Saber brain trust

This photo, from a group of pictures from NAC F in Virginia Beach posted by Tim Morehouse at his blog, makes me smile every time I look at it:

Ed Korfanty, Tom Strzalkowski, Wes Glon, Arkady Burdan, Yury Gelman

For the past ten years, I’ve seen some variant of this discussion at nearly every national tournament I’ve worked. My daughter tells me she thinks this particular iteration was about what constitutes a compound attack. It always amazes me how often and vehemently—and at such length—that even the very best coaches and referees discuss the rules and actions of fencing. Take this group: that’s Ed Korfanty, national women’s saber coach and head coach at the Oregon Fencing Alliance; Tom Strzalkowski, 1996 Olympian and volunteer coach at the Air Force Academy; Wes Glon, of Penn State; Arkady Burdan, of Nellya Fencers; and Yury Gelman, national men’s saber coach and head coach at Manhattan Fencing and St. John’s University. There may be consensus on the theory embodied in the rules, but almost never on the interpretation in real bouts, especially when it’s Arkady’s fencer on one end of the strip and Ed’s or Yury’s on the other.

At one the of first national tournaments I ever attended (NAC C in Palm Springs, probably 1999), I saw one of the most entertaining versions of this when Arkady and Yury disagreed with the referee’s calls in a bout and proceeded to reenact the entire 15-touch bout, discussing the slightly different interpretations they each had for the actions of their fencers and how the referee had erred (or not). Their performance lasted longer than the original bout and drew a larger crowd than most of the actual fencing going on, which is even more remarkable when you consider that they were speaking in Russion the entire time.

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2 comments on “Saber brain trust

  1. I can’t remember the last 5 touches for most of my bouts, so that they can go through the entire bout and remember every action boggles my mind.

  2. Mine, too.

    I know quite a few referees (my daughter included) who won’t remember having refereed a particular fencer if they run into them later in the day–or even weeks or months later–until the fencer reminds them of a specific action or call, and then the referee can recall most of the bout. I imagine it helps having to interpret the action once you see it happen.

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