat. You can vary both the speed and the length of each part.
  • If you want to work on lunges, start by just holding a lunge. Time yourself. See how long it takes until your legs fatigue.
  • Add lunges to the simple footwork drills. Two advances, then lunge, then two retreats. Or one advance, lunge, two retreats, then lunge again! Whatever fits in your space. Don’t work on speed if your flooring isn’t great or you are feeling out of shape. Work on keeping your knees bent, staying balanced, and moving smoothly.
  • You can make any of these exercises a set of 20 or 30 seconds with rest intervals in between.
  • Don’t do too much on your first day or two if you haven’t been doing anything.
  • Stretch afterwards. One of my friends offers some stretching videos on her You Tube channel here.
  • Stay active in general. Go for a walk or a run outside. Do you live in an apartment building with stairs that are rarely used? Go run up and down them.
  • Try some yoga. There are plenty of online videos. I have heard good things about this one.

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. And follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

Read more of my posts on fencing here.

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A Newbie Guide to Fencing Tournaments (Part 2 – The Warm Up)

It seemed like my first post in this series was pretty popular, so I’m going to add to this by talking about how to warm up before fencing in a tournament.

First off, if your coach has given you specific guidelines about how to warm up, then ignore what I say here and listen to your coach.

The main focus of your warm up should be to get your body in a state where you are ready to fence the event without increased risk of injury. I’m going to take some tips from triathlon here, mainly the adage, “Nothing new on race day.” So for fencing, tournament day is not the time to try out a new weapon, new glove, or new warm up routine.*

I’ll do the first part of my warm up in just my fencing socks/shoes, knickers, and a t-shirt. Sometimes I listen to music, but sometimes I don’t. The first part (footwork) generally takes me 10 to 15 minutes.

When I warm up for a tournament, I use the same routine that I would in practice. Here is my specific set of exercises:

  • Light jog until my legs feel loose.
  • Arm circles until my arms feel loose.
  • Footwork:
    • Stand on guard, bend my knees and ankles. If I’m particularly stiff, just do one advance, one retreat and focus on getting some mobility in my joints.
    • Easy footwork: two advances, one retreat halfway down the strip, then two retreats, one advance until I return to my starting point. I do this maybe 3 or 4 times.
    • Start to throw in slow lunges at the end of the previous footwork drill.
    • Easy attacks: advance, advance, lunge down the strip a few times. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ll do more complicated attacks, throwing in jumps, simulate missing and retreating, etc.
  • Weapon circles: This is for injury prevention. I have had problems with tendonitis in my elbow, so this seems to help keep it at bay. I put my glove on and pick up a sabre at this point and just swing it around. I’m not trying to do anything technical, just rotate my wrist and make big circles.

From this point, I may do more foot work or I may not. It depends on how my legs and back feel. You’re going to have to figure out how much to do for yourself. In general, I fence better with more of a warm up. But there are times (where I’m sore from the previous day, sick, or nursing a borderline injury) that I may stop sooner.

After this part of my warm up, I’ll look to do some warm up bouts. There are generally fencers warming up all around. Find people that are in your event and ask if you can rotate in. Generally, fencers warming up will go to 5 and then whomever refereed rotates in.

When you fence warm up bouts, you’re not trying to win. You need to try different things to get all the parts of your body coordinated. Vary your actions and work on getting your timing up to speed.

This is also a great chance to make sure that your electric equipment is all working. If you show up on the strip for the tournament with something broken, you’ll get a yellow card.

Stop when you feel like you’re ready. I try to time the end of my warm up so that I have a few minutes to sit before pools start. You may need to refill your water bottle, use the bathroom, or have a snack.

*Of course if your equipment breaks or fails checks, you may have to use something new. But try to avoid this.

See the rest of the Newbie Guide to Fencing Tournaments:

Read more about fencing here.

A Newbie Guide to Fencing Tournaments (Part 1 – Basics)

I had been writing fencing tournament reports last year, detailing my experiences of the events where I competed and what I thought of them. I couldn’t keep up with the writing, partly because I was just busy, but also because the reports started to feel too repetitive.

