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Thread: Fencing

  1. #196
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    Stro: Colonel Brownlee



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  2. #197
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    social distancing with swords

    Fencing, with built-in social distancing, proves ideal sport for coronavirus pandemic
    By Allison Ward
    The Columbus Dispatch
    Posted Jul 20, 2020 at 11:48 AM
    Fencers say that the sport might be the ideal activity to do right now as it promotes social distancing.

    Like many kids, summer looks a lot different this year for siblings Eleanor and Gavin McClung, who are not allowed to visit public pools, attend large gatherings of friends or go on vacation far from home.

    Fortunately, the Upper Arlington sister and brother, 8 and 14 respectively, still have at least one extracurricular activity their parents find safe: fencing.

    Masks and gloves are already standard equipment for the sport and some competitors now double up on masks, wearing a cotton one underneath the mesh fencing one, which does not have the same protective effect against COVID-19.

    And social distancing? That’s less of a problem for athletes carrying nearly 4-foot-long sabers, epees and foils with the goal of stabbing anyone who comes near them.

    “Innately, it’s a little safer,” said the kids’ mother, Becky McClung. “You’re not in each others’ faces all the time and there are those natural barriers.”

    In fact, fencing might be one of the safest sports right now, a perk that many clubs across central Ohio and nationwide have touted on social media in recent weeks as they’ve welcomed students back since reopening.

    “Fencers try to keep away from each other,” said Stan Prilutsky, head coach at Columbus Fencing & Fitness in Dublin, where the McClungs take lessons. “If you get too close, you’re in trouble.”

    Even though the sport boasts built-in barriers to deter the spread of COVID-19 — including that it only involves two athletes — Isabel Alvarez has reopened Profencing in Lewis Center cautiously, following protocols recommended by USA Fencing, the sport’s governing body.

    “I have an immune deficiency problem,” she said. “Staying in business, staying well and not getting sick, has been a big effort.”

    Finances became extremely tight after nonessential businesses were shut down in the spring, and a slow rebound since it reopened for private lessons has put the academy in jeopardy of shutting its doors for good, Alvarez said. A small Paycheck Protection Program loan and some generous parents who continued paying their children’s fees even when the business was closed have helped her weather the storm so far, she said.

    Anyone entering Alvarez’s building is asked to wear a cotton mask, even while fencing, and students aren’t allowed to store their equipment at the facility. She’s taught students how to sanitize their suits — something they should do anyway — and they’ve done away with ceremonial handshakes, following USA Fencing rule changes.

    So far, Alvarez said she is only seeing about half her regular students, and many of her summer camps with community centers have been canceled. However, she is still doing a few small camps, starting this month. She hopes to begin offering introductory classes for new students and small-group sessions soon.

    “It’s safe to do fencing, and it’s good because the kids need an activity,” Alvarez said. “It challenges the mind and body.”

    One of her students, Elise Lemasters of Delaware, who generally prefers bouts with friends and at tournaments, couldn’t wait for her first private class with Alvarez upon returning to the club.

    “In the car, I told my dad how excited I was, and I typically don’t like having lessons, but I was looking forward to it,” said the 12-year-old, who is the No. 1 female fencer in Ohio under 13.

    Parents at Profencing shared that excitement. Heather Besselman, a mom of four, said she and her two sons who fence, especially 10-year-old Noah, were thrilled when Profencing opened again.

    “Noah needed activity,” said Besselman, of Delaware. “It was time, and they’re taking precautions all across the board.”

    Her children still haven’t been many places, but she feels they’re safe fencing.

    “They’re fully geared up and the chance of saliva going through their mask then through another mask and onto their opponent is slim,” she said.

    While wearing two masks is “weird,” Noah said, it’s now “normal.”

    Normal is what many of Prilutsky’s students have craved these past few months. About 75% of his 150 or so students are back taking regular private lessons.

    While he acknowledged he and other instructors saw some benefits to teaching virtual lessons on Zoom — which focused on technique and footwork — he’s glad to have students back in his 8,000 square-foot facility that boasts 19 fencing strips.

    “One student was crying after her first bout because she was so excited to be back,” Prilutsky said. “There’s been an emotional response to getting back to the sport we love.”

    Gavin McClung admits he was a bit nervous to come back as he felt out of shape after two months away from the club. But it didn’t take long to fall into a rhythm with familiar faces around him.

