Fencer Retention

It’s nearing that time of year when, according to longstanding tradition, we make improbably lofty promises to finally rein in our degenerate ways and become the paragons of courtesy, fitness, temperance, and/or martial excellence we all know we could be. It’s likewise nearing that time when we recognize that another year of degeneracy never hurt anyone, and slough off those solemn resolutions of a fortnight earlier. Eh. They tell me resolutions are easier to keep if you con your friends into joining. Maybe I can pull that off here.

At Unevent, there was much discussion among the Chatelaines regarding member retention. As is the inevitable result of cramming several dozen lovably, cloyingly officious do-gooders in a single room for an hour, the discussion became so involved that there was little time for anything else. While our topics of discussion centered primarily on retaining the People Who Get Shit Done (not an official term), preventing burnout, etc, it got me thinking about an unusual and unfortunate paradigm we have in the fencing world.

At most small events, about half the field is blue scarves and half is FS and WS; at major events, perhaps two-thirds to three-fourths are Scholars. Given that we authorize an average 1-2 Scholars at each event and make only 1-2 new FS a year, one would expect these ratios to gradually change in favor of the Scholars.

But they don’t. While the cast of higher-end fencers tends to remain relatively consistent and appears regularly, there seems to be a fair bit of attrition among the blue scarves. People are playing for 6 months to a year and dropping out.

Any given blue scarf will, it seems, take one of three paths:

1. They fence for a short time, appearing at a few events before they lose motivation or interest and fade away.
2. They fence desultorily; they might want to put in more time or effort but are prevented by real-world circumstances, or they may see fencing as an ancillary activity within their greater, more diverse SCA activities. These people may take the field only at major events.
3. They buckle down and start putting in the effort and making the sacrifices necessary to get on the path to Free Scholar. They begin showing up everywhere and get (in)famous.

Now I know I will eventually get bored of fighting the same people at events–I suspect many of the FS/WS already are, since the same six or so always appear in the finals–so how can we keep the new blood in? Category 2 can be difficult to “fix”, but I want to do my utmost to keep category 1 involved.

The Newbie’s Perspective

I was a newbie myself not … too terribly long ago, so perhaps I can offer up some of my own experiences as a place to begin discussion.

Most notably for the fencer, there appears at first to be a definite in-group/out-group distinction, whether intended or not. At my first Ymir, I could see that all the WS and most of the FS knew each other, conversed, and sparred. Meanwhile the few people I knew from my local group were otherwise occupied. I am not a social person and I was not going to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. It was a little lonely. I left after the fighting because there was nothing else to keep me interested.

As fencers, we do not intend to create this atmosphere; it just sort of happens. People have to be either good, ubiquitous, or very ambitious to get noticed; the newbie isn’t likely to make more than one event every one, two, three months, and generally doesn’t possess the skill to impress anyone for at least a year. Unless he is of the uncommon sort to really dedicate himself and seek out instruction from the higher-ups, he’s not likely to become a part of that in-crowd. He may be of the opinion that without the instruction that the best fencers can provide, he doesn’t really stand a chance of getting better. Gold scarf seems impossibly far away. He sees fencing improvement in the SCA as a catch-22, gets frustrated, and leaves.

On the other side, many of us established folks are doing our utmost to improve our own games and meet up with people we only get to see once a month. We like teaching new people and making them feel welcome, sure, but it’s one more demand on a limited schedule. Simply saying “y’all should put in more effort to connect with new authorizees and teach ’em real good” would be disingenuous, hypocritical, and ineffective.


Part of the onus, perhaps, lies on the marshals who run local practices and entice newbies to authorize. Maintaining interest and expectations has to occur at the local level. I think fencers are generally pretty friendly folks, so it may be that the only thing needed is to encourage the newbie to introduce himself to Wistric or Connor and try to fight a few pickups.

Letia had an idea a short while back that would go a long way towards ameliorating the issue. Fencers tend to congregate after Court for off-site dinners. Most newbies are actively encouraged to go to Feast–and that’s probably not a bad thing, as it’s a part of the experience of an event–but there’s little better way to make them feel like a part of the community than to invite them along. If fencers plan ahead, deciding on a specific post-event restaurant and disseminating the information via rapiernet, they can encourage any blue scarves in their local chapters to tag along.

Another option is to provide some visible motivation for newbies to keep at it. In some ways the Academie suffers from having three ranks–there’s no “green scarf”, nothing intermediate between the confirmed prowess of the gold scarf and the “hey, you authorized!” acknowledgement of the blue, and the importance we place on scarf color means fencers tend not to notice kingdom- and baronial-level awards. I’m not advocating that we change the structure of the Academie here; instead, I’d suggest we increase the visibility of the Sea Dragon award. Most fencers tend to receive Sea Dragons when they’re around that “green scarf” point: when they’re no longer pushovers on the rapier field, have made some efforts to look good, and are consistently making events. That’s a much more attainable standard for the newbie. The only trouble here is finding a good medium between visibility and presumption; this Sea Dragon thing should not be fancier than a WS. Perhaps a small burgundy or silver-grey favor with the Sea Dragon emblazoned upon it, tied to the scarf, would be acceptable.


56 comments to Fencer Retention

  • Jonathan Allen

    Can non-WS fencers win tournaments?

    A big problem with Caid is that most tournaments mix novice, mid-level, and senior fencers together. Aside from the rare non-WS tournament, it is only by luck that someone has the chance to prove to themselves and others that they are improving.

    The Adrian Empire is an improvement over us in this regard. With separate Sergeant and Knight’s lists, young fencers are expected to get some wins under their belt before having to face the seniors. And by then many have gotten past the “I have to win” phase and have found more self-reflective forms of motivation.

    • Tassin

      The majority of Atlantian tournaments that I have experienced have been for fighters of all levels although there are occasionally “never won a tourney”, “novice”, and “rising star” tournaments which have limiters on how experienced the fighters are.

      With a good field of fighters (major event) I would expect a white scarf or a highly skilled free scholar(I can only think of a few off the top of my head) to win. Local events that might not feature a lot, if any, high level fencers are of course more wide open.

    • Dante di Pietro

      Realistically, yes, they can, depending on who else has entered. If you’re talking about big tournaments that pull large numbers, there are maybe only a couple non-WS who have a shot at winning (but only a handful of WS, either). Smaller tournaments can be won by non-WS fairly regularly: I won about 30 in 2004 alone by virtue of attending 3-4 events a month.

      Though, winning tournaments alone is not the only way to measure improvement. My first big tournament resulted in a 4-5 record, the next year it was 6-4 in a much harder pool, and three years later after RMICing it a couple times I finished at 10-1, losing in the semifinals to the eventual winner. I think one of the best performances in the last tournament I ran didn’t make the quarterfinals because of the way things worked out, but it was still impressive.

