Summer Bulletin #1, July 2019

Hey fencers,

I hope everyone is having a great summer!

My big news is that I placed 3rd in Vet50 womens foil at Summer Nationals and made the team for Veteran World Championships. I didn't do very well in pools (couldn't seem to wake up, got impatient...those early morning starts are tough on we night owls), went 2-4 and seeded 21 (of 27) going into DEs. My first DE, with a solid C-rated lefty from Seattle, I finally hit my stride and won 10-5. In the round of 16, I faced the #5 seed, a tall and crafty fencer who is B rated in foil, but A rated (and ranked #1 in the country) in epee. I decided I would fence this like an epee bout, just with a smaller target. Lots of bouncing, bluffing, trying to get her to give me the blade. It was a super fun bout that went back and forth (including my first ever P card, but hey, you do what you gotta do), tied at 7 at the end of regulation time. She had priority going into overtime. I didn't rush, really focussed, and carefully maneuvered into distance for a perfect beat attack and a crucial win. In the round of 8, I defeated a C rated fencer who had been in my pool, 10-2. In the semifinal, I got crushed by the best competitor in my age group (an A-rated, former elite fencer and past vet world medalist, the #1 seed) - didn't help my arm was cramping, but really, I was outclassed and that was okay. I had done what I needed to do to be among the top 4 for the season in team points (team points are your best 2 out of 3 results at national point events). I am bragging about this partly to share with you the lesson that DEs are always a new beginning - you may get off to a slow start, but don't give up, you can turn your day around! I also participated in a veteran team event while I was in Columbus, teaming up with a few of the top Vet60 women to take 3rd place, so I came home with 2 medals.

So, I am going to Cairo, Egypt in October. It's going to be an expensive trip, so I have set up a GoFundMe site to help out. I am accepting small donations, of up to $25, from anyone who has enough to share and would take pleasure in helping their old coach get to Vet Worlds. I had a stroke of good luck in giving up my seat on an overbooked flight on my way home from Columbus, and received $1000 from the airline, so that certainly helps! The GoFundMe page is here:

Because I am going to disappear for a week in October, I am only going to run two preseason work-outs in each location, and jump start the fall Level 3 classes. Here is my tentative plan for September: Free preseason practices for all returning fencers - Sept 11 and 16 in Middlebury, Sept 12 and 17 in Charlotte
Level 3 classes start Sept 18 and 19
Level 1/2 classes start Sept 23 and 24
I will know more details once my flights are booked, and also once fall dates are confirmed with the schools.

I am looking forward to seeing some of you in a couple of weeks, for the annual summer clinic in Middlebury, July 26-28! I still have room for a few more fencers, especially in the foil group, and it's not too late to join. If you want to participate, please contact me directly by this coming Thursday at the latest. Reminder, the clinic is open to all teen and adult fencers, plus 11-12 year olds with at least 2 years experience, and features guest coach Gilbert Gelinas from Montreal.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Summer Bulletin #2, August 2019

I hope everyone is having a great summer. The new fencing season is just around the corner! Read on for lots of news and information.

Every year, I open the season with several free workouts in each location for returning fencers - my gift to the club. The purpose of these practices is to brush off the rust, get back in shape, and tune up our basic technique. We will do a lot of footwork and conditioning, drills, some games, and a little non-electric bouting. I like starting the season with the entire club working out together, from the least experienced students who just started fencing in the spring, to the most battle-hardened veterans, all ages, and all weapons (well foil and epee at least...if you want to do sabre, you'll need to make sure you have a partner coming). This year we will have only 2 pre-season practices in each location, in order to start Level 3 classes early, as I will be missing a week and a half for my trip to Cairo. I encourage everyone to participate in one or both of the start up practices. All of them will take place 7-9 p.m., on Sept 11 and 16 in Middlebury (Mary Hogan School), and on Sept. 12 and 17 in Charlotte. Have I mentioned these practices are FREE?

As our income from the winter fund drive seems to have waned over the past few years, with fewer club members actively involved in fundraising, it is necessary to raise club dues for the first time in many years. Dues will remain the same for Level 1 and 2 students ($10 per term, or $25 prepaid in September for all 3 terms), but will go up for Level 3 and Competitive Squad fencers, to $20 per term or $50 prepaid in September for the full season. We will still need to hold the winter fund drive leading up to the Middlebury Open, and I hope more club members will actively help with finding sponsors and selling raffle tickets, so that dues do not have to go up again next season. Note that this is not a plea for those of you wonderful people who always contribute to the fund drive to do more - it's a plea for more people to help make the fund drive successful.

