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Four Years with HSS: 2018 in review

Another year has come and gone, and now we are celebrating the fourth birthday of Houston Sword Sports. It’s been a busy year with a lot of growth, and we are so proud of the work the club has accomplished. Take a look back with us at 2018, as we look forward to even more great stuff in 2019!

A quick overview

This year we added four new after-school programs: Saint Mary of the Purification Catholic School, Saint Cecilia Catholic School, The Post Oak School, and Mark Twain Elementary. We had four coaches go on to bigger and better things: Lauren Baker, Evan Register, Michael Dudey, and Caroline Dikibo. We also hired four new coaches: Brian Toffelmire, Julia Fowler, Hayley Gillen, and Nick Negron. We hosted six tournaments – twice as many as we hosted in 2017. Our fencers also attended more tournaments and traveled farther than they had before. Our classes and membership numbers are growing. Here are just some of our adventures from 2018.

January 27: Fencing with the Girl Scouts

Coach Liz and Coach Caroline brought fencing to the Girl Scouts at Camp Agnes Arnold. Be prepared to lunge!

February 17: Third Annual Brash Brewery Bash

Brash foilists

The third Houston Sword Sports Brash Invitational was a blast. Raise your hand if you had fun!

March 17-18: St. Patrick’s Day Tournament

The St. Patrick’s Day tournament was the first sanctioned tournament that Houston Sword Sports has ever run. Coach Liz 3d printed the medals.

April 13: Coach Caroline’s Last Day

Coach Caroline was our first hire. She was an invaluable member of our team, working in several schools and also maintaining our website. We were sad to see her go, but glad that she landed somewhere great.

April 28: Oscar Woolnough at the Wheelchair World Cup

Watching Oscar

HSS fencer Oscar Woolnough is also a member of the British National Wheelchair Fencing team. In April, he competed in a world cup in Canada. We got his bout to play on one of the scoring machine tablets and gathered round to cheer him on.

May 12: Spring School Championships

Fencers at the School Championship

We close each semester with our School Championship tournament. Kids from all over Houston competed to win individual medals and the Golden Mask for their school.

June 18: EnPointe Wireless Strip

In June we received one of the first wireless strips produced by EnPointe. This little device replaces reels and costs about as much as traditional reels.

Summer 2018: Summer Camps

Our summer camps continue to grow. This year we offered full-and half-day camps. In the mornings, we did foil; in the afternoons we did stage combat. At the end of the week, the kids put on a show for their parents.

August 18: Fete de Lune

The Fete de Lune is a long-running tradition in the Gulf Coast section. This popular veterans tournament is known for its fantastic medals and friendly atmosphere, plus a banquet after the tournament. We took over running the tournament from Clear Lake Fencing Club and had a great time. This was our largest and most ambitious tournament to date.

September 14: First Nerd Night

Not everything we do is so serious! In September we kicked off a monthly Nerd Night, a gathering of like-minded nerds to play tabletop games of various types. For our first Nerd Night we played Dungeons and Dragons. About a quarter of the 20-some participants had never played before. Asgard Games sponsored the evening and provided game materials and HSS-themed dice.

September 5: Demo at HCC Stafford

This was our second demo at Houston Community College. This time, the college’s TV station sent a crew to cover it!

September 29: South Texas Challenge

Our fencers traveled to more tournaments this year, and we started sending coaches to more tournaments. Here’s Coach Dan giving advice to Audrey Toffelmire.

October 11: Diana Caitlin Mayerich born

The newest member of the Houston Sword Sports family joined us a little earlier than expected. Coach Liz’s new daughter Diana is already being groomed for a great future in our sport.

October 20-21: The Swiss Open

In October we experimented with the Swiss format, which is popular in chess and Magic: The Gathering tournaments. We kept with the Swiss theme by offering fondue, and the prizes were Swiss cheese and chocolate.

December 1: Fall School Championships

The Fall School Championship was our biggest yet! Lycee International de Houston took the overall prize, the Golden Mask, for the third time in a row.

December 16: Eureka Heights Invitational

We closed the year with a new brewery tournament, this one at Eureka Heights. Our long-term goal is to have a brewery circuit of four to six tournaments in different breweries. Eureka Heights was a great venue, and a great step in that direction!

On to 2019!

This Spring we’ve added two more schools for a total of 12, and we’re planning to add even more in the Fall. We’re also adding more summer camps in more locations. We hope you’ll make Houston Sword Sports a big part of your 2019, too.

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Houston Sword Sports: Year Three

We held our first classes in January of 2015, which makes this month our third anniversary. Happy birthday to us! Check out our 2017 Year in Review.

January 31: Benoit Signs On

On January 31, Benoit Bouysset joined Dan and Liz and became an owner of Houston Sword Sports. Since then, he’s been at the helm of our epee program, our competitive fencing program, and our coach development program.

February 11: The Second Brash

Brash 2017

On February 11, we hosted the second annual Brash Invitational. We’d hoped to find cooler weather in February but were thwarted by record highs. Fingers crossed that, with this winter being colder in general, Brash 2018 will have nice cool temperatures.

March 3: Lease Signed

The batting cages shortly before they became a fencing club

On March 3, we signed a lease for our own space inside The Zone, a facility where we’d been having Saturday classes for about a year. We took over the back two pitching tunnels and the last batting cage.

March 7: Buildout Begins

Buildout for a fencing club means you haul both gear and lumber

A few days later, we got started turning batting cages into a fencing club. Here’s our first load of lumber. Since we were still running classes, we had to haul a lot of fencing gear too. Good thing we had a bunch of extra cargo room.