      As far as retention goes, fencing is fun. I never needed anyone to convince me along, but I also come from a long history of sports. I made friends at practice, and then by going to events and fighting people, then talking about fighting. If you’re enthusiastic, you tend to make connections faster. I can think of several novices who fall into that category: they clearly work hard to improve, and so they get attention and make friends.

      The best thing anyone can do is make practice regularly. That’s really where we retain people, since there might only be one event a month, but 4 practices with a smaller group.

      IMO, the real issue is getting people TO practice, since the people who stick around will stick around if they find their way to a practice.

  • Tibbie Croser

    I’m not sure if my perspective is useful here, as I’m an atypical Blue Scarf in so many ways.

    I think Atlantia does a good job of encouraging and retaining high-potential novices, but it’s easy for lesser-skilled novices to fade into the background. This is natural, but I wish we could improve feedback and mentoring for all fencers, not just the hot blades. (No Fencer Left Behind?) It can be hard to determine your own progress in fighting when you’re consistently facing higher-ranked opponents. Fighting awards or scarf promotions are a form of progress report, but not one that’s available to all fencers.

    By the way, Ruairc, did you read the discussion on RapierNet about criteria for the Sea Dragon? It’s primarily an award for prowess. While it carries an AoA, it’s different from a bare AoA; one can get an AoA in rapier for commitment, service, courtesy, appearance, etc., without having to show prowess. To get a Sea Dragon, however, a fighter needs to be much more than “not a pushover” on the field.

    This brings up the point of managing novice fencers’ expectations. Novices need to know that improvement, awards, and promotion do not automatically come with time, or even with effort. Not everyone will or can or should move up. I think that sometimes well-intentioned instructors give novices false encouragement. When the improvement or the awards don’t come, fencers can then become discouraged and drop out. I think Baron Lucien on RapierNet referred to the problem of new fencers expecting to make Provost within a year or two of authorizing.

    Often, the hardest thing to learn, and most useful to teach, is to gain enjoyment from rapier itself and not from victories, awards, or promotions.

  • Tibbie Croser

    To retain novice fencers, teach them to have fun in fencing. Teach them to have fun in a tournament even if they lose every fight.

    Focusing on awards is not really the right way to retain people. We have so many awards already, and so many scarves, favors, and medallions. I think awards become used as a substitute for feedback, and good things that people do but that don’t fit award categories go unrecognized. I ask that if you see improvement in a novice or see the person doing something well, tell that person. Telling the fencer’s instructor is good, too, but often the praise does not get passed along.

    • Ruairc

      Though it seems possible to learn to love fencing, I’m not sure it’s possible to teach it, save by example.

      Focusing on awards is a natural human tendency and is part of the culture of sport. Breaking that habit is, again, learnable but not very teachable.

      I’m all for telling people when they do good things, but nobody’s going to see every pretty shot, and people in the SCA often have differing ideas of what is worthy of praise. Even so, external approval and encouragement is not going to be sufficient forever; people quickly get tired of hearing variations on “you’re improving!” The point is to establish a way for newbies to provide their own motivation and realistic goals.

    • Gawin

      While you can have fun without winning, winning is fun too. I think the earlier suggestion of splitting up pools could help make tournaments a lot more fun for newbies. I’m not even talking about winning the tournament, I’m talking about having a winning record or even breaking even on wins and losses for the day. The way tournaments are working these days, a typical round-robin pool at a major event involves 3 white scarves, 4 gold scarves, 2 faded blue scarves, and 3 newish fencers. Simply put, those new fencers are unlikely to win more than 3 fights the entire day. A tournament like Ymir, for instance, involves a lot of waiting around with a bunch of relative strangers to only win 3 fights, and it really does make fencing less than fun at times. If we broke major tournaments up into skill levels, I think those beginning fighters would be far more likely to at least break even on wins and losses, which I think would make tournaments more fun for them.

      We might also consider asking spectating baronesses (or some other group of spectators) to attend the newcomers’ pool and hand out tokens for good shots, courtesy, etc. We could also do something like golden rose of sorts with the newcomers’ pool where “established scadians” sponsor the newcomers in the tournament. That way the newcomers meet some new people, get introduced to some other scadians who may have similar interests, maybe have a day shade to hang out under, maybe they get some snacks, etc. This part would work best at some of the major tournaments where there are lots of spectators such as Ymir and Ruby.

      • Tibbie Croser

        Gawin, allowing fighters to get wins is more easily done by tournament format than by making pools based on skill levels or experience levels. Bearpits, dice tournaments, round robins, and Bedford points tournaments, for example, allow lower-skilled fighters to have a better chance of winning. Lucien’s Rising Star tournaments *do* divide fighters into Scholars and Free Scholars, so perhaps those could be run at more events, as could novice tournaments.

        Even armored combat doesn’t separate fighters by skill level in tournaments because it would be a logistical mess for marshals and MoLs. Round robins, for example, require equal numbers of fighters in each pool. So even to have a novice pool, you’d need the right number of novices. Marshals and MoLs don’t know who’s fighting in a given tournament until everyone has signed in. Usually, they just take the total number of fighters and divide it by the number of pools.

        Rather than focusing on giving fighters a certain number of wins, it’s better to give them a certain number of fights. That’s why single-, double-, and triple-elimination formats can be the most frustrating for new or low-skilled fencers; if you don’t win any fights, your fighting is over quickly, whereas in other formats, you at least get maybe 8 or 10 fights. Even if you don’t win those fights, you get valuable experience from them.

        We’ve had repeated discussions on Atlantian RapierNet about novice fighters and their goals in tournaments. The White Scarves there have given some very valuable advice, some of which I’m summarizing in this thread.

        • Tibbie Croser

          I like the idea of sponsoring newcomers and giving out tokens, or at least sponsoring a dayshade for them. That sounds like a good project for one of the rapier households or rapier melee units.

        • Gawin

          You seem to have missed my point entirely.

          The issue at hand is more of an issue of morale rather than building skill. Right now, we pit newcomers (who may have indeed been practicing hard for several months) against fencers who have been doing this for decades. This isn’t how other sports work. We don’t make peewee football players compete against the varsity team, because there is a huge difference in athleticism and skill, and it would discourage those peewee players from continuing. Likewise, when a new fencer gets pitted against our provosts and free scholars all day long, they don’t get an appropriate measure of their progress and can be discouraged from fencing. Ultimately we want newcomers to go home from their first event thinking “that was fun, I did ok, but clearly I’ve got a lot more work ahead so I can fight in the experienced tournament.” We don’t want them thinking “I suck and I’ll never be able to win.”

