VFA Bulletin
October 10, 2022

1. This week's practices (Charlotte Fencers note venue change)
Reminder: the Charlotte Level 1 class and Competitive Squad will meet this Tuesday Oct 11 in the Vermont Commons School's new gym. This is for one day only as CCS is closed. We will be back at CCS on Thursday. Address for Tuesday is 55 Green Mt Drive (up the hill behind Heritage Toyota, off of Shelburne Road). This is a former commercial building (so kind of nondescript, with no signage), next door to (south of) the main VCS classroom building. It has its own parking lot. Please bring clean dry sneakers or fencing shoes to change in to, so we can leave the gym floor as clean as we found it. Remove street shoes before entering the gym.

About half the Charlotte Level 1 class, plus one person in Middlebury, missed class last week. If you miss a Level 1 class, please come 15 minutes early the following week, and I will quickly show you what you missed. Level 2/3 classes are cyclical rather than progressive, so no need to catch up if you miss one.

Toward the end of Level 1 classes this week, we will formally go over the rules of foil fencing. I invite parents of youth and teen fencers to listen in, so you understand what is going on when you watch your kid fence.

Looking to practice your footwork at home? At the very start of the pandemic, I made a couple of video workouts you can do using a ball on a string. Since so many club members have joined since then, I thought I would give you the links again. Plus you get to meet my cats!
Cat Toy Fencing Drills #1 (suitable for newbies)
Cat Toy Fencing Drills #2 (more advanced)

2.Fall Foliage Open this weekend - sign up by midnight today to avoid late fees
The 2022-23 Champlain Cup season opens this Saturday, October 15 with the first of ten Green Mt Division tournaments planned between now and the end of May. It's not too late to sign up (and we especially really need more foil fencers....). If you register on AskFRED by midnight tonight (Monday, Oct 10) you will avoid a $15 late registration fee. After that, you can still come (you can even walk in if it's a larger event and not in danger of being cancelled), but you pay $15 more. As there is no penalty for withdrawing if you need to (fees are collected at the door), and it's super helpful to those of us organizing the tournament, why wait? If you think you want to participate, but are not 100% certain, I would sign up today, just in case (and take your name off the list later if you can't make it).

Fall Foliage Open and Veteran Tournament
Saturday Oct 15, Mary Hogan School, Middlebury
Event schedule:
10 a.m Open (aka Senior Mixed) Epee
10 a.m Veterans Foil (note: in danger of cancellation due to low numbers)
12 p.m Open Saber (note: in danger of cancellation due to low numbers)
1:30 pm Open (aka Senior Mixed) Foil
1:30 pm Veterans Epee

Open events are open to all fencers born 2009 or before.
Veterans events are open to fencers born 1983 or before

Spectators are welcome free of charge (especially you Level 1 students - come check it out!)

All events require either Access or Competitive level US Fencing membership. If you currently have a Noncompetitive membership, you may upgrade before the tournament by paying the difference in price (so $10 additional for Access, which allows you to participate in divisional-level tournaments only, and is an affordable place to start). Make the upgrade on line (usafencing.org, click on "membership") or over the phone (719-866-4511). Do it right away, to make sure it goes through. We can not do it for you on tournament day. Not sure what kind of membership you have? You can check the list by going to usafencing.org, clicking "membership", selecting "current member list", selecting "Green Mt Division" and looking for your name.

Entry fees: $20 if you are fencing in one event, plus $10 per additional event (so $30 if you are fencing in 2 events). Plus the $15 late fee if you don't sign up by the end of today. Pay with a check payable to VFA, or bring exact change.
Always arrive at least 30 minutes before your event starts (more if you prefer a longer warm up).

Loaner electric equipment is provided free of charge to VFA members who need it. This is intended mainly for newer competitors. If you are an experienced competitor, please inspect and repair your weapons and body cords this week so that they are ready.
As this is a sanctioned event, all fencers must wear standard uniform, including plastron (aka underarm protector) and fencing pants. For foilists who use a plastic chest plate, the plate must have the soft padding on it (you can buy stick-on padding to convert an epee chest plate for foil use).
Need some fencing pants? Adam Glazer has a brand new pair, mens size 38, for sale (a little too big for him). Let me know if you want to get in touch with him about those. In addition, I have a donated used pair, simply marked "mens L" - ask if you want me to bring them for you to try on.

To register (by 10/10 to avoid late fee!), get directions and see who else is coming:

Instructions for creating an account and using AskFRED:

Find you need to withdraw after signing up (you know the drill: please do not come if you are sick, or had a recent close contact with covid): Log in to AskFRED, click on "My FRED" and "My Tournaments". You will see a list of events you are signed up for, with a red X next to each. Click that X to take your name off the list. Having trouble doing this? Email me and I can do it for you.

