Archive for January, 2013

Tips for Attending National-Level Competitions

A great Tumblr blog from a site called:  Fencer Problems (you can visit them here) where someone asked them for advice on preparing for their first National Competition.  Take note – and Good Luck to those heading to the Canada Cup!

Canadian Fencing

The CSC’s (now Canada Cup) in Saskatoon November 2011 photo by Jay Scott


Tips for Attending National-Level Competitions

1) The venue always looks scary and huge at first compared to local *stuff*. Don’t be scared.
2) People will scream, people will act like hot sh*t, people will argue, people will do anything it takes to win. Do the same thing but be classy about it, okay? You want to scream after scoring a touch, scream. You think you won a point but the ref gives it to someone else, question the call POLITELY and don’t continue arguing once they explain their reasoning. You want to act like hot sh*t, go for it, be confident, but don’t forget to be nice as well! Shake your opponents hand, greet people in your pool, shake hands with the ref once the pool/DE is over. Confidence doesn’t translate into douchebaggery/a$$hole-ness (thats a word, now)

3) bring aLL OF YOUR WIRES AND BLADES AND LAMES AND JUST BRING EVERYTHING YOU OWN. chances are something’s not gonna pass equipment check.

4) If you’re travelling with your club, stick with your club. If you’re travelling alone, make friends as soon as possible.

5) Chances are you’re going to want to warm up with someone before you start. If you go up to a bunch of kids from the same club, depending on who they are, they might be weary to train with you. People don’t like practicing with people outside of their friends/club because they don’t want to give away too much of their techniques, It sounds mean, but stick with other people that are travelling alone. They’re looking for a warm up buddy too.

6) Don’t be intimidated. Don’t say you’re intimidated. Don’t act intimidated. Unless you have a white knight in your vicinity, people will assume you’re a noobie and thus an easy win.

7) Everyone here is in this to win. This is for fun, but this is also a national competition. Don’t assume people are here to make friends. Some people will lie and cheat. It sucks, but don’t succumb to that.

8) Don’t be upset if you get cut after pools. Sh*t happens.

9) If you don’t want people cheering for you because it’s distracting, tell them.

10) Eat something delicious afterwards. Do something really really fun. I don’t care if you finished last, you deserve it.


A First-Time Medal at Nationals

Saskatchewan Fencing Association

Kirsten VanMarion in action at the CSC’s held November 2011 in Saskatoon, SK  Photo by Jay Scott

In January of 2012 Kirsten VanMarion, a young epeeist out of the Asquith Fencing Club, took a giant leap in her fencing development when she went to her first National tournament outside of Saskatchewan.  The competition was held in Montreal, QC  and Kirsten was competing in the U-15 event.

Saskatchewan Fencing AssociationSaskatchewan Fencing Association

Kirsten VanMarion CSC’s Saskatoon, Nov 2011 Photo by Jay Scott

As the day progressed Kirsten found herself doing very well in pooles, ranking high enough to get a bye into the first round of D.E. ‘s (Direct Eliminations), propelling her straight into Round 2.  A match, which at the end of time, saw Kirsten and her opponent evenly tied at 7-7 and needing to head into overtime.  Receiving priority, Kirsten was hoping to be able to stall long enough for time to simply run out, but a series of three to four doubles, had her battling just to stay even.  With less than 20 seconds on the clock, and with one foot off of the end of the piste, her opponent attacked.  Defending herself they scored another double, that did not register with her opponent.  Believing she had scored a single, she let out a scream of victory, and turned her back on Kirsten, a critical mistake that would cost her the match, leaving Kirsten the victor.

Saskatchewan Fencing AssociationSaskatchewan Fencing Association

Kirsten VanMarion CSC’s Saskatoon, Nov 2011. Photo by Jay Scott

“I was very relieved for it to be over,” says Kirsten.  “Since I was almost pushed off the end.  After the bout her coach came and congratulated me on a job well done and complimented me on a few of the things that I did.”

“I lost my next D.E. but luckily it wasn’t a total blow-out, I only lost by a couple points.”

At the end of the day, when all was said and done, Kirsten placed third, and received a Bronze medal, not only the first time she medalled beyond Saskatchewan’s borders, but also the first time she had ever medalled at a National level tournament.  An experience she won’t soon forget, especially as it all happened on the day of her 14th birthday.

Sadly, none of her teammates were able to witness her victory, as they had all headed to the airport to catch their flights back to Saskatchewan.  But just as she has been for nearly all of her bouts, her Mom Allison was there by her side and in her corner cheering her on to victory.  A victory made all that much sweeter, because it was her first.