          Certain tournament formats (round robin, bearpits, etc) simply increase the number of fights that a fencer gets to fight(compared against elimination tourneys), they don’t increase a newcomer’s odds of winning. That is only affected by their own skill and the skill of their opponents. I don’t think there’s a terrible difference morale-wise between 0 and 5, 2 and 8, or 4 and 11. They’re all pretty lopsided win/loss records. There might even be an advantage even in elimination tournaments, as being knocked out quickly can give new fencers an opportunity to do pick-ups and get some lesson time from other fighters, which will be far more valuable for them.

          Novice tournaments are great, but what I’m suggesting is that by putting newcomers into the main tournament pool at events like Ymir or Ruby, that we may in fact be discouraging them.

          I’m also a bit confused by your comments regarding the MOLs. I can’t imagine a situation where running two separate round-robin tournaments is much more difficult than running one large one. Furthermore, I can’t imagine that it would in any way compare against the complexity of running a large Bedford points tournament. Take Ymir for example, where we get about 60 fencers. If we allow fencers to sign up for either the novice or experienced tournament, all the MOLs have to do is simply group the pools appropriately. All the novice fighters get divided evenly into pools, all the experienced fighters get divided evenly into pools. They fight a round-robin as usual, and we take the top x and y fighters, respectively, based on the number of pools we have for each tournament. The top x fighters from the novice pools then have their finals by elimination and the top y fighters from the experienced pools have their finals by elimination. We end up with a champion from each pool. The only difference from a single large round robin is the initial pool assignments and the selection of two sets of champions/elimination rounds.

          • Tibbie Croser

            Thank you also for explaining your proposed pool format more clearly; I understand it better now. You seem to be talking about running concurrent tournaments, as we sometimes do with rapier and C&T. I thought you were talking about running novice and experienced pools within a single tournament tree.

            However, I think your point goes against Atlantian and SCA culture. It’s true that mainstream sports divide players by skill level, experience level, gender, age, weight, etc. But SCA armored combat mixes everyone up, newly authorized pipsqueak to 7-foot superduke, and rapier follows the same pattern.

            Also, experience only roughly correlates with skill level. In my area, some of the blue scarves are squires, knights, or dukes on the armored field. They are not rapier “novices” in the usual sense. We’ve also had rapier novices who are comparable to almost-Gold-Scarves. Young Robert from Lochmere, for example, authorized only last June, but he fights way above his experience level. Symone de la Rochelle also advanced very quickly. Is it fair to allow people like these in a novice pool?

            I think you should discuss your ideas with your local Free Scholars and Provosts. Also, why not see how your ideas work in reality? Volunteer to run a novice pool at one of the big tournaments this spring.

          • Tibbie Croser

            I apologize for my skepticism. Having re-read your post carefully, I realize your tournament pool idea is much more practical than I thought at first. I agree that participation in the novice pool should be voluntary, and novices should be allowed to fight in the experienced pool if they wish. As I suggested above, however, rapier novices who have any fighting awards, baronial or kingdom, in either rapier or heavy, should *not* be allowed in the novice pool.

            How would you define novice? Authorized 2 years or less, or 1 year or less?

            Would you be willing to implement this idea at Ymir next month, or at Ruby in May? It’s worth trying.

          • Gawin

            All of those methods are reasonable ways to separate the pools, really. Never having won a tournament is another. I would imagine we’d have less of a problem with trying to keep people out of the novice pool than you think, as those blue scarves who have gotten some experience and are working towards a gold scarf someday are going to want the fiercer competition. I don’t really want to eradicate all competition from the novice pool, I simply want to give newer fencers a more even break so to speak, because I think it will be less discouraging.

            I’d be willing to help run it at Ymir, but I’m still an MiT, which limits my ability to do so. Really, the decision to do such a thing rests with the MiC.

          • Tibbie Croser

            Even if you as an MiT can’t run the novice pool yourself, why not persuade the event RMiC to try having a novice pool and offer to assist the marshal running that pool? If you can get agreement from the RMiC, then publicize the novice pool on all the relevant e-lists, including Atlantian RapierNet, so that local marshals will encourage their novices to participate. If you can’t do it for Ymir, try doing it for Ruby.

            Right now it’s possible that RMiCs don’t see a need or desire for a novice pool at tournaments. So it might not happen unless you persuade them to try it.

          • Gawin

            Well, the tourney format came out and it looks like a double elimination tournament followed by the provosts holding the field against anybody who is not in the double elimination tournament, so there should be plenty of fighting for newcomers as long as we corral them into actually making challenges rather than simply wandering off. The format won’t really allow for newcomers to be placed according to skill/newness, but at least the double elim will be quick and allow for one-on-one time with WS’s and probably pick-ups.

  • Wistric

    I stand by my suggestion that Sea Dragons should embroider or applique the badge on their blue scarves.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Ruairc, I think the differences between you and me show that not every newish fencer will be motivated by the same things. External encouragement motivates me, but you think it’s inadequate for most people. You think that awards are good motivators, but I think that awards just frustrate the novices who don’t win awards. Of course, unless we get the opinions of actual novices, we’re just speculating.

    It’s true that awards are part of the culture of sports. However, I don’t know if you’ve noted that, sometimes in the SCA, there’s a certain disdain expressed for fighters who are openly focused on gaining awards. This disdain isn’t really fair, because it often comes from people who have already gained numerous awards and peerages. Some of this feeling is also behind the controversy over the potential rapier peerage.

    • Wistric

      “Focusing on awards is a natural human tendency and is part of the culture of sport. Breaking that habit is, again, learnable but not very teachable.”

      Why would we want to break that?

      As far as I know, across the armored and rapier communities, it is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to say “I WANT TO BE A KNIGHT/WHITE SCARF!” “Cookie chasing” is frowned upon in A&S and Service, sometimes, but that’s stupid and I know laurels and pelicans who’ll say so.
      Part of it is ego: Tell me you want what I’ve got and it makes me all the more pleased with myself that I’ve got it.

      Awards are a mark of achievement. I don’t think anybody actually wants to be GIVEN awards. They want to earn them. Saying “I want to be a White Scarf” should come with the explicit or implicit addition “Tell me what I need to do to get one!” Being motivated to earn an award is the same as being motivated to excel, just with mileposts.

      • Tibbie Croser

        Wistric, I agree with you on the value of awards in motivating people to strive for excellence.

        However, I saw a couple of my earliest mentors from my local group burn out and become bitter when they didn’t achieve the rapier awards they wanted or thought they deserved (or saw someone else win the award). I believe there need to be alternative motivations to continue fencing or continue in the Academie, at least for the people who don’t have the prowess to win awards.