As of today, we have 31 fencers signed up for Open Epee, and a potential exciting A2 event (ratings awarded down to 12th place - see #3 below for more info). We also have 10 fencers signed up for Veterans Epee, enough to hold a fun event although below the 15 fencer threshhold needed for new ratings to be likely. We have 5 signed up for Open Saber (all from out of state, most of them also fencing epee), so that one may be cancelled, but I'll leave registration open a few more days.

For Open Foil, we have 15 fencers signed up, and a potential C1 event (ratings awarded to 8th place). But if even one person withdraws (and really, someone always does), we fall below the magic number of 15 for a rated event. So we really need you VFA foilists to sign up and participate. I'm especially looking at you, unrated fencers and 2009 babies who just aged up out of Youth events! Of the 15 fencers currently signed up, 10 are E or Unrated. So I am not lining you up just to be cannon fodder for high rated fencers - I really think this will be an enjoyable and fun event for unrated fencers! And those higher rated fencers? They will be glad you are there (and may even show their gratitude by coaching you a little and helping you have a good learning experience....).
For Veteran Foil, only 4 have signed up (and one of them also signed up for Open Epee and will have to choose), so sadly, it's looking likely that we will cancel this event (my favorite event, too). But I will leave registration open a few more days in case any other veteran foil fencers sign up.

This is going to be my mantra all season: Tournaments do not just magically happen. Nor does your money go toward paying people to make them happen. Your entry fees cover the cost of renting the gym and buying supplies, and that's about it. All of the organizers, meet managers and refs are volunteers. The best way to thank them? a. sign up, show up and participate, b. pay it forward - get involved as soon as possible by volunteering to help.
Thank you to Karen, John, Michele, and Genevieve who have already volunteered as meet managers. They are all experienced meet managers, which means we have a perfect opportunity for some trainees to work alongside them and learn how to do it. This is a great job for a parent or partner of a fencer, or someone who is only fencing in one event (for example, volunteer in the morning and fence in the afternoon).
I would like all VFA epee fencers who are competing in the morning Open Epee to arrive at 8:30 to help set up (and by "all" I mean the 3 of you, Ciaran, Indy and Adam). I would like all VFA foil fencers who are competing in the afternoon Open Foil to stay until the event is finished and help clean up (best guess, around 5:30 pm, but could be later - or earlier)
Please please please....don't assume that the same people are going to volunteer tournament after tournament, year after year. Step up and do your part. We are a do-it-yourself, volunteer driven fencing community! Years ago, one wag joked that our division motto ought to be "Here's your medal. Now help clean up!". That's pretty much how we roll, and how we keep tournaments affordable and even possible in Vermont.

3. What is a rating and how do I earn one?
Fencers are seeded into competitions using rankings called "ratings". These are like the rankings in chess (Grandmaster etc), based on previous competitive success, rather than like the rankings in karate (black belt etc) which are based on passing a skills test. The ratings range from E (the lowest) to A (elite level), with the majority of fencers being Unrated (U) because that is where everyone starts. You can earn an E rating by winning a small local event of 6-14 fencers, placing 2nd or 3rd in an event of 15+ that has at least 4 E-rated fencers in it to start, all the way up to placing 48th in a large regional or national event with 64+ fencers and at least 12 As, 12 Bs and 12 Cs. You can see the entire chart of what ratings can be earned in what tournaments here:

So, when we say that our Fall Foliage Open has a potential C1 foil event, that means that 15 or more fencers have signed up, including at least 2 C or higher, 2 D or higher and 2 E or higher. But we won't know what ratings will be actually awarded until the tournament happens. If attendance falls below 15 fencers due to no-shows/cancellations, it becomes an E1 event. If there are 15+, but the top 8 finishers do not include at least 2 C and 2 D rated fencers, it becomes a D1 event. So you never know for sure until the tournament is over.

Ratings may only be earned a USFA sanctioned events (all competitors are Access or Competitive members, age 13+). Ratings can not be earned at youth (age 12-) events, except the occasional regional or national event where all fencers are Competitive USFA members and the tournament is a C1 or higher level.

Some tournaments are restricted to lower rated fencers, to give them the fun of fencing each other and a shot at earning an E or D rating. If you are a newbie, you might particularly enjoy our local U and E-Under events (first one in November!). At large regional and national events, Div3 indicates it is open to U, E and D fencers, while Div1 is open to C, B, and A fencers.

If you look at a list of registered fencers for a particular tournament, you will notice that their letter rating has a year beside it. That indicates the most recent year they earned or re-earned that rating. If you do not re-earn your rating within 4 years, it goes down by one (for example, my epee rating went from C2018 to D2022 this season).

This letter rating system is for the USA only. Other countries have their own ranking systems (Canada also uses letters, but has different rules for earning them). Foreign fencers (like our frequent Canadian guests) may earn US ratings when they come here to compete. For international competitions (like World Championships, Grand Prix or the Olympics) fencers are seeded according to international ranking points.

