Archive for Foil

Making Your Mark : Get There First

Posted in Day's Lesson, Fencing, Teaching Topic, Training, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2011 by chencenter

Not Just For Fencers!

One thing that should be stamped in the mind of every fencer (and martial artists) worried about reaching your target is to understand two important points:

The first is that the hand, arm or even weapon is superfluous.  Your opponent, your “test of skill” is the man or woman in front of you, nothing more.  So much confusion begins when the student feels that every engagement must be “beat” or “pressured.”  When the space opens, the mind-body-(sword/fist/etc) should fly swiftly towards his or her area of weakness.  “Parrying/Blocking” are sometimes counterproductive.  In fencing there are rules governing where our point should land.  However, as martial artists we should all learn control.  Remember, “Mastery of anything does not come out of chaos.”*

The second is that (even as a beginner) we must learn to understand our opponent’s intention, and move where his/her conscious energy is not.  In fencing we all seek “Sentiment du fer” (Feeling of the Blade) and it is this that’s one of the most important qualities in a masterful fencer.  Understand the Yin and Yang of the blade…  that when your opponent presses hard on your blade, the most efficient and quickest way to jump back into the offensive is to be “soft/yin.”  On the other side of the coin, if your opponent is weak or is too relaxed on the piste, consider overcoming your opponent with an increase in “hard/yang” energy.

Remember, that it’s the successful marriage of soft and hard that creates sentiment du fer.  Mastery of this comes back to desire, patience and practice.





*Master Quote, by Nick Evangelista.


10 Questions with Julia Richey

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Martial Arts, Videos, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by Combative Corner
Julia Richey is the head coach and owner of the Royal Arts Fencing Academy in Columbus, Ohio.  She also expanded youth fencing in the United States by putting together the Arnold (as in “Schwarzenegger”) Fencing Classic.  The next to be held March 2-4, 2012 (click here for more details).  Recently, Richey was featured in a short film by partner and fellow fencing coach, Tim Mills called “American Fencer” about Richey’s life as a young fencer and later, a successful teacher and promoter.  Watch the video here (click).
Now… It is our privilege to give you the next in a long line of amazing interviews… Fencer/Teacher extraordinaire, Julia Richey.
Fencing should be an easy sport to promote. What is the best way (in you and Tim’s opinion) to “turn on” kids to the sport of fencing?
Julia: Each club has to make a huge effort to promote itself using every opportunity to connect to the public like shows, shopping centers, big events, etc. More than that, the opportunity has to be there to try it not watch it. Watching experienced fencers fence at a demo is great, but picking up the sword yourself will make you want to do it.
We need to celebrate our stars. Students have to be raised with knowledge and respect of the fencing stars. We don’t have a  future without a past.
Tim: And our stars have to promote and be visible.
It all relates to visibility. Every kid has made something become a sword and fought in the backyard. They imitate Star Wars, Captain Jack Sparrow or the Princess Bride. When we do events people walk by all the time getting into an en garde and pretending with their friends. We are blessed with the fact that Hollywood still loves a sword fight and new movies come out every year with them. This year alone we’ve had Pirates 4 and the upcoming Three Musketeers and Puss in Boots. They just need to know it is available.
There is a lot of discussion about how to change fencing to make it more TV friendly or understandable by the public. There are certainly some things we have to do in this regard, but we put too much emphasis there. That won’t fix it. There are a great many sports that have complicated rules. If it is exciting and engaging the audience will learn the rules.
At the Arnold ( and all of our events ) we set up an area to “Try Fencing At the Arnold.” The kids are watching the fencers on 25 strips and think it looks cool, but just outside those rooms is an area where they can put on gear with their family or friends and try it out. This is a hugely successful thing that helps to get people fencing. In the case of the Arnold, they travel from around the world, so it benefits other clubs more than ours.
Really, you should come to the Arnold next March and see all the little things we’re doing to try and engage the public and get fencing in the minds of the world.
Who are some of the athletes competing today that you admire and what is it about them that sets them apart?
Mariel Zagunis, she is the first and only american fencer that one all Olympic games that existed in her weapon.
Stanislav Podzniakov ( recently retired ), did the same for russia, won it all and was a model fencer for many even here.  He will continue that role in his current position.
Tim Morehouse, besides being the best male sabrist in the country and Olympic silver medalist, he is the best promoter of our sport. He is one of a handful of people in this country that have made great efforts at bringing fencing to the public attention.
There is a longer list of competitors that I admire their fencing in all weapons.
What weapon appeals to you the most and why?
Foil, sabre then epee in that order. It’s like watching three different movies. They’re all exciting but each brings different feelings to you. The structure of the foil fencing allows you to set up and have resolution in the most powerful way.  Sabre feels like playing cat and mouse with me being the cat.  Epee is like dancing: structured with only three rules that, if you follow them,  you can win the Olympics.  Of course when I was young in the Soviet Union, girls only had the choice of foil.  