  • Tibbie Croser

    I’m afraid the above post sounds too critical of you, Ruairc. I’m probably ascribing opinions to you that you may not actually have.

    I’m arguing against using awards as primary motivation for novices because there’s a whole psychological minefield around SCA awards and ranks (and I’ve stepped on some of those mines myself). Getting an SCA award is not like getting a Scout badge. There’s not a checklist. A fencer needs to do all the right things but also to be seen to be doing the right things at the right times in the right places by the right people. Awards are always arbitrary to a certain degree. Having novices focus on an award can lead them to a sense of entitlement. Then, if they don’t get the award, they feel cheated and resentful. I have seen even experienced fencers burn out after they strove for a rank, thought they deserved it, but didn’t get it.

    • Ruairc

      This is always going to be a problem. If there’s something worth having and working towards, some people are going to be disappointed or frustrated when they don’t achieve it.

      In part, that’s what I hope to remedy by increasing the emphasis on awards given outside the Academie (doesn’t have to stop at Sea Dragon; my original idea was to encourage the baronial units to wear an identifying baldric, sash, or capelet, given to all members at events to help make them feel like an appreciated, welcomed part of something bigger. On that, one could attach a small badge for relevant baronial level awards; but if this is going to happen, it’ll have to be done at the baronial level). If people are focused on white scarf or gold scarf they may lose sight of the intermediate steps and all the other ways they can contribute to the Society.

      But you have a point–people need to learn that we make ourselves worthy of these accolades. The scarves, etc are only “official” markers of prowess and character, designed to make external and obvious what would otherwise be internal and hidden. The lack of that marker does not denigrate the individual who has yet to receive it any more than an out-of-date calendar prevents the new year.

      This is hard to teach, but I don’t think that downplaying awards is the right way to go about it. That just strikes competitive high-achievers as disingenuous. If they’re not that important and don’t mean all that much, why have them?

      Obviously it helps if they’re getting other things out of their fencing, and that should be encouraged.

  • Tibbie Croser

    I think you have good ideas, Ruairc.

    I don’t want to downplay awards, and I don’t want to discourage the competitive high-achievers. But can we find a way to thank, encourage, and recognize people who make an effort but aren’t good enough to win an award?

    Regarding making non-Academie awards more visible, the Award of Arms is the most achievable award for anyone in Atlantia. It does not require special prowess. However, it carries no insignia of any kind. (Other kingdoms sometimes grant AoAs the privilege of wearing a plain gold circlet, but Atlantia allows anyone to wear a plain circlet.) Do you think there should be an effort to make the AoA more visible by adding some kind of symbol for it? That would have to be done through the Kingdom.

    I also need to note that I’m in northern Atlantia, where Peers, Barons, Baronesses, and Provosts are so numerous and visible that lesser ranks and awards are overshadowed. At events up here, the White Scarves and Gold Scarves together, or even separately, outnumber the Blue Scarves (and some of the Blue Scarves wear white belts).

  • Gawin

    So, it sounds like Ruairc wants some award that newcomers can focus on that falls between becoming a scholar and becoming a gold scarf. His suggestion was to make the Sea Dragon more visible, but Tibbie suggests that even the Sea Dragon may be too high a bar. I agree with both of you really. Perhaps if we introduce something with specific requirements for newcomers, just like getting a rank in boy scouts that results in them earning a trinket or something, perhaps a pommel tassel, or a bit of cording to tie in with their blue scarf, or perhaps an academie di espie patch that they can sew onto their blue scarf? For this I’m thinking requirements like, fence at 5 events within 1 year of authorizing, and introduce yourself to 5 white scarves. Tracking could be tricky, but perhaps we could print up some “free-sub punch cards” to be given out after authorizations. The idea really is that there would be something with specific steps that they could take in order to earn something, become more integrated into the fencing community, and ultimately get them to become invested in the rapier community.

    • Wistric

      The events and white scarves should be outside your local barony/shire.

      • Gawin

        That sounds like a good addition. Any thoughts on what other requirements could/should be part of such a “participation badge?”

        • Ruairc

          I’m going to have to speak against the idea of a participation badge.

          The SCA culture seems hostile to the idea of an attendance certificate. Outside of “Their Majesties call forth all for whom this is their first event”, very little in the SCA is about simply showing up or legwork.

          Although it’s not fencing specific, perhaps the AOA is where a newbie’s energy is best directed. That’s about where the newbie’s goals should stand:

          – Get your own gear and garb
          – Make it out to several events (we’ll help!)
          – Hobnob with important people
          – Get authorized, fight well, and have fun

          AOA’s aren’t externally visible (the not-particularly-distinctive title aside). Changing this would require far more cooperation than we’re likely to get, so it may fall on mentors to push newbies in this direction.

          • Tibbie Croser

            Ruairc, I agree that the AoA should be the novice’s focus. The AoA *is* the SCA’s participation badge.

            However, the other idea of a visible participation badge for rapier might work well at the baronial level, or even as a personal token given out by an individual White Scarf.

          • Gawin

            I’m at a loss to understand what you mean by “The SCA culture seems hostile to the idea of an attendance certificate.” I mean, there aren’t really any direct awards for attendance, but are people really dead set against them?

            I think we’re generally in agreement that there’s a bit of a hole between first event and AoA/Sea Dragon/Free Scholar and that the path from authorization to Sea Dragon/Free Scholar is a bit ambiguous.

            I’m essentially suggesting an Atlantian rapier scavenger hunt for newcomers, not any form of official award. The idea is to give newbies a few concrete steps to help them become a part of the rapier community and give them a token or favor as something to strive towards. As far as what the requirements should be, I think addressing the list that you just posted, would be a good start.

            For instance:
            -Complete your authorization in heavy rapier
            -Fence at 5 events within 1 year of authorizing in rapier (including at least 3 that aren’t hosted by your home barony/shire)
            -Introduce yourself to someone who is volunteering to help make rapier happen (MOL, Chirurgeon, water bearer, marshall) and ask them what their role entails/what they enjoy about it
            -Introduce yourself to 3 Free Scholars who do not attend your local practice
            -Introduce yourself to 5 members of the order of the WS who do not attend your local practice
            -Acquire your own armor and sword for heavy rapier

            I should also point out that the progression within SCA archery is based on set requirements (http://www.scores-sca.org/public/scores_rules.php?R=2&Shoot=2).

          • Ruairc

            Alright, this I can see.

