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Introducing Benoit Bouysset

Coach Benoit holds up his new, official polo shirt.

Last night Houston Sword Sports welcomed a new member to our coaching staff and our ownership team. Benoit Bouysset, French Master (Maitre) and former coach of the US National Men’s Epee team, is now leading classes and giving lessons at Houston Sword Sports!

Benoit’s official title is Chief Development Officer, but his informal title is Chief Epee Officer (which Liz gladly ceded to him). Benoit will be working with us to develop our coach development program, our class curriculum, and our competitive fencing team.

Coach Development: We have always placed a strong emphasis on coach development, and with Benoit on the team we’ll be able to do an even better job. Our goal at Houston Sword Sports is to have a collaborative staff of qualified, knowledgeable coaches working together to build our fencers. We have been holding semi-regular coach training sessions where we discuss our club’s philosophy and approach to coaching. Benoit will take the helm on these sessions now. He’s especially qualified to do this because his Second Level Master of Arms degree emphasized coach development and training. In the next six months, we hope to offer coaching clinics to those outside our club.

Kids at the Kipling School practice squaring off on their first day of classes as Coach Benoit and Coach Caroline look on.

Class Curriculum: We already offer a lot of different programs to a lot of different types of fencers. Some of the afterschool programs are ten weeks and some are eighteen. In some schools, many of the kids have been fencing for over a year; in others, every single student is brand new to fencing. The evening and weekend classes are ongoing, and no two kids have the same level of experience. Coach Benoit will work with the coaching staff to ensure that each class has a curriculum that works for each setting and situation.

Competitive Fencing: This season, we have seen a number of our fencers enter the competitive scene for the first time, and others dedicate themselves to fencing in competitions more. Benoit will help support these fencers in their development. He will also provide more intensive private lessons to those who want to hone their skills one-on-one.

About Coach Benoit

Coach Benoit has an impressive resume. He earned his Master of Arms Degree in 1997 and was the valedictorian of his class; in 1999 he earned his Second Level Master of Arms Degree. He is a three-time world champion fencing master for individual and team epee. From 2011 to 2015 he was a resident coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, and from 2012-2015 he was the US National Coach for Men’s Epee. He also coached Seth Kelsey, the fourth place finisher, at the 2012 London Olympics. His energy and skill make him popular with fencers of all levels and he’s a great addition to our team.

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New Rules for the Coming Season

Know the Rules

Hey all, Dan here. This season sees two new rules for saber and the return of an old rule for foil. Here’s a quick rundown with a little commentary by me.

First the foil change:

Once up on a time, foilists had to keep their front shoulder in front and their back shoulder in back, until, maybe 10-12 years ago, the powers that be decided to let foilists reverse their shoulders like the other two weapons. Now the powers that be have decreed a return to days of yore, and starting post-Olympics (Congrats Team USA on 4 medals!) foilists shall no longer reverse their shoulders.

There is some concern as to what this will be in relation to, either the strip or the opponent, but the rationale is that when fencers turn, they can obscure whether they’re covering target with the non-weapon arm. With this reasoning, I imagine the rule will essentially be enforced with respect to the referee – that is, if the fencer has turned in such a way that the back arm could be used to cover target, the referee will be expected to give this card. Otherwise, I expect the card to only given when the fencer turns in relation to the opponent and strip. Reality may vary.

The impact on foil will mostly be in the in-fighting. Reversing shoulders is a quick and easy way to give a fencer enough space to use the blade, while denying the opponent the same chance. Unless a fencer is allowed to turn to face the opponent, in-fighting will become more difficult with a switch to behind the back touches and prime (one) with a jump riposte.

Saber, Part I – the Lockout

In 2004, the saber lockout (the time from when the first fencer hits until the time the second fencer is locked out from registering a hit) was decreased to 120 milliseconds. This turned out to be a bit extreme, and made it hard for many fencers to finish attacks or ripostes. It also led to more fencing with the tip of the blade and is blamed for the end of the counter-riposte in saber. The last critique might not be entirely fair.

Starting from August 1, the lockout time has been increased to 170ms to try to encourage the riposte and discourage counterattacks and remises. According to Scientific American[1], consciousness lags about 80ms behind reality, so don’t plan to do a whole lot with your newfound .05 second. We’ve been playing with this at Houston Sword Sports for about a month now, and I haven’t noticed much change in what I can get away with.

Saber, Part II – the Box of Death

A little history, I started fencing in 1990. At that time the preferred tactic was to fleche as soon as the referee said fence. After 2 simultaneous actions, we entered this weird priority system that I’m not explaining here. A couple years later, they experimented with having simultaneous attacks be a double touch. That went poorly. Then they took out the fleche. They have experimented with hyper-technical interpretations of hand and/or foot preparations. All this in order to get rid of the simultaneous attack off the line in saber.

The newest idea is an experiment by the FIE to start saber fencers with the rear foot on the en garde line. USA Fencing has adopted this rule for the experimental period. The theory behind the rule is that the new en garde line will make it dangerous to attack on the command fence (off the line). Since there’s no room for a preparation and easier to make an attack fall short, the fencers will be less likely to both attack off the line. This will make saber more varied and interesting.

The common issue raised with this is that a taller fencer will very nearly be able to hit an opponent without moving the feet on the command fence. My issue with this is that saber is an offensive weapon. In the short term, this will have the desired results, but I think as fencers figure out the game, it will return to the simultaneous actions off the line. It will still be easier to attack than to defend.

Anyway, those are our new rules for the season here in the US. Good luck to all of you, and let me know your thoughts on this.

[1] http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/time-on-the-brain-how-you-are-always-living-in-the-past-and-other-quirks-of-perception/

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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

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Happy birthday to us! Special Rates for January

We salute you, Houston Sword Sports members!

We salute you, Houston Sword Sports members!

One year ago, Houston Sword Sports held its first practice. It’s been a great year, and to celebrate we’re offering a discounted rate for all of our Bellaire Rec Center classes.

This special ends January 31st, don’t wait! Please contact Liz at Liz@HoustonSwords.com with any questions.