    “I’ve been excited, too,” the teen said. “There are a lot of people here I haven’t seen in a while.”

    award@dispatch.com

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  3. #198
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    Burbank International Film Festival

    STRO: THE MICHAEL D'ASARO STORY
    FILMS, SUNDAY | FORIEGN FILMS & DOCUMENTARIES
    1H 27MIN



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    Available on 9/13/2020

    Michael D'Asaro taught about life through the medium of fencing

    Micheal D'Asaro lived a life completely intertwined with the sport of fencing. It provided an avenue for him to escape the poverty of Brooklyn's Redhook district through a fencing scholarship to NYU. He became one of the dominant fencers of his era after coming under the tutelage of a fierce Hungarian Instructor by the name of Csaba Elthes. He made a name for himself internationally as well, fencing against the greats like Nazlimov and Pawlowsky. But D'Asaro always marched to his own beat which brought him into conflict with the governing body of American Fencers. He left the sport as a competitor when he wouldn't compromise to suit what he consider old fashioned codes of behavior. He returned to the sport as a coach in San Francisco purely by happenstance when he was hired to be the new head coach at the Halberstadt Fencer's Club. The only problem was, he had never been formally taught how to coach fencing. But, he taught himself to coach, quickly excelling to the top ranks of United States coaches. He was hired to coach National and International Teams. He achieved his greatest success at San Jose State where he directed the women's foil team to five straight national championships. His San Jose State students formed the basis for several Olympic Squads in the seventies and eighties He cut his college career as a coach short in the mid 1980s. He was burnt out and tired of the college politics. He moved first to Oregon where he opened his own salle, but that only lasted a short while. Ultimately, he moved to Los Angeles where he continued to teach fencing. He passed away in 2001 from an inoperable brain tumor. D'Asaro left an indelible impression on all the people he met. The lessons he passed on are still used today by his students, in fencing as well as in life.
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  4. #199
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    Our newest interview - Free from KungFuMagazine.com

    Gene Ching
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  5. #200
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    Boston Film Festival Q&A




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  6. #201
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    Local coverage

    'Stro': The story of the world-class SF athlete who tripped with Jerry Garcia
    Photo of Dan Gentile
    Dan Gentile
    SFGATE
    Nov. 9, 2020
    Updated: Nov. 9, 2020 4 a.m.


    Jerry Goldstein Cadillac with Michael D'Asaro on the hood in front of Halberstadt Fencer’s Club, at the original location on Fillmore Street.
    Courtesy of Greg Lynch

    For most athletes, getting a haircut would be a small price to pay for a trip to the Olympics. But very few athletes cared about their hair, and personal freedom, as much as Michael D’Asaro.

    At one point in the 1960s, D’Asaro was perhaps the greatest living American fencer, able to defeat international opponents in all three of the sport's major disciplines (sabre, epee, and foil), an unheard-of achievement that is essentially the football equivalent of playing on offense, defense and special teams. In the fencing world, just like in basketball, everybody wanted to “be like Mike.”

    When D’Asaro didn’t have a sword in his hand, he was typically holding a joint instead, indulging in everything San Francisco’s hippie revolution had to offer. He grew a mane like a hippie lion, and when the Olympic committee demanded he trim it in order to join the 1968 fencing team, Greg Lynch, director of the new documentary “Stro: The Michael D’Asaro Story” (screening online this week), says that D'Asaro wasn’t willing to conform.

    “He said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Or he said, ‘Why don’t you go f—k yourself,’” recounts Lynch.


    Michael D’Asaro in Los Angeles in the 1990s, back to his hippie days.
    Courtesy of Greg Lynch

    The film, screening this week online through the Ojai Film Festival and Mescalito Biopic Fest, features D’Asaro’s former teammates, students and rivals speaking about his monumental influence on the sport, from his professional career to his latter days as a coach.

    Before D’Asaro found himself in San Francisco, his biggest influence came from Hungary. Already an exceptional collegiate talent, D’Asaro came into his own after he began training in 1958 with Hungarian maestro Csaba Elthes (“the dean of American sabre fencing”) from whom he learned a smoother, more fluid style that disrupted the typical rhythm of a match. It led him to big wins, including a fourth place finish on Team USA in the 1960 Rome Olympics, plus a gold medal at the national championships in 1962. Although he was still unknown in the U.S., he became a minor celebrity in Europe, where fencing was a popular enough sport that there were TV networks dedicated to it.