            The SCA honestly strives to be a meritocracy. (Even King-by-Right-of-Arms, much though I despise it, is a screwy form of meritocracy.) Like all human organizations it falls short of the ideal, but, in theory at least, one doesn’t earn an award simply by doing X for Y amount of time; you earn it through some degree of merit.

            If this has less the seeming of an award and more of the air of a favor or token, presented as a marker of acknowledgement by an appropriate official (preferably the baroness of the fencer’s realm, but the RMiC or any old Provost would do; hell, we could even tie it to an extant group like the Scholars or the Bruders), then I’m more a fan of the idea.

            I remain leery of listy requirements. (I made a mockery of essay guidelines in 11th grade English lit and was evicted from the class as a result.) But I can understand how concrete check-boxes help new fencers focus on attainable things.

            Although there may be many WS in the near future who wonder why all these Scholars are dying to meet them.

  • Tibbie Croser

    As far as all of you know from the fencers in your area, what factors keep new fencers involved or lead them to drop out? We’re talking about awards, but suppose transportation to practices and events is a big factor? Or the quality of local practices?

    I suspect, also, that regional differences mean that there’s no solution that will work throughout Atlantia. In southern Atlantia, where branches are more scattered, travel to practices and events might be an issue for novices. If there are fewer Provosts and Peers to overshadow the Blue Scarves in southern Atlantia, then having higher-visibility awards for novices might be effective in allowing them to stand out from other Blue Scarves. In contrast, northern Atlantia (northern Virginia and Maryland) has densely clustered baronies and events, so people can go to multiple practices and events within a couple of hours’ drive. However, a novice at a northern rapier tournament is likely to be facing as many Provosts and Free Scholars as Scholars. This can often be humbling, even discouraging. It takes more talent for a Scholar to stand out up here. To increase the intimidation factor, we also have numerous Peers, Barons, Baronesses, etc., walking around at events.

    It might be useful to learn which baronies/shires have the most success in retaining fencers and see if their methods can be copied.

  • Wistric

    as long as we corral them into actually making challenges rather than simply wandering off

    That really is the crux of the matter isn’t it?
    The majority of events where there’s time for extensive pickups (more than a few passes) I usually see White Scarves and Gold Scarves, and the blue scarves who are on a quick path to becoming yellow scarves, out there fighting. The blue scarves we’re talking about retaining aren’t naturally inclined to go do pickups.
    So how do you motivate them to go out and fight a white scarf or gold scarf, and start to become part of the fencing community? Who’s job is it to corral them?

    • Ruairc

      Whose job? Probably anyone who wants better scholars and cares about the quality of fencing in Atlantia.

      Ideally any marshal running a weekly practice would be well versed in fencer-chatelainery. (Idea for a class at next Uni? Maybe less a “class”, more a “mediated discussion”.) But since we lack those, and are without a neat little “How To Train New People and Manage Expectations” PDF to send to any newly authorized marshals (‘nother idea?), it falls to, you know, people who want to get shit done.

      I have some raw ideas for getting Scholars interested in sticking around at events. For example: If there’s space, form them (or have them form themselves) into Provost-hunting gangs; start with seven-Scholars-vs-one-Provost melee, and see how many blues you can strip down before the Provost wins. (Perhaps have a senior Scholar/FS providing command/direction/support but doing little in the actual fight?) Having a more senior fencer boisterously announce an open challenge, with a small prize to the blue scarf who can best him, is another idea. Bringing in some theatrics recalling the protocols of the mentita duello is always fun and might even be educational. Gawin mentioned the punch-card token, which isn’t a bad idea.

      Simply having new fencers fight other new fencers, per a Sergeant’s List or similar, is good and certainly a step in the right direction; but we want to integrate them into a larger whole.

  • Tibbie Croser

    What about talking *to* the newish fencers to find out what would motivate them?

    Also, how about spreading the pickup burden around among some of the less-active White Scarves and Gold Scarves (the people who go to their dayshades after the tournament)? Pair them up with some of the new fighters for teaching and socializing.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Gawin and Ruairc, have your thoughts on this subject changed any, now that you’re going to be Free Scholars? (Congratulations to you two and Tassin!)

    I don’t think that the Scholars you’re concerned about retaining are likely to get Sea Dragons or Gold Scarves anyway. It seems to me that fighters who gain recognition have shown promise from the very beginning, even before authorizing. I imagine that this was true for you two and Tassin.

    I also doubt, as was said in one post, that WSs and FSs actually get bored fighting each other all the time. As Dante said elsewhere in this blog, the top fighters are constantly refining their skills; they don’t stagnate. I don’t think you guys will get bored as FSs.

    • Ruairc

      I don’t think that the Scholars you’re concerned about retaining are likely to get Sea Dragons or Gold Scarves anyway. It seems to me that fighters who gain recognition have shown promise from the very beginning, even before authorizing.

      I have to disagree here.

      Natural ability and enthusiasm only gets you so far, and that’s what we might call “promise, even before authorizing”. I might see that New Fencer X has a lot of potential or may already be farther along than New Fencer Y (by virtue of previous sport experience, natural athleticism, reach/quickness, “fighting intelligence”, attitude, etc). But sooner or later everyone is going to have to buckle down and do more than show up to weekly practice, plus a few events when it’s convenient, in order to continue improving. Making that commitment is far more important to eventual success than wherever their starting point happened to be.

      To speak from personal experience, I never thought the gold scarf was inevitable. Certainly, I was confident that, if I kept working at it, I would one day attain a level of prowess and service to be worthy of the scarf. But even in the last few months, I suffered some doubts about whether or not I would be able or willing to put that degree of effort into my fighting. (I still don’t know if I’ll ever make Provost simply because I’ve never before accomplished anything of comparable difficulty.)

      For some people, fencing is just a fun thing to do on weekends, and putting in the time and effort (drilling, service, drilling, making fancy clothes, fitness, drilling, drilling, addressing any personal comportment/attitude flaws, and drilling) requisite of advancement is more than they care for, either because it’s hard, it’s not fun, or it’s simply too taxing on their time or money.

      Certainly not every Scholar needs to walk that path; but we need to make sure that everyone is an appreciated member of the Academie and is having fun; and that if they really want to work to get better, the resources are available.

      • Wistric

        Natural ability and enthusiasm only gets you so far, and that’s what we might call “promise, even before authorizing”. I might see that New Fencer X has a lot of potential or may already be farther along than New Fencer Y (by virtue of previous sport experience, natural athleticism, reach/quickness, “fighting intelligence”, attitude, etc). But sooner or later everyone is going to have to buckle down and do more than show up to weekly practice, plus a few events when it’s convenient, in order to continue improving. Making that commitment is far more important to eventual success than wherever their starting point happened to be.