Class fees will remain the same: $100 prepaid per term, or, for Level 2 and 3 students with their own equipment, you can buy a punch card ($120 for 10 classes, or $65 for 5).

The company which offers clubs insurance through the USFA requires that ALL club members (regardless of age or competitive status) be USFA members. The USFA offers an affordable "non-competitive membership" for $10 per season. The VFA needs this insurance in order to be allowed to fence in all the school buildings we use.
-If you joined the USFA for the first time after April 1, you are already a member and don't need to do anything (this applies to spring beginners who got a noncompetitive membership in April, as well as those who joined as competitive members for the first time last spring). Not sure if you are a current member? Check the listing here:
Select "Green Mountain" for division, wait for the screen to refresh and look for your name. If you are not on this list, your membership needs to be renewed.
-Please, please, me a lot of paperwork and hassle, and renew your USFA membership online prior to the first practice you attend (this includes the pre-season practices!). Have I mentioned that you are REQUIRED to be a member even to practice? You may choose either a competitive membership ($75) or noncompetitive ($10), depending on your needs. Youth fencers (born 2007 or later) who plan to only compete in the GMD youth series, and recreational fencers who do not plan to compete this season, may use the noncompetitive membership. Any teen or adult fencer who plans to compete in Champlain Cup tournaments this season needs a full competitive membership. Non-competitive memberships can be upgraded to competitive membership at any time by paying the additional $65.

How to join the USFA on line: Go to Right under the USA Fencing banner you will see several options, including membership. Click on that. Then click on "Individuals" from the left side bar. Click small red link that says "join, renew and print your membership card". If you are a returning/renewing member, you will need to log in (there is a password reset option if you forgot your password - as long as you use the same e-mail address the USFA has on file for you. If that doesn't work, you'll have to call them). If you are a first time member, click where it says "Register" and follow instructions to create a new account. Once you have renewed your membership, print out your receipt as proof of membership. The USFA no longer sends out plastic membership cards.

Beginning the week of Sept. 23, we will split into groups by weapon and skill level and begin the full schedule for fall term. Here is the tentative schedule (pending approval from the schools):

Mondays, Mary Hogan School, September 23-December 9
6:30-8 p.m. Level 1 (beginner) foil/Level 2 foil and epee classes
6:30-9 pm: Competitive Squad practice, open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

Wednesdays, Location TBA
4:30-6 p.m private lessons with Viveka, by appointment (minimum 2 students must be signed up to offer this each week)

Wednesdays, Mary Hogan School, September 28-December 11
6:30-7 p.m. warm-up, conditioning and footwork
7-8 pm Level 3 (advanced) foil and epee classes.
8-9 pm Open fencing

Tuesdays, Charlotte Central School, September 24-December 10
6:30-8 p.m. Level 1 (beginner) foil/Level 2 foil and epee classes
6:30-9 pm: Competitive Squad practice, open fencing, private lessons with Geoff (by appointment)

Thursdays, Charlotte Congregational Church
4:30-6 p.m private lesson with Viveka, by appointment (minimum 2 students must be signed up to offer this each week)

Thursdays, Charlotte Central School, September 19-December 12
6:30-7 p.m. warm-up, conditioning and footwork
7-8 pm Level 3 (advanced) foil and epee classes.
8-9 pm Open fencing

I will be in Cairo for Veteran World Championships, from Oct 3 through Oct 11. Here is a tentative plan for that week:
Wed Oct 2: No Level 3 class, open fencing session in Middlebury (come help me get in a last practice before my trip!)
Thurs Oct 3: No Level 3 class, possible open fencing session in Charlotte if enough fencers want it and one of the adults is willing to take charge
Mon Oct 7 and Tues Oct 8: Level 1/2 classes with guest instructors (Geoff, Deb, Adam, Don, Ray etc), open fencing but probably no organized Competitive Squad practice (if Geoff is teaching the L1/2 class)
Wed Oct 9 and Thurs Oct 10: No fencing (these classes will be made up in December)

Speaking of my trip to Veteran Worlds, my GoFundMe page is still live for anyone who wants to make a small contribution toward my expenses (no more than $25 per person please). Here is the link:
Many thanks to those who have already contributed!

