Interlude: Not Quite Accurate

Just a break in the quasibiographicalfencingsaga to bring up a point which has bothered me for quite some time. It’s nothing I’m angry about and nothing which I hold as a grudge against anybody, but it is something which does not quite accurately reflect the truth of a moment in history, so all I ask is to give my side of the story.

In 1999 the Martinez Academy of Arms held their first Open Classical Foil Tournament and I went accompanied by a few of my students. We drove non-stop from St. Louis to New Jersey (16 hours according to Rand McNally) just in time for me to eat and crash while the boys scoped out the venue. That night I was talking to my wife on the phone and she asked how I was feeling and about the tournament and I remember telling her that I wasn’t really feeling very excited about it and if I had my preference probably would opt out of competing altogether. I always prefer working with a few good people for an extended period of time – something that no tournament can accommodate. I also felt pressured to prove that I could actually fence after many unpleasant exchanges on the newly formed CFML.

To sum up – I didn’t want to fence the tournament.

The next morning the guys were in good spirits and I kind of forgot about the technicalities of fighting a tournament. I hadn’t fought in one since USFA Nationals in 1997 (that’s a nightmare for another story) We were, unfortunately, on time and waited around a bit and the event took some time getting started. Which was okay – it gave me time to meet people, put faces to names and generally cool down and relax. I was expecting to get trounced by Maestro Martinez’s students and truthfully looking forward to it. It’s hard to get a good fight these days.

So I fenced. I was having fun, but knew that I was underperforming for several reasons:

  1. The 16 hour drive was catching up with me (did I mention I did a lot of that driving myself?)
  2. Due to equipment requirements for the event I was not wearing my own gear but the jacket of one of my students and the knickers of another – thankfully I was allowed to fight with my own weapons
  3. Adapting to new Directors and Juries and format,
  4. My daughter had just turned one year old a month earlier and it was the first time I had been away from my family and I couldn’t stop thinking about my little baby. As I say, I was having fun and enjoyed talking with people between bouts. At some point I realised that I hadn’t yet lost a bout and was a little stunned. To this day I have NO CLUE WHAT THE ACTUAL FORMAT of that event was. I was just going with the flow – fencing when I was told to and sitting down at all other times. That is a crucial bit of information for any non-fencers (or non-competitors of any sport) to realise. When you don’t know how to advance yourself through a tournament it’s very difficult to know where exactly you stand. I knew I hadn’t lost any bouts yet, but I had a few touches against me and there was this mysterious inclusion of a ‘style’ or form criteria being assessed simultaneously for another award.

Then I was called up for the final bouts. Surprise! I watched the first one and had to pick up my jaw from the floor when it ended. One of the Academy’s senior fencers seemed to lose the match without much care in the world. It was odd because I was looking forward to fencing him the most as he was left handed, technically my senior and we hadn’t yet crossed blades.

scoring sectors in fencing image

I fought my first final bout and won fairly easily.

The beginning of the final-final bout was me getting touched. I remember being thankful for that first touch because it clued me into how the Director and Jury were going to call subsequent actions. I landed the final three touches.

Somebody mentioned at that point that I had won the tournament.

Then Mr. Loum (where are you now, Dave?) had the points for style recalculated because it came down to he and I being within a tenth of a point of each other. It ended with him coming out in the lead with that tenth (Dave correct me please if I’ve misrepresented that – I’m going from a 6 year old memory of a 30 second event in my life).

So, what is not quite accurate?

To this day when you go to the Academy’s website and find the page dedicated to the results of that Tournament ( you will read:

“It was apparent from the beginning that he came focused and determined to win,…”

I hope it is clear now, after my little anecdote, that I went with no determination and certainly no expectation of winning the Tournament. If anything I would have been more pleased with one of my students having fought in my place – because, as mentioned above, I wasn’t up for it anyway. Or better yet, to have lost and had the pleasure of somebody kicking my ass.

With that cleared up I’ll just end by saying that I am glad that I went and am grateful to the Martinez Academy for their generosity that day.