        To tell a story: Four (or was it five?) years ago I had a college-aged kid show up to practice. He had a lot of energy and excitement, but not nearly the potential of others at that practice (there were black belts there, it was hard to measure up). He drifted away after a year or so. Something to do with going to school finally. Wasn’t a damn thing I could do. He’d chosen, probably correctly, to focus on real life over fencing. I’ve seen more than a few with lots of potential who drifted away (Stacy, First Joe, Jeff, First Jason, Demario, Second Joe, Caelia…). Potential does not equal eventual recognition. Eventual recognition does not require potential.

        • Tibbie Croser

          To reply to both Wistric and Ruairc: Natural talent alone won’t take a fighter far enough for recognition; hard work is needed. But hard work without underlying athletic talent, fighting intelligence, etc., won’t take a fighter far enough for recognition either.

          A novice with natural talent is more likely to get into an upward spiral; he wins more fights in a tournament than his fellow novices, thus tournament fighting becomes a pleasure, thus he goes to more tournaments, senior fighters notice him, he might win baronial fighting awards, he might get recruited into a fighting unit or household where he has access to even more resources to help his progress. If he’s good at singles fighting, he’ll get kills in melee fighting, then he’ll get more opportunities to shine or even command in melee fighting.

          I wish I could believe that “eventual recognition does not require potential,” but I’ve seen no examples of it; rather, the people I know who advanced were exceptionally talented from the beginning, as well as hardworking (Rochelle being a prime example).

          • Gawin

            “It seems to me that fighters who gain recognition have shown promise from the very beginning, even before authorizing. I imagine that this was true for you two and Tassin.”

            I would contest that the any pre-authorization promise on the part of myself or my fellow jaunty lads was due to proper instruction, regular practice, and most importantly a willingness to learn and put in the work that was necessary. I would imagine that if you asked any teacher (regardless of subject) what features they look at when judging “promise” in a student, that willingness and dedication to learning would be their most frequent response.

            When it comes to fencing, everything can be taught, trained, or drilled (perhaps barring certain medical problems). However, if a student isn’t willing to learn, or isn’t dedicated to doing what is necessary, then it doesn’t matter.

            Wistric provided an example of a student who, looking at their natural abilities, was far less gifted than others at that practice. That student recieved his Sea Dragon last fall and will be fighting his prize soon. I’ve been fighting for 3.5 years, and I’ve only met one of the other students he listed. Regardless of their natural abilities and potential, they didn’t stick around.

            As for your argument that those who lack “natural ability” don’t get recognized, I would argue that I didn’t come to SCA fencing with much “natural” talent. As far as natural advantages go, I’m a little taller than average, and as a male in his early 20’s at the time, that meant that exercise would produce results more quickly than they might for other people. I’ll grant you that my intelligence was probably my biggest natural advantage, but I didn’t have any experience with any martial activities prior to the SCA. Physically I was badly out of shape. I really didn’t have a concept of a practice ethic as I was smart enough to never really need to study and I hadn’t ever really exercised before. I’m far fitter now and have finally started figuring out how to make myself practice and exercise on a regular basis, but still have a ways to go. I would contest that my bigger advantages weren’t “natural” at all. As a graduate student, I had enough free time and financial resources to practice regularly and attend weekend events. The biggest advantage I’ve had, however, has been quality instruction at the hands of a certain Saxon and a community of fencers coming out of my local group that has driven me to improve and has built my enthusiasm for fighting (Just don’t tell the other jaunty lads that I’ve said something nice about them).

            Ultimately, Tibbie, a novice without natural advantages simply must overcome their absence through hard work if they want to have enough skill to be recognized. I agree that this will mean it is harder for that person to be recognized, but it is possible to overcome a lack of natural ability. If you lack fitness, you can exercise. If you lack speed, you can focus on making small, efficient movements (think Brian De Moray or Percy). If you lack fighting IQ, you can practice thinking through your fights (How did I die? What did I do to create that opening? Where should I have moved to? etc Giovan was talking about this very thing on Rapier Net today). If you lack height, you can gain a mastery of measure and line. The list goes on. Natural talent can take a fencer a long way, and it is admittedly harder to achieve a given level of talent without natural advantages, making it less likely to occur. I think the point, however in keeping novices around, is helping them find the resources they need and point them in the right directions to overcome any shortcomings they may have.

          • Ruairc

            I can really only echo this.

            My only notable physical advantage is my handspeed, and I don’t even use it particularly efficiently. My footspeed is much exaggerated (I’m a 60th percentile sprinter. Better than most, but not even a standard deviation away from average), I’m a bit short, and I am not naturally coordinated. My brain does not easily take to fencing or the physics of fighting, although it is fairly good at making connections to new systems or scenarios once that knowledge is established (“hmm, Fabris’ cape plates are very similar to his dagger plates. I bet I can apply the same principles and find success”) and understands game theory almost instinctively. Playing lacrosse, ice hockey, etc for several years conferred field awareness and a certain equanimity regarding objects moving quickly towards my person, but any general fitness I had attained was lost by the time I started fencing (and, to be honest, I still haven’t regained it, and need to work on that).

            My father had very similar traits. He became an All-American attackman while at Duke and broke the school’s scoring record in three years of play (most college athletes have four years). Back in the 1970s he’d go outside and throw a lacrosse ball against a brick wall, catch it, and repeat. Hundreds of times a day. First right-handed. Then left-handed. Then back to right. He always stayed late after practices to shoot on the goal. He worked incessantly.

            At the Provost level, Dante, Aedan, Connor, Raph, Percy, and others have fights that do not rely overmuch on speed or strength or reach; if they seem fast, it’s more due to good technique than to fast-twitch muscle activity. Certainly you need a basic level of fitness to fight (you need to be able to hold a sword properly, resist enemy blades, and stand in guard for several minutes at a time without fatiguing). But after that it’s all practice.

            The only true prerequisites for fencing achievement are the time and money necessary to practice and make events (which are, indeed, a significant burden for many) and a body free from major defects (although, given what I’ve seen with wheelchair fencing and blind fencing and high-end fencers with significant deformation/damage to their back or limbs, I’m beginning to doubt that one). Everything else can be eventually overcome or worked around with dedication and good practice.

          • Wistric

            I’m a 60th percentile sprinter. Better than most, but not even a standard deviation away from average.

            But also fairly close to top tier for footspeed in the fencing community. When fencers train (Which admittedly isn’t, on average, as often or effective as it should be) we don’t train to run. Ben does, because he runs five miles a day or something ridiculous like that. You could train to be a runner and push up into the 70th or 80th, but you’d be a lousy fencer. Which leads to…

            a body free from major defects (although, given what I’ve seen with wheelchair fencing and blind fencing and high-end fencers with significant deformation/damage to their back or limbs, I’m beginning to doubt that one).