    “They thought of him as the Jesus of fencing,” says Lynch. “They’d go after him for autographs. I think he had security since he was so popular.”

    At that point in his career, D’Asaro had yet to grow out his signature long hair but had already started indulging in substances, most notably during a match in Warsaw. Due to a horrible hangover, he was seeing double, but when his coach told him to aim for the opponent in the middle, he won the match.

    In the documentary, Andy Shaw from the Museum of American Fencing expressed the level of his exceptional talent. “Michael can be asleep and drunk, and still beat anyone in the world,” says Shaw.


    Classic lunge by Michael D’Asaro on the left. A textbook lunge.
    Courtesy of Greg Lynch

    After a few years competing on the international circuit and a brief period working in the advertising industry, D’Asaro made his way to San Francisco. He qualified for the 1968 Olympics, but after refusing to cut his hair, he temporarily dropped out of the fencing circuit, opting instead to spend his days listening to concerts at Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park and working at the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury selling copies of the Berkeley Barb newspaper for a quarter.

    When an instructor at the Halberstadt Fencing Club on Fillmore Street learned that D’Asaro lived in San Francisco, he was recruited as a coach. It began a second phase of his career, in which he was one of the most in-demand and unconventional fencing instructors in the world and returned to professional competitions. He became known as "Stro," short for maestro, the traditional term of fencing coach. During his years in San Francisco, he was a cross between a tyrant and spiritual advisor, assigning rigorous training exercises but also handing out bags of mushrooms for students to experiment with outside the gym.

    “Michael was a very spiritual guy. As people in the film point out, he was their guru, and he was charting paths to new realms. And the drugs unlocked a lot of things to help him get to those places …” says Lynch. “To make a bad joke, it was a two-edged sword for Michael. It helped him, he enjoyed it, but it was kind of his downfall as well.”


    Michael D’Asaro standing in the center in the back at the Halberstadt fencing club. Three-time national foil champion Harriet King is demonstrating the lunge. She won two championships under D’Asaro’s coaching.
    Courtesy of Greg Lynch

    Although D'Asaro's methods were strange, they worked, with several of his students earning places on the U.S. Olympic Team. After leaving Halberstadt, he went on to teach at San Jose State, where he led the women’s fencing program with the same rigor. He then married one of his students and retreated to a remote home in the woods in Oregon, but his spirit never really left San Francisco, and he had trouble settling into a calmer life, eventually leading to the end of his marriage. He struggled with colon cancer and a brain tumor that affected his coordination to the point where he could barely walk, but he remained teaching until his final days.

    In December of 2000, he died of a brain aneurysm, but his legacy has been cemented in the fencing world as one of the greatest to ever hold a sabre.
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  7. #202
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    Stro: Weapons Control



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  8. #203
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    Peter Brand

    When the SJSU Fencing program was cancelled in my Junior year, I tried to transfer to Stanford.

    Didn't work.

    Ex-fencing coach, telecom CEO face charges in $1.5 million bribery scheme to get kids into Harvard
    The former Harvard coach allegedly took the bribes to secure the admission of the executive's children to the Ivy League school as fencing recruits.

    Head coach Peter Brand talks to Veronica Czyzewski of Harvard as she competes against Karolina Cieslar of St. John's in the Saber semi finals during the Division I Women's Fencing Championship in Cleveland on March 24, 2019.Jason Miller / NCAA Photos via Getty Images file
    Nov. 16, 2020, 3:17 PM PST
    By Tim Stelloh

    A former top fencing coach at Harvard University and a telecommunications executive were arrested Monday in an alleged bribery scheme involving the school's fencing team, federal authorities said.

    Peter Brand, 67, and Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, face charges of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said.

    Brand allegedly secured admissions for Zhao’s two children to Harvard as fencing recruits in exchange for more than $1.5 million in bribes, the office said in a statement.

    The charges were filed more than a year after the Boston Globe first reported that Zhao bought Brand’s home in Needham, southwest of Boston, for nearly $1 million, or $440,000 above its assessed value.

    On Sept. 29, 2016, nearly five months after the sale, Zhao’s younger son received a letter from Harvard saying he was likely to be accepted as a fencing recruit, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

    The sale prompted an inspection from the local assessor, who wrote in his notes that it “makes no sense,” according to the documents.