This past weekend I competed in the Capitol Clash for the second time. This event was a regional youth and veteran age-group event just outside of Washington, D.C. I was excited to see some of the area’s newer fencers branching out to compete in this larger event, and I even spoke with two women who were curious about entering the event next year. (Read about the 2019 event here).

I was also having a rough week in general and had been sick (literally had a chest x-ray taken the day before the event), and realized that much of what I do during a tournament is automatic after competing for so many years (from packing, signing in, getting dressed, my warm-up, and other habits through the day). I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to newer fencers to help make the day of the event smoother when you get there.

So here is the first post in a series on A Newbie Guide to Fencing Tournaments!

This post will just touch upon a few basics, with no particular focus. I can go into more detail on topics in later posts (send me suggestions)!

  • The time listed for an event is the close of check in. You need to show up about an hour before that to get yourself ready.
  • There are a few things you need to do first when you arrive at a fencing tournament:
    1. Check in for the event.
    2. Find a place to put your bag.
    3. Get your equipment checked.
    4. Get dressed.
    5. Fill up water bottles.
    6. Get your phone out and find the appropriate page on https://www.fencingtimelive.com/ for the event. (Most events use this now.)
    7. Warm up.
    8. Breathe.
  • Tips on bag placement:
    • If you can find out which strips you will be using ahead of time, that is nice to know. Place your bag convenient to the strips.
    • If not, consider these other factors: bathroom placement, your fellow club members, water placement, crowds.
    • You can always move your bag once you learn where you will fence.
  • Events are fenced in two rounds: pools and then direct elimination.
  • Pools typically take an hour (for sabre).
  • During your pool, pay attention to when you’re up to fence. Know your number in the pool.
  • The referee will call out numbers or names. The first name called goes to the referee’s right on the strip. Unless there’s a left-handed fencer. She always goes on the referee’s left. If there are two lefties fencing, then go back to the original number/name rule.
  • After a bout, check the score sheet to make sure the result was recorded correctly. I find an error every year in one event or another. The best time to correct it is immediately after the bout when everyone clearly remembers what happened.
  • After the pool is over, sign the score sheet and shake the referee’s hand.
  • There is a break after pools where you should make use of the bathroom. You have at least 15 minutes.
  • Refill your water bottle between the pool and direct elimination rounds. Sometimes I also eat a snack like a granola bar.

Here are some specific items that I use on tournament day (paid links):

Don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t clear on the process or on where you’re supposed to go and when. Most fencers will be very helpful because we all want more people fencing with us!

See the rest of the Newbie Guide to Fencing Tournaments:

Read more of my fencing posts here.

Fencing Tournament Report – Salt Lake City NAC (April 2019)

It’s been several months since this event and I haven’t had time to write down my thoughts on it until now. But I think it may still be of interest, and I want to complete my collection of write-ups on all the events I attended this past fencing season.

Events and Format

The April NAC was my second national level event for the 2018-2019 season. This event moves around every year and was held in Salt Lake City this time. You can find more about the format, registration, and other details of NAC events in my report on the December Cincinnati NAC here.

Every NAC features different events in terms of levels and age groups, with Veteran Open, Veteran age groups, and Divisions II and III contested in Salt Lake City. The NAC was also held concurrently with the Division I and Para-Fencing National Championships which required separate qualification. For this trip, I fenced in the Vet Open and Vet-40 events.

Location and Venue

The tournament was held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

This location was fairly central to the hotels, restaurants, and attractions. This was my second trip to Salt Lake City so I knew what to expect in terms of the venue and the city’s layout. Even though I stayed at a hotel about three blocks from the convention center, I rented a car so that I could explore further afield.

Of course, my last trip to Salt Lake City had been in July, so the outdoor options were a bit different this time around. If you do travel here and like hiking, make sure to bring your boots and other gear. I did a gorgeous hike when I visited in July, and managed another one (albeit shorter and snowier) this time.

