Sunday, January 17, 2010

North American Cup Fencing Championships

I've always wanted to fence.

I love the energy of it, the power involved in overcoming your opponent quickly, before they can get their attack in on you. I love the blade itself - how something so small and thin could have done so much damage. "An elegant weapon for a more civilized age", as it were.

So a few months ago, when a local fencing club put flyers up in my area for an adult beginner's class, I thought, "What have I got to lose?" I was hooked instantly, and I've been fencing 2-3 times a week since then. Now, understand, I SUCK at it, but I suck a lot less than I did in August, and it's a great workout, and I love it.

Anyway, this weekend, the North American Cup is in San Jose, about an hour from me. The NAC is one of the biggest tournaments in the country, and it rotates from city to city. Essentially, this is where the big boys (and girls) fence. These are the best fencers in the country - the ones we'll all be watching at the next Summer Olympics. So I figured I'd go down and watch a few bouts and see how it's really done.

Division I was fighting yesterday, so it was pretty much the best of the best. It was also mostly college-age kids; I saw major contingents from Ohio State, Penn State, and Air Force.

Interestingly, there were tons of Eastern European accents, both in the fencers but particularly with the coaches. Most coaches (called Maestros in fencing) seemed to be Russian or Eastern European (one of my own Maestros is Polish, and two of my fellow students are Eastern European). The sport definitely seems to be more popular with those cultures, but that's just my own observation.

To give you an overview, there are three types of fencing - all based on the type of blade used: epee, foil, and sabre. Every type has different techniques, different blade/guard combinations, different targets, and different rules. Sabre is the fastest and most aggressive of the three, and it's what I fence. I went mainly to see the women's sabre fencers, but there was also some epee going on while I was there (not a lot of foil that I could see). I watched some qualifying rounds of women's sabre, and the medal round of men's epee.

The tournament goes through Monday afternoon, with Divisions II and III fighting today and tomorrow.

Here are some random shots from the floor. (Sorry, I didn't get any names or details or anything - a fencing tournament is a little bit controlled chaos.)

Some of the action from the women's sabre matches, mid-attack.

More sabre action.

En garde

She was the best fencer I saw yesterday. I believe she was from Penn State, but I may be wrong on that.

This fencer (from what looked to be an all-Islamic club) fought the best bout I saw yesterday - she came back from a 4-0 deficit (in a five-point bout) to win.

Men's epee. The guy from Air Force (left) was pretty cute.

Epee is a completely different style of fencing than I'm used to. Much more deliberate and methodical. They spend a lot of time setting up for a final strike, whereas in sabre, you just strike first and ask questions later.

Women's epee

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