Who were your mentors in fencing? And what was something important that you learned from them?
I had a lot of them, actually. My first coach Victor Knyazev who brought me into the art of fencing and gave me more than he had to get me to the national level at the time. Through my fencing career since 1984 till now I have met and met had great experience from learning from many amazing, worldwide personalities that fenced, taught fencing or just wrote about it.
Fencing is a great sport that provides great coaches and athletes that are accessible to all of us. I just read a great article from one of our parents that Tim is about to post to our newsletter website about how awesome our sport is that his kids have trained with, fenced with and met Olympians and elite fencers from several generations. There aren’t many sports that provide opportunities like that.

In your movie, American Fencer, it showed that you suffered from a severe back problem. How did you back problems come about?… and how did you renew yourself?

My back problems started with an injury that did not occur because of fencing, but because of my fanaticism about fencing I was told by my doctors not to fence. But that was not acceptable. I just kept working at it and fought through constant pain. It reached the point that it snapped shown in in the movie. Thankfully with my knowledge and trinaing in reformer pilates and personal training, I was able to recover myself to the best back condition I’ve ever had in no time. Now, most of my pilates clients come to me to recover their backs, knees, hips after accident or surgery. Or to improve their golf swing.

Has Katya decided to fence like her mom?
She did when she was younger. She was also helping with classes and traveled a lot with me. When she became a teenager she wanted to go her own way. She fell in love with rowing. Then she shifted to artistic routes and never came back to sports ( yet ). Certainly, the fact that her mom is very competitive with almost everything surrounding fencing contributed to her needing to find her own way outside my sport.
What are the biggest obstacles in running a fencing academy?
Do you want the short list or long one?
It’s a delicate balancing act to keep clubs open that don’t have many decades of stability and a city where fencing is recognized and know. For us it is always an issue of balancing the need to get out to various locations and expand our offerings against the available resources.
We consider our fencing club our family.  We do a lot to support each other.  We offer opportunities outside the norm like lock-ins and making our short films, which the kids love to do.  That, too is a balancing act.  We have to grow in size in order to survive, but at the same time we can’t grow so big that the personal touch and connection isn’t there from us.  Fencing is all about relationships, whether it is our opponent on the strip, the referee or your coaches.  Like any relationship, they require a lot of work and fine tuning.  The hectic “real” world often challenges what we would like to do.
Continuing our theme, visibility is the hardest thing to do.  There are still a lot of misconceptions about fencing.  Breaking those barriers and getting the media to see fencing as a viable story is often difficult.  We’re fortunate that we have a huge event with Arnold Schwarzenegger to help us.  But again, that may help other clubs more than us.  It is difficult to take the limited resources a club generates and get advertising and visibility on almost no budget.
We do anything and everything to get in front of people.  And then we let them try it.  The nice thing about fencing is that even if someone comes through and doesn’t like it or thinks it’s more work than they thought it would be, they’re still going to tell their friends they got to fence.  So it works in our favor.  We could actually write an endless list of things about running clubs.
(Combative Corner…  I wish you would)
What are you future goals, for this year or for the next 5?
Like in preparation for Olympic games I have big goals and small ones that serve the big ones. TIm and I working every day on creating different tools, structures and doing research on ways to reach the public to make fencing more popular. My personal crazy goal as a citizen of Columbus, Ohio ( OSU Buckeyes ) I want to make fencing more popular than football in this country. It is very hard to raise champions in the middle of the country when they don’t have competitions to overcome to become the best. We need a strong base to build off of.
Have you come to a point where you’ve decided that the saber is your favorite weapon, or are you still a foilist?
I’m always a foilist. But, as I said, they all relate. I just found ways to use my foil ability to make sabre fun, exciting and useful for me.  If I had a choice when I was starting fencing, I probably would have chosen sabre.
When Julia is not fencing or teaching or helping run a fencing academy, what does she enjoy to do in her free time?
Free time?  The parents of our fencers encourage Tim and I not to take vacations because any time we have down time we come back with more ideas and thus more work.
Sculpture. Art. That’s how I ended up running the Arnold Fencing classic.  I love music. I taught myself guitar when 16. I love to dance, which relates to next movie we’re editing now. Equestrian. I love jumping horses. I like to drive fast. Books and movies.  Good food. And my main favorite I love people and like to have experience of meeting and discovering different personalities.