At the same time as the NAC, a separate fitness convention (Fit Con) was held in the same convention center. I didn’t have a chance to look in on Fit Con, but a regional youth circuit event was held there, providing even more fencing options for the weekend.

Spring thunderstorms wreaked havoc with travel plans over the NAC weekend. I was fortunate to not have any delays or lost luggage, but several fencers never arrived at all. In certain events, the travel problems definitely affected the outcome of the day.

The Events and My Fencing

Since it’s been several months since this event, I don’t recall the details of the day. I fenced in the Vet-40 event on my first day and didn’t do well. My coordination was off and I think I may have been struggling with the altitude, despite all of my triathlon cardio training.

For the second day, I fared much better, winning the gold in the Open Veteran event. I still had some rough spots in my fencing, but my parries began to work and my feet cooperated better. You can see my gold medal bout below!

Full results from the April NAC can be found here.

It looks like US Fencing has scheduled the 2019 December NAC in Salt Lake City for this next season, so I guess I’ll be back soon.

For more of my fencing tournament reports, check here.

Fencing Tournament Report – 2019 Veteran Sabre Slam

This tournament was held on March 10, so I’m a bit behind on writing a summary of the event, but I still wanted to get to it. This is another one of the tournaments in the Tri-State Veteran’s Cup. You can find my thoughts on some of this year’s events here and here.

Travel to the Event

This tournament was held at Sheridan Fencing Club in Manhattan. I was able to take the train into NYC and then grabbed a taxi for a quick trip across town.

The Venue

This was my first trip to Sheridan Fencing Club and I had a little trouble finding it. Due to the train schedule, I arrived earlier than I really needed to, and the club wasn’t open yet.

I didn’t see any signage to indicate the club’s location, even though I appeared to be in the right general area. It turns out that the entire front of the club is a large glass window. After hours, a metal door rolls down to cover the glass.

After only a few minutes, someone arrived to open the door and I found myself in a chilly but compact space. The heat kicked on and I tried to move around to warm myself up, but my hands and feet were cold for longer than I would have liked.

The fencing space only has six strips, but for the purposes of this event, that was adequate. One perk that I did not expect was that they were able to run instant replay for all of the direct elimination (DE) bouts.

While I was warming up, coffee and bagels arrived. I definitely needed that coffee and soon felt more prepared for fencing.

Tournament Format

This tournament was conducted in a standard format, with a round-robin style pool followed by 100% promotion into a DE tableau. The women’s event had 8 competitors and there were 25 in the men’s event.

The women fenced one large pool of 8, followed by a quick DE round. The men were divided into 4 pools (7, 6, 6, 6) and then DE’s.

Full results from the day can be found here.

One of my favorite aspects of this tournament was the prizes! The winners went home with a set of Japanese swords and a stand. It’s nice to have awards other than the standard fencing medals.

My Fencing

I had an uneven day in the tournament, going 5-2 in my pool. That made me seeded #2 for the DE tableau. Through my DE bouts I never really hit my normal stride and I struggled to do what I wanted to do. In the end, I finished in 2nd place, so it wasn’t really a bad day. I just felt like I didn’t fence terribly well.

See more of my tournament reports here.

How Do I Decide Which Fencing Tournaments to Enter?

I have a bit of a break between fencing tournaments, triathlons, and running events for the next few weeks. Instead of a write-up on any particular event, I thought that it might be helpful to figure out why I enter certain tournaments and not others. This post was inspired by two things:

  1. I had to sit down and decide on which fencing tournaments to enter for the next few months.
  2. A discussion on a Veteran Fencing group last week about how everyone decides which tournaments to attend.

For most fencers in the group discussion, it seemed to come down to factors like distance, costs involved, and how many other fencers were going to attend.