    Zhao, CEO of a telecom company who lives in Maryland, allegedly made another series of payments to Brand in 2015 that covered school loans for his children and their tuition at Penn State University. He also paid Brand’s water, sewer and mortgage bills, and gave him a $34,563 car loan, the documents say.

    Those payments came after Zhao’s older son was also admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit in 2013. According to the documents, Zhao contributed $1 million to a fencing charity, which then paid $100,000 to a foundation that Brand and his wife had recently established.

    The documents say the scheme began after Brand and his wife were struggling to pay bills.

    Harvard fired Brand in 2019 after the Globe reported on the home sale. The school’s athletic director said he had violated the university's conflict of interest policy.

    In a statement Monday, Brand’s lawyer described Zhao’s children as “academic and fencing stars” and said the former coach had done nothing wrong in the admissions process.

    Zhao’s lawyer, Bill Weinreb, said that Zhao “adamantly denies the charges and will vigorously contest them in court.”

    Neither have entered a plea.

    The charges come more than a year after federal prosecutors in Massachusetts announced charges in a sprawling scheme — uncovered in an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues — that targeted dozens of wealthy parents who secured admissions for their children to elite universities through a for-profit college prep counselor, Rick Singer. Among those caught in the scam were actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

    The charges against Zhao and Brand are separate from Operation Varsity Blues.

    U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling called the charges announced Monday as “part of our long-standing effort to expose and deter corruption in college admissions.”

    Tim Stelloh
    Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News based in California.
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  9. #204
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    Stro: The Michael D’asaro Story is now available on Amazon Prime

    Gene Ching
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  10. #205
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    Cool to see this in GQ



    On Guard: Curtis McDowald Is Fighting His Way to the Top of the Fencing World
    The 25-year-old Olympian is an electric presence in competition—and dead set on shaking up a stodgy, conservative sport outside of it.
    BY BRADFORD WILLIAM DAVIS

    PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANA SCRUGGS

    July 6, 2021

    New York’s Fencer’s Club is giving country club, with all that entails. The brand-new midtown Manhattan facility has blindingly white walls and pristine rows of lockers in plain view of the padded floors where practice takes place. A discreet dumbbell rack sits outside the glass windows of a large conference room, just in case you need to take a work call between your drop sets. And maybe it’s just the cloth mask I’m wearing, but for a gym that hosts routine Olympic mini-camps ahead of the Tokyo Games, the place smells neutral. Maybe even...pleasant?

    Curtis McDowald, the first-time Olympic fencer, confirms my suspicion—that something is just a little off at his training grounds. “A lot of these characters, they want the club to be like Planet Fitness,” he says in between tune-up bouts. “This the Fencer’s Club? Or the Planet Fitness club?”

    McDowald brings the grit, passion, and personality the rest of the joint misses. The lithe six-footer dominates not only within the strip—the narrow rectangular space where fencers battle—but well beyond it, overwhelming the club and the sport with his presence. He’s the type of dude who’ll bet his Rolex on Instagram before an Olympic qualifier against a favored opponent, just in case the stakes weren’t already high enough. (Curtis won the match; his opponent, Marco Fischera, declined to take the bet.) Or to start a cryptocurrency—let him know if you want in on $CURT.

    But right now, the 25-year-old is mowing down sparring partners, the latest a recent Northwestern standout named Pauline Hamilton, then afterward explaining exactly what he’s doing.


    There are three types of fencing, each defined by its blade: foil, sabre, and Curtis’ discipline, épée. The longest and heaviest of the three blades, épée fencing also distinguishes between the others by allowing fencers to use the tip of their weapon to make contact with any part of their opponent’s body to score a point. Because your entire body is a target instead of just the torso (foil) or upper half above the waist (sabre), épeé emphasizes a particularly methodical, harnessed approach to offense, where cunning must be married to raw athleticism, lest you leave yourself exposed.

    “She's making a fake attack, and I'm just, kind of like, pretending it scares me. I'm like, Oh look!" Curtis says. “You know, in martial arts, the game of it…is deception. So if I make you believe that you're doing something correct, and you find out at the end result, you're wrong, you've been deceived.”

    “You have to assume that...OK, if you didn't create the trap, that I made a trap for you.”