Saskatchewan Fencing Association

Kirsten VanMarion (far right in Asquith-red socks) won a bronze, her first National Medal at the CSC’s in Montreal in January of 2012.

The yelling that goes on in fencing was probably the most surprising thing to me when I watched my first fencing tournament. Here I thought it was a “gentile” sport, full of pomp and circumstance instead I seem to recall a lot of high pitch shrieks that pierced the ears and not in a dangly way. A lot of aggressive roars that made you wonder if someone had been gored or if Saskquatch had taken up fencing, and the occasional yip of a young fencer still learning the yelling ropes. For those youngsters (and their parents), I thought I’d share this blog on the 10 Commandments of Yelling in Fencing.

The Fencing Coach


Fencers like to debate about yelling in the sport and whether or not this is unsportsmanlike, whifferninnious conduct. The truth is, yelling is a part of fencing, and those who are offended by it are likely the same people who were tattle tailing on the playground until they were 18 years old.

Yelling in the right of way weapons (sabre and foil) is a way to assert confidence of a touch after a point.

Yelling in epee is a way of releasing the pent up tension associated with setting up a touch and scoring accordingly.

Good old fashioned yelling is not unsportsmanlike and is a big part of all three weapons. Almost all Olympians yelled, and the act of yelling is commonplace in elite level competition. However, there are certain kinds of yelling that there is no place for in fencing. Because, as intense as our sport is, at…

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Mike’s Musings: Judgement Calls

The following is a post written by Saskatoon fencer, and President of the Saskatoon Fencing Club Mike Weaver back in October of 2011, directly following the Asquith Tournament – Looking at officiating from both sides of the piste.

Fencing PHoto by Jessie Jardine

Today is Sunday.  The Asquith Open will have just finished.  I trust it was a great beginning to the year and you all had a good time.  Not being there to participate as either athlete or official, I have no idea what kind of excitements may have occurred.  It was interesting watching the officials at the tournament I was in last weekend.  Some were clearly better than others, but all were doing the best they could to provide consistent, fair officiating.  I didn’t always agree with the official.  For example, I saw a couple of actions called beat attacks when I saw parry repost, but we generally agreed on which way the points should be awarded.

Fencing PHoto by Jessie JardineSome fencers did take exception to some of the calls (big surprise) and, right or wrong, I felt sympathy for the official.  I know from experience that you not only want to make the right calls, you want to be seen to be making the right calls.  In short, you want people to agree with you.  Of course, with a sport like fencing, with lots of judgement calls, there will always be disagreements.  It helps for the official to be supremely self confident, but not everyone is.  The officiating role can be a challenge and yet the sport needs officials.

Fencing PHoto by Jessie JardineThere has never been a fencer that hasn’t disagreed with a call made by an official.  Sometimes, the fencer is right, but often they are not.  I recall a foil pool I was in that was officiated by Kirk Brecht.  It was during the Asquith open several years ago when it was still being held in the Lord Asquith School gym.  Kirk made some terrible calls that, unfortunately, went against me.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.  Never having seen Kirk officiate before, I sat down and watched him work through the rest of the pool.  To my chagrin, I found I was agreeing with all of his calls, even those in which one or the other of the fencers vehemently disagreed.  Kirk is an excellent official although he rarely takes on a foil match.  So, how is it he made such bad calls when I was fencing?  The answer, of course, is that he didn’t.  When we fence, we pay attention to what the other fencer is doing so we can plan good strategy.  When we execute that strategy, we know what we are doing, at least what we intend to do.  However, we are not the only fencer on the piste!  Sometimes our timing is a little off, or our execution fails, or the other fencer steals the time, or something they are trying to do interferes with what we are trying to do.  In those cases, our carefully planned action, which we may think succeeded perfectly, doesn’t look from the sidelines at all like we think it does.  Likewise, the infraction the other fencer so obviously committed may not look like an infraction from the official’s position or it may seem insignificant to what is happening.

Mike Weaver President Saskatoon Fencing Association

Mike Weaver officiating at the Saskatoon Open 2010

When the official makes a wrong call, it is easy to get so fixated on it and so angry that we then screw up several more actions.  If we can be a little more philosophical, we can make other decisions that will be more successful.

On a related note, I have often found myself reluctant to use yellow and red cards as much as I should.  Understanding the fencer’s feelings, I tend to be more tolerant than I should be.  I am coming to understand that the cards are there for the fencer’s benefit as much as for the official.  They are important to the maintenance of good order which is to everyone’s benefit.

Mike Weaver President Saskatoon Fencing Association

Mike Weaver 2010

Mike Weaver

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