December and April NACs

Obviously, I would enter the Veteran NAC events. But some of these tournaments also feature other levels, like Div I, Div II, or Div III. And would I enter both the Vet-40 age group and the Open Vet event? I decided that I’d do both the Vet-40 and Open Vet events at all the NACs. I almost entered Div I in the December NAC, but then decided against it. I didn’t feel like I was physically up to that level. It turned out that I was sick for part of the December NAC, so I would not have had a good day in Div I if I had entered.

I just registered for the upcoming April NAC, and this time I decided to enter both the Vet events and the Div II. I can have a good day in Div II at times. Even though the Div II event didn’t fit in with my initial goals for the season, I found that I’m already looking ahead to next year. I’d like to fence that Div I event next December, so fencing more non-Vet events like the Div II NAC should help me prepare.

Local and Regional Events

As far as local and regional (ROC) events go, I have been entering these when they fit in my schedule. I weigh the distance of the event with the costs of entry, hotel, and travel, and then look at how many fencers have entered. I fenced in a local ROC that had low attendance and a non-ROC event that was nearly as populous as a NAC. Both situations were helpful to me, I think.

I also find that I’ve been more goal-oriented in my training this year. Every day before practice I think about what my goals are for that session. The specific goals are based on how I’m feeling and how soon the next tournament is. Some of my more common goals lately have been:

  • Move well, using small footwork, patience, and don’t lean.
  • Work on the specific actions from a lesson.
  • Fence like it’s a tournament in terms of strategy and actions.
  • Work on my distance when retreating and draw the attack on my terms.

How do you decide which tournaments to enter? Do you have goals for your fencing? Let me know in the comments.

For more fencing articles, look here.

Fencing Tournament Report – Capitol Clash 2019

The weekend before last, I traveled to compete in the 2019 Capitol Clash just outside of Washington, D.C. This fencing tournament has been held for ten years and has historically been a youth event. This year, they added a non-regional Veteran’s category, and several fencers in my club (youth and veteran) entered.

Event Schedule and Travel

For the Veteran events, the tournament was simply a local tournament, with no points or qualifications up for grabs. However, for sabre, it ended up being well-attended, with 16 women and 38 men. The youth tournament featured Y-8, Y-10, Y-12, Y-14, and Cadet events, and was designated a SYC, so fencers could win regional points.

With all of the events for age groups, all three weapons, and men’s and women’s divisions, the tournament stretched over 3 days. I woke up very early and drove to the tournament on Saturday morning to arrive by close of check-in for Vet WS at 12:00 p.m. The organizers had communicated minor changes in the check-in time in the weeks prior to the tournament.

Location and Venue

The tournament was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, just south of Washington, D.C. The Gaylord chain of hotels are enormous self-contained resorts, with multiple restaurants, spa and fitness center facilities, pools, and convention spaces. I had actually been to a work conference at this same Gaylord a few years ago, so I knew what to expect.

The hotel offered a discounted rate for fencers, but I didn’t stay there. The parking was discounted for the event, and both self-park and valet options were available. The Gaylord is located within National Harbor, a larger development along the Potomac River featuring shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.

Vendors on-site.

The tournament was held in a large convention hall. It felt like a mini-NAC, having the same types of strips, scoring equipment, raised bout committee area, intercom announcements, and finals strip. Several vendors were on site for equipment needs, although I didn’t pay much attention to them, not needing to purchase anything.

The organizers did insist that all fencing bags were placed in a particular area, in delineated rows on tables and the floor. The strips for the Vet events were off to one side, near an empty part of the hall where no one seemed to mind the bags. I ended up arranging my bag near a column in a vacant area of the hall.

Format and Referees

The tournament was conducted in a standard manner, with one round of pools followed by 100% of fencers advancing to a direct elimination round and no fence-off for third place. For the women’s event, we ended up with two pools of 8. Larger pools mean more bouts of fencing, and I think most fencers prefer that to smaller pools.

We did end up delayed with the start of the event by about an hour. I’m not completely sure what led to the delay. I had warmed up, intending to be ready to start on time, but I didn’t feel that stiff or cold after sitting for an hour. I was sore going into the event, so more warm-up may have actually been detrimental.