    Beyond the strategizing—he counts The Art of War as one of the most important books in his development—he’s also performing, clowning his opponents out of their protective vests. Trash talk is followed by pep talk—he’s a mentor to many of the younger fencers, especially the Black ones—then more trash talk for the rematch. Fencer’s Club isn’t home, but he’s conquering it anyway.

    Towards the end of his bout with Pauline, Curtis stretches his arms completely out of his stance, daring his opponent to thrust at him—the fencer’s equivalent, say, of a matador waving his bright red flag at a charging bull.

    Pauline tries her best. Curtis parries, slashes back, and scores the point.

    Then, he rips off his protective helmet and lets out a roar that resounds in every pocket of the club—the kind of noise that might make Curtis the most exciting young fencer in a generation, but that also draws the ire of the sport’s old guard, crusty fans of an ancient, insular sport. Now, fencing at its highest level is full of emotion like any sport, and Curtis is far from the first to bicker with a referee when he thinks they blew it. But Curtis’ heightened intensity is a blessing.


    To me, Curtis’s YouTube clips seem like they should be highlight reels, but the comments about his exuberance on the strip and banter with the referees that appear beneath put me in the minority. One commenter fears the South Jamaica, Queens product will make the sport “Go the way of the NBA”—no euphemism here—“full of disrespectful trash players.” Another expresses his pride in—seriously—“the refs for standing up to him.” Where else have you ever seen fans identify with the refs more than the players?

    But this is fencing, where being a Black man in a white sport, and a demonstrative guy in a quiet one, interlock into a sort of existential affront to fencing’s stodgy culture. Maybe in an alternate universe, he’s a fiery competitor like Russell Westbrook. Here, he’s Curtis, the surly malcontent.

    His intensity and showmanship are unique and defining traits, but Curtis explains that his approach—the one that has him ranked second in the US and 27th worldwide, and with a ticket booked to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics—is a required part of his process.

    “You got to treat your practice like a competition,” Curtis tells me when I ask about the screams and the showmanship. “A lot of people are afraid. They think, if I practice the same way, people will learn and you'll see my moves. But that's martial arts.”

    “Why is (Curtis) so animated? I mean, he's a killer!” says Jake Hoyle, currently America’s top-ranked men’s épéeist and Curtis’ teammate. “Like, when you fence against him, he's trying to beat you 15-zero, every time. Like, he's not giving you any ground and he fences in practice like you would in a competition.”

    Later on I ask Ben Bratton, one of Curtis’ mentors in fencing and the first African-American épeéist to win a world championship title with Team USA, a version of the same question: would Curtis be dealing with this kind of critique if he were white?

    “No.” Bratton says, flatly. “But I'll also say that I think if Curtis was white, I don't even think he has to do that,” referring to the psych-up exuberance his mentee takes to the strip. “Curtis is weaponizing something that I think as a Black athlete, we can use: the ability to make your opponents, oftentimes white, uncomfortable by your power as a Black man. He's doing something that is exclusive to us.”

    “A lot of people don't like it,” Hoyle says. “I don't know what the big deal is. What's the problem if he's yelling at practice? People are like, Oh, it's disturbing practice…it's obnoxious. But I don't see it like that.”

    “You can be silent and your body language says “he’s a total *******.” And I think you can, like, respectfully scream,” says Pauline—again, one of the people he thoroughly beat. “A lot of people are not so happy with Curtis. But, you know he's a lot nicer than some of the people with good reputations.”

    As Curtis continues dominating his way through practice, I take a seat on a bench near the conference room. An older woman approaches, joining two other middle-aged recreationists, with a complaint.

    She rips her mask and protective gear off, and loudly proclaims: “He's screaming his ****ing head off!” She may be nearly as animated as Curtis, but the men nod along, similarly miffed that his quest for gold is tarnishing their weekly group aerobics class.

    Every trait Curtis has cultivated may make him an Olympian. It also makes him a target.
    continued next post
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  11. #206
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    continued from previous post




    Demetria Goodwin’s friends swore her tall, slender boys would play basketball. She had other ideas.

    “That was always the first thing that came out of people's mouths. I'm like, ‘No, nah. He swims,” she’d say, referring to Miller, her youngest.

    “And he's a fencer," she’d insist of Curtis.

    "Fencer?" A question her friends and neighbors would ask, usually twice just to make sure. “Oh, with the swords?” Demetria recalls, her thick Queens accent pulling out the silent “w.”