            The Ducal Paunch shows up in fencing, too (Aedan gots hisself a belly), and doesn’t hinder all that much. Dante’s said his body will do exactly what he needs it to do to fence, and not much more. It’s as much about using the body you have in the best way, as making your body something it’s not. That said, the body you have is not the same thing as the condition that body is in.

    • Ruairc

      So, to make this concrete:

      1. Make as many events fun for fencers of all abilities as possible. This may mean Scholars-only tourneys, challenges, etc etc, but it also includes bringing fencers into the fold socially. We have some good ideas here but need to see about putting them into practice.
      2. Ensure that expectations are managed. Hopefully newcomers will realize that they cannot expect to win their first tournament; but it may be worth spelling it out. “Many WS worked hard for 5-10 years before getting the award. Aedan has been fencing since before you were born. This is a long-term goal that will require commitment. There are no participation awards, but that makes these awards all the sweeter.” This has to happen at the local level … there’s simply no other way to do it.
      3. Ensure that the resources necessary for the Scholar to rise are available once they’re ready and able to make that commitment, and that the Scholar knows what these resources are and how to get them. It’s not easy. It’s rarely cheap. “But if you’re willing to drive an hour to my house every Tuesday to fence, I’m willing to give you everything I have.”

      Perhaps, in the near future, I’ll make a follow-up post addressing these points specifically.

    • Gawin

      I also wanted to address your statement that, “I don’t think that the Scholars you’re concerned about retaining are likely to get Sea Dragons or Gold Scarves anyway. It seems to me that fighters who gain recognition have shown promise from the very beginning, even before authorizing. I imagine that this was true for you two and Tassin.”

      Promise is a tricky word. What do we mean by this? I’d define promise as meaning someone who is willing to learn, is willing to put in the hard work, and has discipline. I’d take that any day over someone who has a high degree of athleticism, a background in martial arts, height, speed, etc. It at least sounds like you’re defining “promise” to mean these latter ideas. Why is this? Well, it is only worth my time to teach people who want to learn. It is really that simple. The underlying problem with retaining fencers or even more broadly in improving the Atlantian army is that we cannot train dedication. We simply cannot help or fix those who don’t care to be fixed. We are instead trying to help those novice fencers who have dedication but lack the resources or knowledge that would be necessary for them to improve. This is why my suggestions in this thread have addressed helping novices to set small, attainable goals. This is also why we have discussed trying to create some form of early recognition in order to help those “hungry” fencers get some reasonable feedback on a more realistic time frame than the current system (which takes ~2 years).

      Sure, some of our suggestions are aimed at making fencing more fun for everyone and to build a community, but the reality is that this is the only way we can think of that might have a decent shot at convincing people to become dedicated. Without that dedication, there isn’t a thing we can do for them.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Ruairc, I challenge you to put your ideas on Atlantian RapierNet. See what other Atlantians around the kingdom, from longtime Provosts to new Scholars, think.

    Ruairc and Wistric, I’ll also be at Night Out of Town this weekend if you wish to talk in person. I also hope to be at Sergeants and Scholars.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Ruairc and Gawin, it was a pleasure to meet and fight with you at Night Out of Town. I wish I had been able to speak with you privately. I was also very sorry that Wistric was unable to come and fight.

    I think we’re speaking at cross-purposes here. I wish you luck in your efforts. It’s too late for me, as I’ve been authorized for 5 years and am no longer a novice. Someday, I’d like to see more resources made available for post-novice fighters.

    • Gawin

      “I’d like to see more resources made available for post-novice fighters.”

      To some extent, that’s what we’re talking about. We want to take novices from the point where they don’t know anything to the point where they know how to find the resources they need to improve. However, the major limitation on our ability to do so is that fighter’s interest, dedication, and commitment. Those three things are the main limiting factors to a fighter’s progression, not physical ability and I think that you don’t quite understand how much you are insulting some people who have worked very hard to get where they are with their fencing. At the end of the day, our absolute best fencers aren’t professional athletes, they are skilled amateurs. The difference between those who succeed at fencing in our game and those who do not is about their approach to it. The best way I’ve found to explain it is that our provosts and free scholars as well as our “hungry” scholars are coming to SCA fencing with the mindset of treating this as an intramural sport rather than as a pick-up game.

      Sure, natural talent can help a fighter, but in our game, recognition is far more contingent on finding the right resources to learn from, putting in the practice, drilling, and exercise in order to be able to learn those things, and having the interest, resources, and commitment to regularly take part in the fencing community. I don’t know you very well, but my impression of you is that you quite obviously care and are interested in SCA fencing. I’ve also seen many people provide you with excellent resources both in person at events and across rapier net. Now to get personal, you describe yourself as a post-novice and seem unhappy with your abilities as a fighter, so I feel compelled to ask, what do you want to accomplish with your fighting? Recently there was a discussion of people who fight just for fun vs. those for whom self-improvement is the goal. Where do you fall? Many of the postings I’ve seen from you on various message boards are focused on how people get recognized in our community, but, putting recognition aside, what are your goals? Do you want to improve? How much do you want to improve? Most importantly, what are you willing to do in order to make that happen?

  • Tibbie Croser

    I did not realize that I had insulted my fellow fighters. I don’t know anyone who has advanced *without* a great deal of hard work. I do know of a few people who burned themselves out with hard work but did not achieve the recognition they sought. I also know people who have put in a great deal of hard work but have not yet achieved the recognition they deserve (and, yes, I’ve lobbied for them). The recognition system at both the baronial and kingdom level works most of the time, but it is uncertain, unpredictable, and slow.

    Gawin, I don’t present myself very well online. If you’d like to know more about me, *PLEASE* contact my instructors/mentors, Celric, Ilaria, and Rochelle. I’m really not as lazy as you think I am. I’ve attended my local practice (Storvik) weekly for close to 6 years, and for the last 2 or 3 years I’ve tried to drill at home on most evenings. I’ve seen improvement, but not enough. That sounds like very little effort, but many people who do even less can consistently outclass me.

    My goals? I’d like to be more than a chump. I’d like to get (more than a very few) kills in melee. I’d like to finish somewhere other than last in a tourney. I’d like to know enough to teach rapier fighting. I’d like to be skilled enough to serve as a baronial rapier champion or in Golden Rose or to get asked to fight on a 5-man melee team. I’d like to command even a couple of fighters in melee. I’d like to be worthy of a Sea Dragon someday.