10 Questions with Sergei Golubitsky

Posted in 10 Questions with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by Combative Corner

Sergei Golubitsky is considered by many to be “The Best Foil Fencer in the World.”  It is certain that we will remain one of the best fencers of the 20th century, winning 3 straight world championships in Men’s Foil.  Sergei is a Ukrainian fencer with other notable achievements such as: writing an autobiography called Fencing Is My Life, helped to design fencing blades for the company Leon Paul, and is currently coaching his wife, Caroline (another champion in the sport.  Read a transcript of an audio interview with her : here ).  Fencing.Net did an interview with Sergei back in 2004 that is worth a look (here).  Besides Sergei’s biography (the best since Nadi’s, On Fencing), there is a dvd available in which he breaks down his performance from 3 world champion bouts (product review).  Now…. Sergei Golubitsky gives us 10 answers  –

What events in your life brought you to fencing?
My father was a fencer and foil coach. Besides I was going to the movies and watched many musketeer films (Zorro of course!).  On 31st of March 1980 my dad took me with him and after, when I was back home, talking to my mom, I decided to give my dad the news, that I was gonna fence.
What year (in your opinion) did you feel like you were at your peak?
1997 – World Champ for the first time (in individuals) and 1999, I became World Champ third year in the row, I won the World Cup.
What was your memory of the 2000 Olympics?
I was rather sad and unhappy. That didn´t help me at all for my fencing. I had private reasons for that.
—-(follow up to same question)— You placed fifth in the world! Were there no “pleasant” moments?
Almost none.
What was your training regime like?
It was different at different stages of life and age groups
What characteristic do you think make a top fencer?
Intelligence, ability to adapt quickly, ability to read oppontnt´s intention, ability to anticipate, hard worker, feeling of tempo, talent.
Are there any particular names that you follow in fencing today?
Caroline Golubitsky (my wife)
Is there, or has there ever been, anything that you did NOT like about fencing?
Non competent referee, sold referee, no fair play.
When you were competing, was there anything you did that (you felt) gave you “a competitive edge.” (i.e. meditation, music, exercise, etc?)
No, not really.
Can you tell us anything about designing your signature blade (i.e. what makes it different from others, what input you had on the process, etc)?
Leon Paul was making blades and giving them to me, in order to test and approve them.  They made necessary improvements to my requests up to the moment.   I was happy with the product.
How are you spending your time these days?
At the moment I´m training my wife for Olympics and travelling with her.  It looks like in the future I might work in the US.

Fencing 101 : Proper Grip (Foil)

Posted in Fencing, Swordsmanship, Training, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2011 by chencenter

Proper grip/hand position on the sword is perhaps the most basic element when it comes to sword mastery.  What many fencers forget (mostly in today’s age) is that fencing is with the wrist and fingers – the “deadly” art at one’s control just as a brush is to an artist.

To achieve a fitting start in swordplay, one must take special care in how they hold the sword.  In classical fencing, the practitioner must remember the words of the swordmaster Doutreval*, (Scaramouche, 1952) who said to student Andre Moreau,

The sword is like a bird.  If you clutch it too tightly, you choke it… to lightly, and it flies away.

When positioning your hand onto the sword for the first time, notice the curve (of the french foil) as the inward curve of the grip, should mold to the contour of the base of the thumb.

(as shown in this picture) Both the thumb and the first two joints of the index finger, also called “manipulators”, should be up to, but not touching, the cushion around the two widest sides. The remaining fingers should fold, without too much tension, around the grip.  Keep the pommel along the center of the wrist.  This is to reduce “heavy handedness” and overuse of the arm.  It also helps to promote a straight and solid wrist, whereby any action on your blade is reinforced by the streamline structures of the hand-wrist-forearm. This is what I call the “standard grip”.  If you allow your thumb to travel back, approximately one inch from the cushion, this is what I call a “classical grip.” Both methods of gripping the foil are correct and although I prefer using the classical grip myself, it is up to the fencer to decide for him/herself.

What becomes of this finger-controlled arrangement is, over time, a feeling of connectivity to the weapon.  Therefore, with time and correct intention through practice and bouting, your level of sensitivity (the feeling of the blade/ “sentiment du fer”) will produce the feeling that “the weapon and wielder are one.”

As tedious an exercise as this may seem – with many fencers rushing off to purchase pistol-grip/anatomical-grip weapons – it would be wise to stay true to French-grip foil.  As “cozy” as an anatomical grip foil can be, it’s my opinion that hopes of developing “sentiment du fer” would be greatly stunted.  Remember, “anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

*It wasn’t the charactor/actor of Doutreval that first came up with this saying (obviously!), but 19th century French fencer Louis Justin Lafaugere.

Michael Joyce

CombativeCorner Profile


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