1. GENERAL INFO ON SCHEDULE, FEES AND FACILITIES
Welcome to the new students who are starting their fencing careers this week! We are expecting 9 new Level 1 students in Charlotte and 7 in Middlebury. We have room for a few more, and it is not too late for more people to join next week, so if you know of anyone who is interested, have them get in touch with me right away. For those of you new to the VFA Bulletin mailing list, I send out this newsletter weekly, usually on Mondays. The purpose of the VFA Bulletin is to keep everyone informed of what's happening in the club, the Green Mt Division, and the fencing world in general. The Bulletins can be pretty long sometimes, but I will always put pressing information (like the occasional schedule change) at the top, stuff which is less important for everyone to read further down the page, and tournament results at the end, so at least skim the headlines please. Please keep me up to date if your e-mail address changes, if you want additional addresses added to the mailing list, or if you are not actively involved in fencing at the moment and would like to be removed from the weekly emails. I also post the bulletin on the VFA website.
This is the first "official" week of practice for everyone, which means that all fall term fees are due this week. Please bring a check payable to Viveka Fox, or exact change if paying in cash, to practice this week. Those who have a still-valid punch card: don't forget, you still owe your club dues this week. Reminder of fees:
Fall term lessons, club and USFA non-competitive dues, and equipment rental = $140
(i.e. this is the total for new Level 1 students without their own equipment)
Lessons, prepaid 10-week term (own equipment, must also pay club and USFA dues ) = $100
Club dues: $10 per term, or $25 paid now for the entire season (3 terms)
Equipment rental: $20 (free for any family with 3 or more members in the club)
Punch card (must have own equipment, not valid for Level 1, must also pay annual club and USFA dues)=10 classes for $120 or 5 for $65
USFA membership (required of all fencers for insurance purposes): Level 1 students will be registering at their first class, and the $10 noncompetitive dues are included in the total you will be paying me. All Level 2 and 3 fencers must renew their own memberships on line at www.usafencing.org, with the exception of those who started fencing for the first time last spring. If you are having trouble doing this (forgot password, lost membership id number, changed emails, etc), you must contact US fencing for help (firstname.lastname@example.org, include fencer's full name and date of birth, or even better, phone them at 719.866.4511) . I am sorry that I can no longer do this for you, but the USFA is moving toward a paperless membership system. Please please please, take care of this right away if you have not done so.
As we have very limited gym time to get a lot of fencing in, it is important to start all classes on time. Please come a little early each week to give yourself time to change, sort out rental equipment if you need it, fill your water bottle, etc., so that you are ready for action when class starts.
Our gyms get pretty crowded, in Middlebury on nights we do not have use of the north gym, and always in Charlotte. In Charlotte, we are going to need the full length of the gym, so please do not leave any equipment bags along the shorter end walls. All equipment bags should be placed against the wall of the stage side, on the stage, or on top of the bleachers. Please be alert and aware of others around you-walk with your tip down, do not go out into a crowded room of people who are fencing without wearing your mask, in general, just look out for each other's safety.
We are guests of the schools where we practice, and must respect their rules and property if we are to continue having a place to meet. Please make sure your shoes are clean and dry before entering the gym. No food or drinks other than water bottles in the gym, and water spills should be immediately cleaned up. We have permission to use the gym and nearby bathrooms only. Do not enter any other area of the school or touch any student work. No smoking, alcohol or drugs anywhere on school grounds (needless to say, those things aren't exactly conducive to good fencing anyway). The Mary Hogan custodian requests that we use the bathroom closest to the gym (just outside the south door) as he will be cleaning the bathrooms in the hallway near the school office, and also that any chairs taken from the closet be returned before leaving. No running or noise in the hallways, please (teachers are often present in the buildings working late) - parents, please supervise young children in this regard.
Every week, I prepare written lesson plans to e-mail out to my assistant coaches. I am happy for other club members to have them as well. I do one mailing for Level 1/2 lesson plans, and one for Level 3 lesson plans. We don't always get to everything on the lesson plans, and sometimes vary a little from them, but on the whole, they are a good record of what we will be doing each week. If you are the kind of person who finds written instructions helpful, or likes to keep a written record of what is taught in class, please e-mail me and request to be on the lesson plan e-mail list.