No classes Nov 25-28 (Thanksgiving week). Any cancellations will be made up Dec 9-12. Holiday break Dec. 13-Jan 5. Winter term starts Jan. 6

Now is the time to spread the word about fencing to any friends who may be interested in joining the club. For every friend you recruit to the club, you get $5 off your own class fees. Please direct your friends to our website ( note: .org NOT .com) and/or have them get in touch with me. The VFA grows mainly by word of mouth.

The VFA Competitive Squad program is open by invitation to motivated teen and adult fencers who have completed at least a season of Level 3 classes. The squad is a core group (a Varsity Team if you will) of enthusiastic experienced fencers who are ready and eager to take their fencing to the next level. Geoff Butler will once again be running CS training sessions on Monday and Tuesday evenings, especially to teach the habits of successful competitors such as goal-setting and mindful practice.

Squaddies will pay the usual club dues and $100 per term class fees (no extra charges beyond optional private lessons). Squaddies must be competitive USFA members.

Are you interested in being part of this season's Competitive Squad? Whether you are a new squad member or returning from last year, please let me know.

If you are a returning fencer who plans to rent equipment for this fall, please let me know as soon as possible, as I am about to start registering new Level 1 students. Rental equipment is first come-first served, as is not automatically reserved from term to term. You may use rental equipment for preseason practices (see #1 above) but I need to know several days in advance that you need it and that you are planning to come.

I encourage all students to buy your own basic equipment as soon as you know you will be continuing with fencing and can afford it (mask, jacket, glove, underarm protector and weapon, plus breast protector for women). Not only do you free up rental gear for new club members, but you can get things you want (like a front zip jacket or pistol grip weapon), don't have to share with anyone, and can do a better job of keeping it clean than I do. You will save by purchasing your equipment as a set rather than picking it up piece by piece. I would recommend ordering on-line from Absolute Fencing in New Jersey ( They are very fast in filling orders and have reasonable prices. A starter set from Absolute costs about $120 to $160, depending on what you get (but remember, you save $20 per term in rental costs). You can find advice on ordering your first set of equipment here:

If you will be joining Level 3 classes for the first time this fall (by invitation), you will definitely need your own basic equipment. I also strongly recommend electric equipment for Level 3, as most of the fencers in Level 3 very much prefer practice bouting with electric. You can find advice on ordering electric equipment in the same post as the link above. Competitive Squad fencers must own a full competition set of electric equipment (including spare weapon and body cord).

Attention competitive teen and adult foil fencers: For USFA sanctioned tournaments, all plastic chest protectors must be covered with an FIE approved padding (this is to correct a longstanding problem with foil tips bouncing off the hard plastic without registering the hit). Absolute Fencing sells a padding kit for $21, which easily attaches using sticky-backed velcro. Also, foil masks must include an electric bib and mask cord. Absolute sells a sew-on bib you can use to convert an epee mask to an electric foil mask.

The 2019 Fall Foliage Classic will take place at UVM on Sept. 28, with mixed Open and single-gender Unrated events. Full information and to register:

New to using the AskFRED website to register for tournaments? Instructions are here:

Relatively new to fencing, never competed before? The Champlain Cup is Vermont's fun and friendly fencing league. Particpants earn a point each time they enter an event, plus bonus points for high placement, depending on the type of tournament and the strength of the field. Trophies are awarded at the end of the season (in May) for the top 3 fencers in foil, epee and sabre, the best veteran fencer (age 40+), the best youth fencer (age 12-), and, especially to encourage new competitors, the Rookie of the Year (a fencer with under 2 years total experience, first full season in the league). You do not have to be a cut-throat competitor to enjoy our fencing tournaments. I encourage everyone to participate in order to meet fencers from other clubs. Learning to evaluate and fence unfamiliar opponents is an important part of learning to fence, and you don't get that experience just by fencing the same few buddies in your own club. Among the events we sponsor are those especially for kids (children born 2007 or later are restricted to events designated Y12-they can not enter teen and adult events) and those especially for inexperienced competitors (designated "Unrated" or "E"). There will be U events at the very first tournament of the season! Keep an eye on future VFA bulletins for information about upcoming tournaments and get in on the Champlain Cup fun!