    We’re chatting at a midtown diner— as a Queens native, I’d offered to meet her in her hood, but she enjoys being a brisk walk from where Curtis used to make his weekly trips to fencing practice, back when she was raising him as a single mom driving in on her days off from her busy schedule working on Rikers Island.

    Demetria wasn’t joking, so when he was 12, she signed him up for the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the first Black fencer to win an Olympic medal for Team USA. Curtis didn’t need much persuading, quickly realizing he’d rather seek fights on the strip instead of dodging them between classes at his Hollis, Queens middle school—one of three housed in the same building.

    “I used to get my ass whipped over there, like all the time,” Curtis recalls. “I got my ass whooped so bad, the last day [of school] they just graduated me,” even though a mixup meant he’d missed nearly a third of seventh grade after getting hit by a car and jumped by the passengers.

    It didn’t end there. “I. Cannot. Make. This. ****. Up.” Curtis tells me. The same crew rolled up to him three years later. This time, it wasn’t a beatdown, it was a drive-by.

    “I'm looking at this car, and, Oh, Bentley in the hood is what I'm thinking. Then, this mother****er is driving fast...comes out in a power slide right, and I'm like, He look like he's got a gun or some ****.”

    Shots were fired. Hunched under a mailbox, Curtis realized: “I'm leaving everything in the hood behind me.”

    Fortunately, his fencing was already forging a path ahead. Curtis showed immediate promise, and older, accomplished fencers like Bratton quickly took notice of not just his physical gifts, but his diligence. Bratton remembers Curtis replicating the fundamentals world-class fencers twice his age practiced, studying his own moves in the mirror, far away from the other tweens.



    “Most people follow the system that they're put into,” he says. “But Curtis had enough insight even at that young an age, to assess his environment, what people were doing that were in a space that he wanted to be in and start doing it.”

    But the wealthy, white culture sustaining his trade? Well, he’s still figuring that out, playing defense at all times like he’s down to his final point.

    There was the time, Curtis says, he borrowed an equipment bag, one that couldn’t have cost more than $50 at the time, from the Club’s lost and found—a common practice among the boys at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, and anyway, he was late for a competition. His friend returned it, along with both of their blades, the next day, only for the club to inform him that the bag belonged to Miles Chamley-Watson, the foil fencer who would go on to win bronze in Rio de Janiero in 2016. Returning the bag intact to Chamley-Watson wasn’t enough for the club, nor was the apology Curtis was ordered to write to Miles and the Club’s board of directors. Nor was being reprimanded in front of the younger fencers Curtis was beginning to mentor, Fencer’s Club intent to teach its impressionable PWF kids that the Black-on-Black crime doesn’t pay.

    The Club suspended Curtis for a year, and ordered him to replace Miles’ bag with a brand new set—Curtis estimates it cost him $400—if he wanted to be reinstated. He was 14.

    Though Philippe Bennett wasn’t on the club’s board when Curtis was suspended, the current chair regrets the club's punitive actions, and goes out of his way to defend Curtis’ approach.

    “(Curtis is) undaunted....He's definitely someone who we know that when you're on the strip, you've got yourself a true competitor. That's all he can do and I wish him the best.”

    Bennett believes “a lot has evolved” at the Fencer’s Club, citing the club’s diversity statistics, the work of its DE&I committee, and the persistent presence of elite fencers of color like Curtis, as evidence that it's become a more inclusive institution.

    (When I asked Curtis if the club was inclusive, his response was straightforward: “Hell no.”)

    When Demetria learned her son was being suspended and fined, she wondered: “Are we trying to punish him? Or are we trying to correct him?" As a veteran of Rikers, she knew “the difference between I'm punishing you, and I'm gonna correct you so that you don't do it again.” It was clear the club couldn’t—or wouldn’t—draw the same distinction.

    After Fencer’s Club threw him off the strip, Bratton gathered some of the other fencers—Adam Rodney, Dwight Smith, and Donovan Holtz—and brought Curtis to a nearby Starbucks on 28th and 7th in Chelsea.

    “Most athletes who end up in that situation—they never come back from it,” Bratton told Curtis. “It’s almost like a death sentence.”

    Ben’s advice: don’t let it be yours. “I basically challenged him to be the first to come back stronger and to not let it beat him down.”