Once we finally started, the rest of the event ran smoothly. The referees were consistent with their calls, although I had some trouble hearing one of them (and other fencers did too).

The gold medal bout was held on a raised strip and was delayed a short time because other events were also finishing up. Video replay was available for the gold medal bout.

The Capitol Clash also hosted a competition in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). I had never seen this live before and had hoped to watch some. However, the HEMA events had concluded early in the day, so I missed them.

My Fencing

I had a good day! I had been fencing pretty well in practice and had been working on a few new things that had finally started to click. However, this tournament was also practice, with nothing in particular at stake.

I had been out late the night before my early-morning travel, so I wasn’t feeling great, being a bit dehydrated, sore from my triathlon training, and just tired.

Despite all that, my fencing was very consistent and stable all day. I stuck to my plan, took a few risks when needed, and managed to pull off some of the old/new maneuvers I had been practicing (sky hooks, mainly).

One goal of this tournament was to work on my attacks against people I don’t know. I’ve been trying to get faster while still being able to see the distance properly. It sort of worked, but I have more work to do. I also found that I was more patient when pursuing an opponent down the strip, which was something I had failed to do in my last event.

By the end of the day, I found myself in the gold medal bout where I kept my cool and won 10-4. This earned me a shiny new C19! You can watch a video of the final bout below. My bout starts at 1:30. The men’s gold medal bout is at 1:38.

The final results for all the events can be found here.

My teammates in the men’s event had a great day also, with 3rd place, 3rd place, and 7th place finishes.

To see more of my fencing tournament reports, look here.

Fencing Tournament Report – Manhattan Fencing Tri-State Vet Sabre Event 2019

This past Sunday, I fenced in another one of the Tri-State Veteran Sabre Cup events. This a series of sabre tournaments in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut for the veteran age group. This event was held at Manhattan Fencing Club, and it was my first time at that venue.

Travel to the Event

I took the train from New Jersey to New York Penn Station and then walked a few blocks to the club. It was easy for me to find.

I was a bit early, so I had plenty of time to orient myself. The club was on the second floor and when I stepped off the elevator, I found a brightly lit and clean space. The entry hall featured some seating for parents and visitors, and a low wall separated the fencing area.

The Venue

One side of the venue with the men warming up.

Locker rooms were available for men and women, and there were two bathrooms – a single large one with a shower, and a standard one with multiple stalls. Fencing bags were supposed to stay in the locker room, so I changed into my whites and went to warm up.

Strips were marked out on the flooring and the reels were suspended overhead. I did slip once during the tournament, but the floor was otherwise fine.

Tournament Format

Seven fencers had arrived for the women’s event and (at a later start time) fourteen for the men. For the women’s event, we fenced one large pool. They decided to double-strip the pool also, so it went very fast.

After that, we went into a standard direct elimination (DE) tableau. I felt that the referees were consistent with their calls. The entire event was very smoothly run and efficient. You can find the full results here.

My Fencing

I fenced fairly well, although I had been tired and a bit injured going in. I had a solid round in the pool with a 6-0 record. In my DE bouts, I had a bye into the round of 4 and finished in 2nd for the day, making some strategic errors in my last bout.

After the fencing, medals and awards were distributed. I went home with a t-shirt and a hefty medal. While the men’s event started, the ladies watched and had wine, cheese, bread, and beef jerky. It was a tasty way to finish up!

See more of my tournament reports here.

Fencing Tournament Report – The Achiko Sabre Cup New Years Day 2019

This tournament was hosted by the Tim Morehouse Fencing Club at its newer facility in Port Chester, New York. I had decided to compete in this event because it was part of the Tri-State Veteran Sabre Cup for this season. I was also able to arrange my work schedule in a way that allowed me to fence on the holiday, and was only an hour’s drive from home.

Registration and Events

The Achiko Sabre Cup featured a variety of events (all sabre, go figure): Y12, Y14, D and under, Unrated, Open, and Vet Combined, with all but the youth events split for men and women. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for more than the Veteran event.