April 15: First Classes in the New Space

Fencing in our new location for the first time

On April 17, while we weren’t totally done with the buildout, we were ready to start having classes in the new space. I can’t actually find a date where we declared ourselves “done” with the buildout, because we are still adding and changing things little by little.

May 5: School Championships

May 2017 School championship fencing

Our first big event in the new space was our School Championship tournament. Fencers from our afterschool and evening classes came to see the new space and try their hand at competitive fencing. It was a great debut for the new space!

May 12: Grand Opening

Adult beginners prepare to fence

Our next big event was our Grand Opening. We celebrated the new space the only way we know how – with a fencing party!

June/July/August: Summer Camps

Campers at Bellaire salute

Our camps grew this year, and we met a lot of new people! We offered full-day camps for the first time, to make things more convenient for busy working parents.

August 24-28: Hurricane Harvey

The week after Harvey, we had free open fencing

The end of August was not kind to anyone in the Houston area. Once the storm passed, while the city was still starting to get back to normal, we had free open fencing a couple times to let everyone get their frustrations out.

September 15: Wieck Memorial

Over the summer, Stewart Wieck passed away. Stewart was one of our founding club members and a close friend of many years. In September we had a memorial with open fencing and a memory book.

October 7: Armory Clinic

Armory Clinic

We’re very fortunate to have a world-class armorer in our club. In October, Michael gave a clinic to help us better troubleshoot and repair our weapons.

December 2: School Championship

Y8 Fencers at School Championship

In December we hosted our Fall School Championship. Attendance was much higher: in Y8 alone, we had 23 kids! We also introduced a traveling trophy, the Golden Mask, for the school with the best overall result. Lycee International de Houston won the Golden Mask; who will win in May?

December 9: Light Saber Class

To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we did a light saber stage combat class of our own. Participants learned the fundamentals of stage combat and then created their own fight scenes.

(Sad you missed it? We’re doing another on Feb. 9!)

December 29-30: Winter Camps

Winter Camp fun

We wrapped up the year with winter camps. Our youth camp was a full day, with fencing in the morning and stage combat in the evening. The adult camp was an afternoon full of tactics and techniques for competitive fencers.

And on to 2018!

It’s been a very full, and generally good year. We’ve added new classes and a lot of new fencers. We’ve added afterschool programs in two new schools and started working more closely with our college programs. There’s still a lot of room to grow, and that’s what we’re looking forward to in 2018. We hope you’ll be part of making 2018 bigger and better than 2017!

Light Saber Combat: Houston’s Jedi in Training

Fencers, by and large, are a nerdy bunch. We all have our own theories about why this is, some of which are flattering (you have to be clever!) and some less so. Whatever the reason, it’s definitely true at Houston Sword Sports. Our members include the owners of a local gaming shop, the head of a Cosplay company, and gamers of various stripes.

You could say that we are pretty into Star Wars, too.

Coach Liz did Rey hair for the Light Saber class. It fits under a mask better than Leia buns.

We really wanted to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We know that these movies in particular have brought a lot of people to fencing – it’s about as close as you can get to being a Jedi in this galaxy. So, we decided to let people fully unleash their inner padawan learners and create their own light saber fights. On the Friday before Episode VIII’s release, we hosted a Light Saber Combat class!

Episode 1: The Younglings

Master Dan works with the younglings, teaching them to move like Jedi.

Our first class was open to kids ages 6-12, or more appropriately, the Younglings. About half of the kids in the group had never tried fencing of any kind before, so we started out with some movement exercises. A big difference between fencing and stage combat is that in fencing we rarely move side-to-side, but in stage combat we move in many different directions. In the picture above, the group works on moving side-to-side and forward and backward smoothly.

The younglings receive their training weapons.

We don’t have welding helmets and little bots that shoot blasters at you, but we do have fencing masks. While our training sabers are a) not lasers and b) soft and padded, it still isn’t great to get hit in the face with one, so we made the kids wear masks. When we first handed out the sabers, we had them all work while spread out so they could swing the weapons around without worrying about hitting or being hit.

Next step: learning to fight

Next, we taught the kids how to attack each other and defend themselves. In stage combat, practicality isn’t as much of an issue as it is in sport fencing, so we could teach some of the less-used parries like the one above, the saber version of parry 6, also known as “the coaches’ parry” (because only coaches use it).

The younglings begin putting together their fight scenes.

Once we’d given them the basic building blocks of the scene, it was time to start writing their own fight sequences. Here, we divided them into pairs and they began working on their fights together.

We had a nice little stage for the fights, even if the scenery was a bit anachronistic.

At the end of the class, the kids put on little skits with the choreography they’d worked on. Here’s one of our favorites:

Episode 2: Padawan Learners

Our teen/adult class was smaller than the youth class, and some of the students were a little old to be called padawans, but then so were Anakin and Luke. We followed a similar format, but were able to go more in-depth because the participants had more fencing experience.

First, they learned to move.

 

Then, Dan showed them how to hit him.

 

Then, they practiced hitting each other.

Two of the guys had a head start, in that they’d studied several of the fights in the movies ahead of time to get an idea of what they wanted to do. They were able to put together this fight, which was definitely the highlight of the evening.

In all, we had a great time running this class, and the participants had a great time too. If you missed out, we’ll be doing stage combat for the afternoon session of our youth winter camp on December 29. Click here to learn more and sign up!