    After Curtis’ mom paid his fine and he did his time, he came back to the club, worked his way to a full scholarship from St. John’s University’s well-regarded fencing program, and was rated All-American in men’s épée twice. Somewhere in between St. John’s and Tokyo, Curtis developed a world-class flèche—an explosive running thrust where he shifts his body downward to surprise his opponent before striking upward for a point. His signature move marries his athleticism, aggression and deceptiveness.

    Still, his brush with disaster has stuck with him. In conversation, even when discussing the beatdowns and drive-bys, Curtis’ voice has notes of nostalgia and amusement, a wistful “deadass, bro” punctuating every hair-raising hood testimony, along with a beaming smile not even his paper mask can cover. But the Fencer’s Club suspension? There was no silver lining.

    "I just genuinely thought, like, Man, maybe I'm a bad person?” he says. "I'm really ****ing up.” It had confirmed for him a frustrating truth: that, despite his best efforts, and despite his all-world talent, he might not ever be fully accepted by the sport he loved, embraced by the institution he had given so much to.

    “I'm starting to understand, like, no. The punishments that I receive—it's just never going to be proportionate to the crime that I actually make. And when I watch other kids do certain things, or my white counterparts? Slap on the wrist. That was my real first understanding of [how] people are going to look at me when I do certain things. And I'm not going to get the benefit of the doubt.”

    For Curtis, it led to a somber epiphany, one that could come only from trading the predictable dangers of his all-Black school and community for the fickle embrace of a white institution: “I need to think how it looks first, rather than doing the right thing. Because doing the right thing can get me in trouble.”
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  12. #207
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    continued from previous post



    “How many good African-American fencers are there?” Curtis asks me.

    To start, I say, there’s Ibtihaj Muhammad, the star of the 2016 games, who won bronze while competing in hijab. Daryl Homer, the men’s sabreist, won silver five years ago and will compete again this year. And on Curtis’ own épeé team is Yeisser Ramirez, a sturdy Cuban American whose ferocity on the strip and Charizard wingspan helped him clinch him a spot. In other words, Curtis is just the latest character in a burgeoning movement of elite Black fencers competing on the sport’s most prominent stage.

    “I'm not rare,” Curtis says. “I'm really not.” That may read triumphant—the Black fencer, no longer a rarity!—but Curtis sounds exasperated. I don’t blame him.

    I met Curtis last year, in my capacity as a New York Daily News sports columnist. I wish I could say it was because of his prodigious fencing talent, or that we naturally found each other as fellow loudmouths from Queens. Instead, I got a tip that one of Curtis’s former St. Johns University coaches had told his Fencer’s Club students that Abraham Lincoln “made a mistake” when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

    My reporting bore it out: last June, Ukranian-born Boris Vaksman told his students over Zoom that Lincoln had screwed up “because they”— ahem, ahem—“don’t want to work. They steal, they kill, they [do] drugs.” (He also clarified that it was only the “majority” of African-Americans responsible for such behavior.) That initially earned Vaksman a two-month suspension from the Fencer’s Club. After I wrote about the story, in conjunction with prominent fencers leaking the audio of Vaksman’s remarks, the club terminated his contract. USA Fencing then suspended him for two years.

    ADVERTISEMENT

    Reporting on Boris was a crash course in what young, gifted, and Black fencers like Curtis endure. Team USA’s solid quorum of Black fencers are exceptional athletes on their own merits—but even more so when you understand that because they are Black fencers, they are exceptions. Their existence is proof not just of their athletic excellence, but of their triumph over a system designed to keep them out.

    It’s not just the racist coaches, though one can only imagine how many would-be fencers have quit rather than face the abuse. According to Fencing Parents, an independently published blog written for families interested in the sport, competitive youth fencing can cost between $20,000 and $40,000 a year. If you understand, generally, where wealth is concentrated in this country—which families hope to earn $40k a year and which can blow that amount on a hobby—then the lack of Black fencers should not surprise you. Curtis’ mother, Demetria, said Curtis’s training got pricey “to the point where I didn't even want to know the amount.”

    “It’s a shame that I never actually did the budget-budget for it. Cause if I woulda done the budget, he might not have been fencing.” She’s joking, I think.

    Later—nearly midnight, after he’s finished a private coaching session—Curtis still wants to talk, so he asks another question: “Over the last 20 years, there's been a lot of really good African American fencers. But how many African American coaches are there?”

