, ,

Zombie Fencing: Aim for the Head

Some weapons are more effective for fighting zombies than others.

At Houston Sword Sports we provide a number of different types of events. This weekend we organized a Zombie Defense Class for Pariveda Solutions, an IT company with an office in Houston. These guys are ready for a zombie apocalypse now, provided the zombies also advance and retreat. Check out the gallery below to see what we did.

Several of the participants are also in an Indian dance group, so we got treated to a show at the end.


Check out our new site!

We have been hard at work behind the scenes to get our new website up and running. We have a new domain – HoustonSwords.com – but don’t worry, HoustonSwordSports.com will still work!

We got a lot of compliments on our old website and we were pretty happy with it, too. Our biggest problem with the old website was that our side of things was really clunky and inflexible. While most of the pages worked just fine, there were a few things we couldn’t do easily (if at all). The new theme is really easy to use and change, so we can customize things as much as we want. Our goal is to have a really cool-looking site where all the information you need is easy to find. If you see anything we could do to improve, let us know!

We got a second URL for a couple of reasons. @HoustonSwords is our handle for a few different social media sites, so having HoustonSwords.com as our domain unifies things a little. The other reason is that HoustonSwordSports.com is really long. Now we can use bigger fonts on our flyers!

We are slowly moving to the HoustonSwords.com domain for email. All the old emails still work, but if you want to contact Liz, Dan, or both of us you can use Liz@/Dan@/Info@ respectively.

Great big thanks are due to our own Caroline, who did most of the heavy lifting on the theme change, and Stephanie Evans, who provided invaluable advice and those cool red lines in the menus. Contact either of them if you are looking to get a sweet website like ours sometime soon.

Finally, for laughs, here are some mockups I made to show Caroline what I wanted in the website. I can’t read my handwriting either.

A very early version of the homepage. My response: Move All the Things!

A very early version of the homepage. My response: Move All the Things!

Liz's terrible mockup for the about us page

Liz’s terrible mockup for the about us page

Liz's terrible mockup for the Learn to Fence page

Liz’s terrible mockup for the Learn to Fence page

, ,

Referee Stories


Hi, Coach Dan again. Last week I talked about my descent into madness becoming a referee. Today, I wanted to share a couple anecdotes that I think may amuse you.

So I reffed around the Southwest Section (Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana primarily) for a few years and started getting a little recognition as a decent referee. This happened maybe 1998 or so at the Poujardieu Memorial held at (then) Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. I was refereeing a semi-final match between two fencers we’ll call Joe and Lou[1] who have a little bit of a history – which is to say Joe generally beats Lou, and Lou doesn’t like it.

Regardless, Joe was winning 14-13 and Lou was methodically working his way down the strip after him. Joe threw out a point in line to slow the advance, Lou beat it and took a step forward, Joe threw a second line, and Lou started an advance lunge that hit Joe. I said the second line was established in time, Lou took exception and after some debate punted his mask to the other end of the gym. It was a beautiful kick. Probably traveled 75 feet in the air with lots of hang time.

Anyway, there’s 4 levels of penalties in fencing, creatively named Group 1, 2, 3, and 4. Group 1 is minor things, Group 4 is the things that get you kicked out. Things like punting a mask 75 feet. So I gave Lou his black card. Then, Lou realized that he could have earned a better rating if he hadn’t punted that mask, and he followed me around the rest of the day saying aw, geez, he was sorry, couldn’t I please change my mind. I didn’t; his rating did not increase that day.

Second story, a few years later I’m reffing another semi-final bout, this time in Oklahoma. The bout was between Sam, a former Olympic and World Cup fencer, and Ned, a promising junior fencer[2]. The bout wasn’t really that close, but at some point an action happens and words start coming out of my mouth describing it. I wasn’t even close. Exactly wrong, one might say. And I knew it as soon as I said it, that I had mistakenly given Sam’s touch to Ned. So did everyone watching it. So Sam lifted his mask, pantomimed Ned’s action, and asked if I was calling that an attack. I replied I guess I just did. Sam stared at me a couple seconds, came back en garde, and proceeded to finish beating Ned.

Both times I made a call, one right, the other wrong. Both times I stuck to my call because if referees start changing calls, it becomes a debate tournament. It’s not always easy to make snap decisions that affect the outcome of tournaments, people can take those things personally – I know I have as a fencer and a coach. But it’s an important job to the smooth running of a tournament and with practice the referee helps a lot of people have a pretty good time. Unless you black card them – no one likes that.

[1] Standard not name disclaimer

[2] Same deal on the names

, ,

How I Became a Referee


Dan Reffing at the Robert Reed Benefit Tournament

Hi I’m Dan, I coach here, and I’ve been known to referee the occasional tournament.

When I started fencing, most collegiate tournaments that I attended had dedicated referees, while most local USA Fencing tournaments were refereed by other fencers. Generally, fencers would have a pretty good idea who was at the tournament and consensus would determine who refereed which bouts. Occasionally (usually when the stronger referees fenced each other), fencers would find themselves at the mercy of a ref with no understanding of the phrase. This rarely ended well.

After fencing a few years, I became one of the fencers asked to referee matches in my events. It wasn’t the most fun aspect of my life, but it was better than a sharp stick in the eye. In 1995, my then fiancée, now wife, and I moved to Texas and started traveling to tournaments with the Texas A&M Fencing Club. Since I was at the tournaments all weekend, but only fencing saber, I started refereeing the foil and epee events in return for food, my saber entry, and sometimes a little cash.

Midway through 1996, I signed up to referee at Summer Nationals. I tested, was observed, and refereed my first national event in July 1996. It was an eye-opening experience for which I was not as prepared as I thought. Pro tip, some people take their fencing incredibly seriously and insist on Olympic caliber refereeing at all times. Caveat, this is not correlated with their understanding of fencing, or what constitutes Olympic caliber refereeing.[1] Still, I came away rated 5 in foil and epee (first round of a top level national event), and a year later added a 5 in saber to my list.

I continued to referee at the occasional national event next 8 years, along with a steady list of local and regional events. I became fairly popular with most of the better area fencers, amassed a small arsenal of stories, saw a large body of fencers grow from noob to elite, and eventually disappeared from the refereeing scene as my coaching duties took more and more of my time.

Refereeing is a great way to subsidize a fencing habit, but hard work. Be prepared for verbal abuse, long hours, and a shocking level of work. Still, it will give you an appreciation of fencing actions that is hard to get otherwise, and an insight into the groundwork behind different schools of thought.

[1] Like toddlers thinking fair means getting their way, many fencers equate quality refereeing with getting the touch.

Interested in becoming a referee? Dan didn’t scare you away? Sign up for Coastal Bend Fencing Society’s referee clinic on July 9!