Ratings are benchmarks of progress, and fencers take great pride in earning them. But they are not the be-all and end-all of fencing. Lower rated fencers can, and frequently do, defeat those with higher ratings (if they didn't, no-one would ever move up the ladder). So never count yourself out just because your opponent has a higher rating than you. Personally, I prefer to not even know the other fencers' ratings until the tournament is over! Also keep in mind, in our small community where all ages and genders fence together most of the time, a 20 year old man will likely earn ratings faster than a 60 year old woman, just due to the natural difference in athletic ability. Similarly, someone who has the opportunity to train 5 days a week, with regular private lessons, is going to move up the ratings ladder faster than someone who can only practice once or twice a week and/or only in a group setting. Your rating alone does not reflect your experience, knowledge or value to the fencing community.

4. Fencing in Montreal - a report from Rick Davis
"Don’t fence, faites l'escrime! (Or something like that. What little French I knew has faded and it never included fencing terminology.) During the VFA-less summer months I needed a fencing fix. With fewer COVID-related travel restrictions and Montreal only 90 minutes away from my house, it seemed reasonable to explore options north of the border. Information is available but not entirely easy to find, so here’s a brief guide.

First of all, virtually no Canadian events are listed on askfred.net. Dang. There are 13 pages of Canadian clubs, but there’s no way I know to sort by location. Keep reading …

The Canadian Fencing Federation is the national governing body — like USA Fencing is for the States. Their website is www.fencing.ca but don’t get your hopes up. The only upcoming event listed is the Canada Cup #1, later this month, in Vancouver. The provincial associations are listed but not clickable so you’ll have to find the URLs on your own. Some cool merch, though. Onward …

Fédération d’escrime du Québec is the provincial association (www.escrimequebec.qc.ca). Their website is way more useful than the CFF’s even though it’s only in French. C’est la vie. Mostly, it’s pretty easy to navigate — click on “Clubs” and you get options to find a club by locale. Website (if there is one), email, phone, and more information is given about each club. Or, click on Compétitions, then on Calendrier des Compétitions and up pops a list of tournaments and other events in Quebec, as well as national level tournaments in other provinces (and the US). Unlike askfred.net, you can’t register and pay through the site. But phone numbers and/or emails are given so you can pursue anything of interest.

By the way, with the exception of the FEQ website, bilingualism seems to be the new norm. Without exception, club and federation officials made communication easy. Most of the fencers I have encountered were bilingual. The antagonism of the 1970’s seems to have dissipated.

So … from the list of FEQ clubs, I got in touch with Escrime Mont-Royal. They welcome non-members to their open bouting sessions and were friendly and easy to deal with. They’re also right off autoroute 15 and only one long block from a superb boulangerie. I’ve attended several of their open foil sessions (Monday and Wednesday evening, Saturday 12-2) and participated in a couple of group lessons. I joined but it’s not required for the open sessions. Private lessons can be arranged. The group was welcoming and highly competitive. There are three grounded strips but fencers rotated through pretty quickly, like a well-run pool. I think most competitive squad members would be challenged and have fun at these sessions. Epee open sessions are Tuesday and Thursday evening, Sunday 12-2. There are also open sessions and lessons available for parafencing and smallsword. Hmmm, smallsword.

And then I attended the Terre des Hommes regional competition. A little difficult to register through the FEQ website but I managed. The event was pretty large (20 strips, most in use most of the time), in a very nice facility, and well-managed. Events started on time, refs were very good (with one exception who couldn’t tell a parry-riposte from a poutine-and-Pepsi and cost me a well-fenced pool bout). All announcements were in French but it didn’t matter since no one can understand PA system announcements anyway. The fencers and officials were all great at getting me to the right place at the right time. I got lots of props for coming from Vermont but just among the veterans there were fencers from much farther away, including Baffin Island! Very cool. I definitely plan to go to future FEQ competitions.

Any fencers interested in carpooling to future events and/or foil sessions at Escrime Mont-Royal, get in touch with me! Vive la belle province!"

Addendum: I asked Rick about registering for Canadian tournaments with a US Fencing competitive membership (note: Canada does not have the equivalent of our new Access memberships. If you want to fence in Canadian tournaments, you will need to upgrade to Competitive). Rick's answer:

"Down another dark and convoluted rabbit hole!
When I registered for Terre Des Hommes, it asked for a CFF number. Somewhere I found a statement that foreign fencers had to be licensed by their home country as specified in CFF regulations. Said regulations were nowhere to be found. Probably in a recycle bin in Toronto. So I registered using my USFA number and noted that it was USFA and not CFF. All seemed well. When I went to check in, I wasn’t on the list. A little investigation showed that I had tried to register, but the person in the office couldn’t process the registration since my number didn’t begin with “C”. Later, one of the other fencers told me that this kind of thing happens a lot. There was a little kerfluffle when they wanted to charge me 3X fees (in cash!) for last-minute registration. I suggested that since it was their fault, they really ought to be generous, which they were and only charged the original, low rate. That’s why you arrive early. "