    What am I willing to do? I can point you to a thread on RapierNet (search “rapier gods of Maryland”). I’m a really bad fit for the Academie system. I learn best by regular, long-term, consistent, systematic instruction from one or a few people.

    • Gawin

      Tibbie, I only addressed your seeming interest in and commitment to rapier in Atlantia because that is something I have gleaned from your prolific postings here and on rapier net. I purposefully did not address anything else, because I have no idea how much you practice. I do, however, have a suggestion for you.

      Change how you think about goals.

      Your goals are quite complex. They aren’t easily measured. They won’t provide you feedback in the short term, and they leave the question of “how?” pretty wide open. Instead, frame your goals as something you can address with a few weeks of work. Lately I’ve been working with a new fighter who admittedly has a great deal of physicality and a martial arts background. Starting with his first practice, the goals I set were as follows:

      1) Be able to assume a proper guard from standing position in a single smooth motion
      2)Be able to hold the sword correctly and comfortably for the duration of a 1-hour drill session. (He’s actually quite strong, but this one has taken a while. Some of the problems were due to position rather than strength.)
      3)Be able to do advances and retreats without “bouncing” the upper body
      4) Be able to perform advances and retreats of an appropriate and consistent length.
      5) Be able to do passing steps without “bouncing”
      6) Be able to perform passing steps of an appropriate and consistent length.
      7) Be able to extend the sword correctly
      8) be able t extend the sword into an upper body lean correctly
      9) Be able to extend the sword into an upper body lean followed by a step (i.e. lunge)
      10) Form lunges with appropriate and consistent length
      11) Be sure the hand extends before the foot moves.

      These goals were all met before we even did any blade work let alone before he faced a living opponent in free-fighting.

      The idea is that the goals need to be small, achievable, and form a “path” so to speak towards improvement. Simply stating “get better” isn’t really an actionable goal. It is difficult to measure “getting better” and it leaves the question of “how?” unanswered. Instead, form small, measurable goals and work on meeting them.

      As another example, I find that the couch to X (5k, 100 pushups, 200 crunches, etc) programs use a similar model to this in order to build up from basically not being able to do any (running, pushups, crunches) to being able to over the course of ~10 weeks. I’m most familiar with the couch 2 5k program as I used it in order to prepare for Pennsic 40. Basically it starts with short periods of running interspersed with longer periods of walking. Each week you progress to the next level, running more and walking less until the program has gotten you doing a 5k. The same is true of fencing. You need to break your goals into manageable chunks and then beat those chunks into submission 😀

  • Tibbie Croser

    I do have smaller goals, such as learning to control the opponent’s blade. The goals I stated above are obviously longer-term goals.

    I would love to get the type of structured instruction that you seem to have in your area. I certainly did not get it when I started. I would love to get fundamental retraining from the ground up. The local style of teaching, for the most part, is much less structured. Any practice has a mix of instructors with varying teaching styles and a mix of students with widely varying abilities and goals. Again, Celric, Ilaria, or Rochelle could give you much better information about Storvik practices.

    The best possible thing you could do for novices across Atlantia would be to standardize the instruction at local practices.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Let me clarify a few things. Celric, Ilaria, and Rochelle were *not* my original instructors. I have made faster progress under their tutelage. As far as practices up here, I can speak only of Storvik and Lochmere. There may be highly structured practices that I’m not familiar with. Also, while the style of instruction up here may be more informal, based on sparring and feedback, it works very well for most fighters. My difficulties in learning, therefore, are due to my own inadequacies, not any problems in instruction.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Ruairc and Gawin, I thank you for your courtesy, kindness, and patience with me. I’d like to continue this conversation face to face at an event, perhaps Sergeants and Scholars, if you’re coming up. I apologize for my postings; this subject of novices and training pushes many of my buttons. I think that fencer training and retention would be an excellent subject for a class at University or another kingdom event. I think also that there are many cultural differences within the Academie d’Espee itself in terms of teaching and learning styles, and differences between northern and southern Atlantia. I wouldn’t say that any of them are wrong, but misunderstandings can arise.

    • Lily

      I read this thread and it made me sad. I have 2 things to say:

      1. Fencer retention is a challenge. I think that it has to start with the practices. If a fencer likes going to practice, and develops a good relationship with the other people at the practice, they will stay in. Maybe organize to go out to eat afterwards. Mix drilling (necessary) with fun games.

      2. Leading from that difference I would remind everyone that we are a volunteer group. We don’t pay a coach. If one on one work is something that you really need/ want – you might consider the Virginia Academy of Fencing. They have 10 week class sessions or monthly dues and have a German historical class that I took with them.
      I was talking to a white belted blue scarf about the differences between training in an Academy setting for USFA and SCA. Coaches are paid to see a weakness (lack of tempo/ measure in a fight) and drill it out of you. When you pay someone you are more invested in doing the work, that’s why people hire personal trainers at the gym. You can do it yourself, but it is much harder.
      No one likes doing stair sprints, but they help you overcome a lack of natural athleticism. I know an early period female heavy fighter who would work out with weights 5 days a week just to be able to move in her rig (this was 15 years ago – carpet armor was common). She went on to become the army commander for her group.

      That said – Tibbie and anyone else, I open this to you: I am in the northern VA (DC) area. If you come to my house on Thursdays I will work with you for 1 hr every week no pay. We have a large yard and can hold at least a dozen fencers. We will even work to build you a personal practice to make sure that you are practicing & cross training in a way that reinforces good form. Practice Makes Permanent.

  • Tibbie Croser

    Lily, hello, it was good to see you at Night Out of Town. Thank you for your kind offer, but I must decline it for a number of reasons (I have a regular commitment on Thursday nights, and I live in Maryland, far from Stierbach). However, I think you should make the offer to Stierbach/Ponte Alto/Caer Mear fighters, who might more easily benefit.

    Storvik and Lochmere have some very advanced instructors, but the teaching is not the systematic, historically based kind that you seem to have in Stierbach (is that your local practice?). It’s based more on one-on-one fighting and one-on-one drilling with feedback. Nevertheless, it’s been working for me to some extent, just much more slowly than I would like. Further, novice fencers other than me do very well with the local teaching styles (e.g., Linhart [Robert] and Armagardj). In fact, I would say that retaining novice fencers is *not* a problem around here. Gil is doing a wonderful job in Roxbury Mill of training new people (I need to check out his practice sometime).

    Lily, there is no reason for this thread to make you sad. There’s no evidence that any Scholar or novice *except me* has frustrations. I’ve been skeptical of suggestions for retaining fencers on this thread because I think that they are solutions in search of a problem.

    Hope to see you at Sergeants and Scholars. Are you teaching there?

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