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New, Permanent Houston Sword Sports Location at The Zone!

Fencing at the first practice we held in our new location.

If you’ve been following our Facebook, you’ll know that for the past couple of months we’ve been working on building out a new permanent location for Houston Sword Sports. It’s not fully done yet, but it’s done enough – we started holding classes there on Saturday! Today, Monday, April 17, most of our class schedule will move to the new location for good.

Here’s the schedule at the new place:

We will still have Tuesday classes at the Bellaire Rec Center! Youth Fencing, Tuesdays from 6-7, will stay the same as it has been. We will also have a class for adult and teen beginners from 7:30-9, taking the place of the old class. If you are an experienced fencer over 18 who likes to fence on Tuesdays, come to the Zone. If you are new to fencing and over 13, come to the Bellaire Rec on Tuesdays. Confused? Just email Liz@HoustonSwords.com and she’ll set you up.

Why we’re excited

We get to set our own schedule. For the rest of the spring we’ll keep basically the same schedule, because we know you have set aside specific times for you or your kid to fence. But when we are ready to set our own schedule, we don’t have to work around room availability at all.

We have a lot more space. We don’t have all the scoring machines set up yet but we do have eight strips, as opposed to the maximum of four before. The strip lines are painted on the floor, so now we can enforce rules about staying on strip! We’ll have room to do private lessons during classes. Folks also have room for their bags.

We have a permanent place to store gear that isn’t Coach Liz’s garage. In between classes, we can hang up the gear to let it air out. In the bad old days (last week) everything went into a bag for at least an hour or two before we hung it up. You’ll smell the difference.

Most – not all – of the equipment. Swords not shown.

What’s still to come

A nice entryway. Our raised plywood floor presents some challenges, so we’re going to make sure that the entryway looks nice and allows people with bags and in wheelchairs easy access. We saved the entryway for last so we’d have somewhere to play with saws and polyurethane without having to protect any floor we planned to keep.

Overhead reels, more scoring machines, repeater lights. We’ll be able to run eight strips all at once. It’ll be a little snug but better than waiting on the sidelines for a strip to open up!

More furniture. We are still assembling everything we need, especially for the office, coaches’ lounge, and armory. We also need benches and other seating, shelves for gear storage, and a counter for the reception area.

More branding. Ordered big stickers with our logo today! We need a directional sign for the street and some signs for inside The Zone, too.

Building this club has been a labor of love. It’s a lot of work, but now the payoff is here. Come see us! Register on our Classes page today!

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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.

What we’re thankful for

turkey-clipart

It’s Thanksgiving week, and at Houston Sword Sports we have a lot to be thankful for! Here’s a cheesy little blog post to get you in the mood for stuffing your face.

I’m thankful that fencing burns calories

One hour of fencing=one slice of pumpkin pie. Approximately. Don’t quote me on that.

I’m thankful for hilarious fencing moments

Especially the ones we capture on video and post to Instagram and Facebook.

I’m thankful that we’re celebrating locally this year

In years past, Thanksgiving week involved hours of driving to see everyone we needed to see. Staying close to Houston for Thanksgiving means we can hold classes all the way up to Wednesday. We’re still taking Saturday off though (turkey coma, zzzzzz).

I’m thankful for our coaches

HSS has grown well beyond where we started two years ago. We rely on our coaching staff every day (except Sunday… for now) to bring the very best fencing experience to our members.

I’m thankful for our fencers

You guys are what keep us going! Thanks for showing up, thanks for helping us out, thanks for cheering us on.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! What are you thankful for?

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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/