2. TOURNAMENT THIS SATURDAY-REGISTER TODAY TO SAVE $$, UNRATED FENCERS ESPECIALLY NEEDED
Sign up today for the 2018 Fall Foliage Classic this Saturday, September 29 at UVM (indoor tennis courts)! Entry fees are $15 for your first event plus $5 per additional event if you sign up on AskFRED 5+ days in advance (in other words, by midnight tonight for this Saturday). If you wait until after the deadline to sign up, entry fees go up to $20 for first event/$10 per additional event. So if you have been procrastinating, today is the day to register!
We are especially looking for more fencers for the unrated events. These events are limited to unrated fencers, making them ideal for first-time competitors and those newly aged out of the youth series. You can enjoy fencing other unrated fencers without having to contend with the big guns, and with the support of experienced fencers who will serve as your refs. Loaner equipment is available for all who need it and have registered by Wednesday (although why wait, you save $$ if you register today). As long as we have 6 or more of each gender, we will run separate mens and womens unrated events. As of this morning, there are 5 male and 2 female unrated foilists signed up, and 7 male and 3 female unrated epeeists. You can be a hero by putting your name on the list and moving us closer to having enough fencers for separate events. If we do not get 6 of each, the events will be mixed.
In addition to the unrated events, there are mixed open foil, epee and saber events. Unrated fencers are very welcome to participate in open events for fun and experience. Just do not sign up for 2 events that start within 30 minutes of eachother. Here is the schedule for the day:
9:30 a.m Open (senior mixed) foil
10:30 a.m. Unrated epee
12 p.m Open (senior mixed) saber
2 p.m Open (senior mixed) epee
2:30 p.m Unrated foil
All events are open to fencers born 2005 or earlier (younger kids are restricted to youth events, which begin in November). All events require competitive membership in US Fencing. Please bring proof of membership, either by printing out your membership card or displaying it on your phone (USFA no longer sends out membership cards). If you have not yet renewed your membership for the season, please do it right away (you need it for practice anyway, and if you wait until the night before and have trouble negotiating the website, you won't be able to compete).
Foil fencers note: those who use plastic chest protectors are now required to have FIE approved padding on them (to prevent opponent's tip from bouncing off without registering). You can buy a stick-on pad to add to your existing chest protector here:
To register, see who is coming, and get directions:
Tournament sign ups are done through a website called AskFRED (www.askfred.net). It can be confusing at first. Here is a guide to setting up an AskFRED account and using it:
New Level 1 students: there is no charge to come and watch this tournament! If you come in the middle of the day, you might get to see a little of all of the weapons.
3. WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR FIRST FENCING CLASS (LEVEL 1)
a. Wear loose comfortable long pants - no shorts (sweatpants are ideal), a t-shirt and sneakers. If you have a choice of sneakers, court shoes (those made for volleyball, squash, indoor soccer etc) work better than running shoes (which have a wedge shape to the sole). Bring a water bottle-neither of our gyms has convenient fountains. An athletic cup is highly recommended for male fencers.
b. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early for the first class (i.e. at 6:15) to fill out USFA paperwork, sort out your equipment and get ready for class.
You will need to enter your contact info on a spreadsheet form on a laptop. In addition, you will sign a waiver (the usual-agreeing not to sue the USFA if you get hurt), and minors will also have to have a parent/guardian sign. Once you have done this, your membership is good through July 31, so you won't need to do it again for winter or spring classes.
c. I have assigned each person a mask and jacket based on the size information you gave me. I will have a printed list of names and equipment assignments. Note that there are 2 columns on the list - one for Middlebury and one for Charlotte. Make sure you are looking in the correct column, as someone in another class may have the same first name as you. Your mask and jacket may not have the same number (the equipment is not in sets, each item is numbered individually). The masks live in a large red duffel bag and the jackets live in a smaller red duffel bag. Mask numbers are written on the sides and back, jacket numbers on the collar and on the straps. When you arrive, find your mask and jacket and set them aside somewhere along the edge of the room. Then find any glove that fits your dominant hand (you only need one glove, and you don't need to use the same one each week). The gloves live in a zippered tote bag that lives inside one of the red duffels. Finally, take a foil from the black weapon bag. Foils with red tape on the handles are for lefties. Foils with yellow tape on the handles are for small children (they should go to the smallest kids in the class). Foils with blue tape on the handles are for righties. You will note that we have a mix of traditional French grip foils, and modern pistol grip foils. I would like new students to start with a French grip for the first 3 weeks (so you learn the correct way to use your fingers and position your arm). After that, I encourage you to try experimenting with a pistol grip, as that is what most competitive foil fencers use. Set the glove and foil aside with your other gear. One more piece of equipment for adult and teen women: in the bag with the gloves are some plastic cups called breast protectors. You insert these in the pockets in your jacket lining and they protect you from hard hits to the chest (plus they make you feel like Xena the warrior princess). When you are finished for the evening, please do me a big favor and pack all rental equipment back in its bags (that would be IN the bag - not just near it or on it).