    I didn’t have the answer offhand, but I knew: not many.

    The glaring lack of Black coaches, Curtis explained, is “because they're being iced out of the opportunity...They're being told, ‘Oh, if you want to work here, you have to get a degree in coaching from Europe.’”

    I don’t know much about fencing; I can’t tell you how important European experience is for aspiring Black fencing coaches. But I do know other things.

    As a baseball reporter, I have seen what happens when a sport’s exorbitant costs at the youth level close the door on American-born Black talent. I know what happens when there’s a near-complete absence of Black people working in leadership, both in coaching and front offices, across an entire organization. I’ve listened to broadcasters ridicule Marcus Stroman for wearing a du-rag under his ball cap. I’ve been at the center of national dialogues sparked by Fernando Tatis Jr committing the mortal sin of swinging at a hittable pitch, and by Tim Anderson’s decision, fresh off getting drilled by a fastball to his ass, to emote in a cultural context the league suspended him for, even as they proudly appropriate it with ignorant, hip-hop shaded marketing. And I can confirm that the press box—where I am frequently the only credentialed Black person present, and as such, have my presence challenged by colleagues and double-checked by stadium security—is no different than the field.

    So, yeah, in a roundabout way, I know something about fencing.

    But I also know that Curtis is still Curtis, in spite of the different rules Black people face. Or maybe, because of them.

    “Look, you're a black man— you understand this,” he tells me as we leave the club towards Penn Station. “We walk around dealing with a certain level of perpetual pressure (that) white people don't understand.”

    “I'm very confident in the technical and tactical strategies, but...there's a psychological level I can go above them. Because I don't have the same fears.”

    The way Curtis embraces the deeper, existential pressures he faces reminds me of our earlier chat about traps on the fencing strip. Not because trying to score a point in épée and navigating the varied, systemic, and interlocking burdens of institutionalized racism are comparable, but because they aren't. You ain’t seen what he, or Ibtihaj, or Yeisser, Nzingha Prescod, or Darryl or Ben or especially Peter Westbrook has seen. But, since he’s seen what you ain’t, the moment the match becomes a mind game, Curtis is already in his bag.

    And yes, he owns it.
    threads
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  13. #208
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    It is great to see US Americans of all hues represented in international competition(s)!
    Many are not knowledgeable with "black' people being part of what may be termed a fencing Renaissance but here are some figures:
    1. Peter Westbrook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Westbrook USA Olympian
    2, Guess who wrote the Count of Monte Cristo: Alexandre Dumas: aka Davy de la Pailletaire, Haitian-French origin
    3. Chevallier de St George: Fencer and classical composer
    4. Laura Elodie Flessel-Colovic Guadeloupe/France/EUrope

  14. #209
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    Streaming schedules on NBC

    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  15. #210
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    Lee Kiefer - 1st ever US gold in indie foil!!!

    Olympic fencing: Lee Kiefer wins USA's first-ever gold in individual foil
    Jay Busbee
    Sun, July 25, 2021, 5:27 AM·1 min read
    In this article:

    Fencing has been a part of the Olympic program ever since the modern incarnation of the Games began in 1896. In that time, no American had ever won gold in fencing's individual foil discipline ... until now.

    Team USA's Lee Kiefer defeated Inna Derglazova (ROC) 15-13 to claim gold, triumphing in a tightly-fought match in which she mostly led, but never comfortably.

    Deriglazova, who won gold in the event in Rio, battled back from multiple deficits to close to within 14-13, but Kiefer was able to hold on for the final point. This marks only the third Olympic gold for the United States in fencing. Mariel Zagunis won in saber at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

    Kiefer, a graduate of Notre Dame aligned with the Bluegrass Fencers' Club in Lexington, Kentucky, is a decorated victor, a four-time NCAA champion and a nine-time individual Pan American champion. She finished fifth in the event in the 2012 Olympics, and 10th at the 2016 Olympics.


    Lee Kiefer celebrates the first individual foil Olympic gold medal in American history. (Elsa/Getty Images)

    _____

    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.


    Quote Originally Posted by YinOrYan View Post
    Then all they got to do to get Wushu in the Olympics is change the dresscode to be more like that of ice-skaters...
    Honestly, YinOrYan - have you seen competition Wushu uniforms lately? We crossed that bridge years ago...

    threads
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