Registration was run through askfred.net and you can see the results of all the events here.

Location

The Tim Morehouse Fencing Club has expanded and this location is one of the newer sites. It was easy to reach, and I didn’t hit any traffic because of the New Year’s holiday. There appeared to be a lot associated with the club, but it was roped off as full. I was able to easily find a spot to park along the road behind the club, and had a relatively short walk to the entrance.

The club itself was clean and bright. Check-in and the bout committee were directly to the left, with an area for bags and warmup on the right, and the tournament held in the larger space on the left.

One downside of this event was that I only found two bathrooms in the club. An additional closet was marked as a changing room, but there was a wait for the bathroom at times.

We weren’t required to have our equipment checked for this tournament and no vendors were on hand.

Format and Tournament

I fenced in the Vet Combined Women’s Sabre event, and unfortunately there was not a very large showing of local fencers, with only five people competing. We fenced a single pool, followed by direct elimination bouts.

We had a single referee for our event, and I didn’t disagree with the calls. I felt stiff at the beginning of the pool bouts as I hadn’t fenced at all since the Cincinnati NAC. But in the end, I fenced well enough, ending up 4-0 in the pool, then taking first place overall after two DE bouts.

Overall Experience

Despite the small field, it was an enjoyable event. I was able to chat with friends, watch some of the men’s event, and get some fencing in on a day where I wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity.

Downsides of this tournament were that there were limited strips free for warming up (at least at the time that I was there). Lack of equipment check could arguably introduce some safety issues or put the fairness of the event into question (I don’t feel like it did on this day, but in theory, it could).

I’d definitely go back to this club for another tournament. The most important aspects for an event for me are proximity, day and time (to arrange around my non-traditional work schedule), and solid and consistent referees.

Did you fence at this event? How did your event go? Let me know in the comments below.

Fencing Tournament Report – Cincinnati NAC (December 2018)

I had hoped to write this up earlier, but have been delayed by illness and holidays. This event was about 2 weeks ago and is one of several North American Cups (NAC) held every year by the US Fencing Association.

Description of the Event

What is a NAC? This is basically a series of national-level events that is run by US Fencing, with one held about once a month (October, November, December, January, March, April) during the main part of the fencing season. Each event encompasses different levels and age groups for the competition. The specific NACs for this season can be found here.

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Facing down the strip.

The location for these events rotates through different cities across the U.S. (and at least once in Canada that I remember). Ohio seems to be a favorite state this year, with events in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. The December NAC this year was open for Division I, Division II, Vet Open, Vet Age, and Senior Team events.

I went to fence in both the Vet Open and Vet Age Group events, although technically I could have also fenced in Division I and II. Division I is for fencers who are rated as A, B, or C, and those who finish high enough earn points which count toward a national ranking. Division II is for fencers who are rated C and below.

Registration

The NAC registrations are done through the USFA’s site. The deadline for entry for a NAC is more than a month ahead of the event. The site also lists who is registered, so you can agonize about your competitors for weeks ahead of time.

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A general view of the venue.

I have a C rating and am usually comfortable in Division II, but my event for Div II was on the first day of competition and the Vet events were more important for me this year so I decided to sit out Div II and stay fresh for the other events. I have fenced dozens of Division I events in the past, but decided against the extra expense of this entry for what would probably be five 5-touch bouts.

Each NAC event features an Athlete Packet which gives all the details for the venue, tournament format, and other rules.

Location and Venue

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View of the ice rink from the Westin.

Airfare for this event ended up being fairly inexpensive, so I booked a flight. My travel was uneventful and I made it to Cincinnati in the evening on Friday. The airport for the Cincinnati area is actually in northern Kentucky. I booked a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back.

A NAC is typically held in a convention center, where there is plenty of room for dozens of fencing strips, a finals strip, vendors, and the bout committee. The December NAC was held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. As far as I could tell, it was a pretty standard convention center. I didn’t see that any other events shared the venue with us that weekend.