d. Class will always start with a warm-up - a moment of breathing and focussing, a game to get everyone loosened up, and a set of exercises to increase your flexibility, strength and balance. The next thing we will do is footwork exercises, as the most important thing in fencing is how you move your body (what you do with the blade is secondary to this). Often, these are done without equipment on, but sometimes I will ask you to get dressed in your gear at this point. The final part of class is the bladework drills. Here, we will teach new moves or new combinations, and you will practice them with a partner. We rotate partners often, so that you get used to fencing with people of all shapes and styles. Sometimes I may ask you to pair with someone similar to your size, or in the same age group, and sometimes we'll mix and match. For most bladework drills, we will divide into groups - Level 1 foil, Level 2 foil and Level 2 epee, and each group will be given a different set of drills. Drills require that you take turns with your partner playing the role of the trainer (the person who gets hit) and of the fencer (the person who does the hitting). It is important that you pay attention to both aspects of the drill when it is being taught so that you can be a good trainer, and that you let your partner hit you when it is her turn to do so.
e. I have a number of advanced students who help me teach. They are experienced competitors who enjoy sharing their knowledge with beginners. Please use them as a resource - ask them questions and pay attention when they correct your technique. In general, one or two assistant coaches will be assigned to each group on Monday and Tuesday evenings, while I rotate between the groups. In particular, I would like to introduce my 4 main adult assistants as you will certainly get to know some of them. They will be joined by a rotating mix of teen and adult Competitive Squad fencers.
Don Selby (Charlotte and Middlebury, Level 2): Don is an epee fencer who returned to the sport with great enthusiasm some years after trying it in college. He is a past president of the Green Mt Division, and parent of a former Junior Team fencer. When not fencing, he is out on the water dragonboating or sailing, or at work as a product testing engineer for Country Home Products.
Ray Schuppe (Charlotte Level 1): Ray fences all three weapons and has embraced the sport fully after taking it up as an adult to get in shape. He is a nationally rated referee and tireless volunteer within the Green Mt Division (currently vice president). His daughter is a graduate of the Junior Team program. Ray works as an engineer at IBM.
Deb Hogan (Middlebury Level 2): Deb competes mainly in epee, and is also an experienced referee. She took up fencing a year or two after her sons started because it was more fun than waiting around for their class to finish. One of her sons was the first VFA fencer to earn an A (elite) rating. Deb and her husband operate a dairy farm.
Adam Glazer (Middlebury Level 1): Adam competes in epee, and came to it after studying martial arts when he was younger. He is a professional illustrator and graphic artist (which explains why the VFA has the coolest t-shirts!).
Thank you to all of my assistant coaches - we could never have a club this big, or this good, without you!
f. Class will end with you saluting your classmates and instructors to thank them for working with you. Then the real fun begins! By the second week, you will be ready to play a game that introduces you to some limited improvisation, and by the third week, you will learn the rules of foil and be ready to fence your first real bouts. I encourage you to stay after class and fence bouts with other club members. Don't worry about the score (in fact, I encourage you not to keep score most of the time), just try to apply the techniques you are learning against real opponents. Whether you can stay for just 5 minutes after class or all the way until closing time (9 p.m.), please do try to stay for a while and not just go home when the organized class ends.
g. If you are ever sick, out of town, etc and have to miss a class, I am happy to come in a few minutes early the following week to give you a quick catch up. Just remind me by email that you want to do that. It is also usually possible for you to make up a missed class in one location by attending in the other, but check in with me in advance to make sure I have enough equipment for you.
h. Finally, one of the best ways to become a good fencer is to watch good fencers. There are experienced fencers around the club bouting with eachother on Monday and Tuesday nights, and they don't mind your watching them and asking them questions. It's also interesting to attend a few tournaments as a spectator (and it may help you work up your nerve to participate in a tournament or two by the end of the season). The first tournament of the season is this Saturday, September 29, at UVM (indoor tennis courts, Patrick Gym building). The open foil finals should be taking place around noon, and the open epee finals around 5 p.m. (best guess). There are also events for unrated (i.e. less skilled) competitors.
4. ALL ABOUT LEVEL 2 AND 3 CLASSES
I often compare learning to fence to learning a foreign language. In Level 1, you acquire the basic vocabulary of movement. In Level 2, you learn to make sentences, and in Level 3, you learn to have a conversation with someone else. The first and last classes of each term in Level 2 are the same (learning to be a good training partner, and learning to referee), but the remaining classes run on a 2-term cycle (so winter classes will have some variety from fall). Level 2 foil and epee classes take place at the same time. Sometimes we do the same things with foil and epee and sometimes they are different. Level 2 students may choose either weapon, or go back and forth between them, whatever you enjoy most. While nearly everyone graduates from Level 1 after one term (with the occasional exception of very young students or those who missed a lot of classes), most students remain at Level 2 for a while (ranging from a couple of terms for adults and older teens, to several years for younger students). New this season: Level 2 fencers who are still at a pre-competitive stage (i.e. little or no tournament or electric fencing experience) will get a chance to try electric fencing during the middle weeks of the term. This will happen in small groups (2-4 fencers at a time), during open fencing time after class, using club equipment. I will let you know when it will be your turn to give it a try.
Level 3 classes take place on a separate night (Wednesdays in Middlebury and Thursdays in Charlotte), and are geared for the more advanced student who is interested in bouting and competition. These classes are by invitation. I am looking for students with competence in a range of skills, enough depth of understanding to serve as a good training partner in drills which require complex cue-giving, and the self-motivation, maturity, independence and focus to both contribute to the group and to get something out of it (this last one is why adults and older teens typically progress faster than younger kids). The Level 3 classes follow no set curriculum - I vary them from year to year depending on what I think the group needs to work on, sometimes returning to old sets of lessons after several years and sometimes introducing new ones. Level 3 classes are only offered in the fall and winter. I recommend newer Level 3 students attend both Level 2 and 3 classes weekly (the more you practice, the faster you'll get good and there is no extra charge for coming twice a week). Once you are invited into the Competitive Squad program, you may stop coming to Level 2 (except when you want to) and instead participate in Squaddie practice. I also recommend Level 3 students invest in electric equipment, as the majority of advanced fencers prefer to train with the same equipment they will be competing with.
This fall in Level 3, we will be extending some ideas I "beta tested" at the summer workshop in Middlebury. The theme will be deciding when to commit to a scoring action (lots of go/no-go drills).
All Level 2 and 3 fencers must renew their own USFA membership on line prior to their first practice, unless you either a. started fencing in Level 1 last spring, b. upgraded from noncompetitive to competitive status after April 1. If in doubt, check the membership list on the usfencing.org website and make sure your name is on it.
5. PRIVATE LESSONS
Private lessons are available for anyone who wants them, from newer fencers to experienced competitors (Level 1 students, you will each get a complimentary individual lesson with me toward the end of the term!). All lessons are 20 minutes long, and cost $20. To sign up for a lesson, please use this web page:
You may use this site to sign up for lessons with coaches Geoff Butler (all 3 weapons, with a specialization in epee), and Viveka Fox (foil and epee). Here are the available times and places for lessons:
Monday 7:45-9, 3 slots available for sign up, at Mary Hogan School
Tuesday 7:45-9, 3 slots, at Charlotte Central School
Friday, 7-9, 4 slots, at Vintage Fitness in Vergennes
Wednesday, 4:30-6, 3 slots, at Middlebury Union Middle School (until November, then tba)
Thursday, 4:30-6, 3 slots, at Charlotte Congregational Church (minimum is 2 students, if only 1 books, they will be rescheduled)
Note to parents: there is room at both MUMS and the Charlotte church for doing homework/reading/etc. If your child is taking Level 3 classes, and you want to drop them off for a 4:30 or 5 lesson time, I am happy to give a ride the short distance to evening practice when I go (so you could drop off in one location, and pick up at the end of evening practice in the other). Just let me know if this is needed.
Please read cancellation policy when booking a lesson.