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Bruschetta with honey and goat cheese.

Cincinnati offered several large hotels within walking distance to the venue. I stayed with friends at the Westin and we scored a suite after some confusion and phone calls.

I was pleasantly surprised by downtown Cincinnati. We found plenty of places to eat (although most require reservations to get in), and there was a cute downtown square with a Christmas tree and small ice rink.

Check-In and Ticketing

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Downtown Cincinnati

US Fencing has instituted a new ticketing system for attendance at national events for this season. This was my first chance to see how it worked. Anyone with a valid USFA membership just has to show their membership card. Others pay a small fee of $5 per day or $15 for the whole event.

The typical check-in booth was located outside the event hall. I swiped my membership card when I arrived, and a staff member gave me one of those stick on wrist bands. She didn’t even put it on my wrist and just handed it to me. I ended up wearing it on my wrist, but could easily have handed it off to someone else and then gone back for another one.

I did see the person at the door ask to see the wrist bands so the ticketing was at least enforced. We were also told that we could put the band on a bag. But again, what’s to stop someone from obtaining one band, placing it on a throwaway bag, and then proceeding to hand that off to anyone who wants to enter later on that weekend?

Format and Fencing

The format for the veteran events is a round of pools followed by reseeding into a direct elimination (DE) tableau. No one is eliminated until you lose a DE bout. There is no fence-off for third place. Top 8 make the podium and receive medals. Points are awarded as well and these contribute to a fencer’s national ranking.

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The raised finals strip.

Pools are fenced to 5 touches and DE bouts are fenced to 10 (15 for non-veteran events). Video replay is allowed at a certain point in the event. I believe in my events it started in the semi-finals. The gold medal bout is fenced on the raised finals strip.

My events took place on Saturday (Vet Open WS) and Sunday (Vet 40 WS). I also purchased new blades since I had broken my last one in practice shortly before this event.

My Fencing

I started out pretty jittery in the first few bouts of the Vet Open event. I decided to do an experiment by drinking coffee and eating a bigger breakfast than I usually would have. My stomach felt uncomfortably full during my warm-up, and I’m not sure if the jitters were from the coffee or just nerves.

After the first three bouts in my pool, I settled down and began to fence better. I ended up with a 4-2 record and an indicator of +9. That ended up putting me 12th of 41 for the DE round. I fenced progressively better as the day went on and soon found myself in the gold medal bout. I ended up losing a close match to a friend and took 2nd place.

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Vet Open WS Podium (photo by Kate Sierra)

About an hour after the Vet Open concluded, I started to feel progressively more congested and soon decided that I was coming down with a cold. I stayed at the venue to watch the MS event, had a nice dinner with another club’s fencers and coaches, and then went to sleep.

Day 2 of my fencing found me well-rested but definitely sick. I didn’t feel too bad if I moved slowly, so I worked on some writing in my hotel room before the afternoon Vet 40 event. I stuck with the same nutrition plan – good breakfast plus coffee.

My warm-up was very minimal because I felt like I had a very tiny amount of energy to use for the day. The Vet 40 event was significant smaller than the Vet Open, with only eleven fencers. I tried to fence without moving much, because whenever I exerted myself, my heart rate skyrocketed and I was winded in just seconds.

Given my illness, I didn’t do half badly, ending up with a 3-2 record and an indicator of +6. That put me into 4th place going into the DE round. I managed to put myself into the semi-finals where I lost to a strong fencer 10-7, ultimately finishing in 3rd place. The day ended with a trip to a brewery for a burger and beer, and then bed.

Results for the entire NAC can be found here.

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One silver, one bronze!

I’m happy with my fencing on this trip, although I wish I hadn’t been sick for the second day. Now I’m taking a short break and then it’s back to practice. Coming up – several smaller events in January and February and then another NAC in April!

Did you fence this December in Cincinnati? How was your event? Would you return to another NAC in Cincinnati? Do you travel nationally for fencing or just locally? Let me know in the comments!

See my other fencing articles and event reports here.

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