Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Fencing Classifications

My friends and family have made me feel like a celebrity for going to the U.S. Fencing Summer Nationals for the first time.  There are a few fencers from our club who have gone to the “Nats.”  From memory , Robert Walter, Mike Husband and Orlando Temple from back during the formation of the club, and more recently Jim Geitgey and Dr. Denise Fitzsimon-Hawke.  The latter two were both “vets.”
Fencers start with a rating of “U” for “unclassified.”  Depending on where they place in a tournament, they achieve a rating a rating of A, B, C, D, or E with A being the highest.  The rating is often followed by the year.  Yours truly is an “E09,” which means I rated an E in 2009.
                In a tournament, the number of competitors and their rating determines what ratings will be awarded to the top finishers.  For example, if enough fencers of varying ratings meet the standards for an “A4” tournament, here’s how the ratings are distributed:  The top 8 fencers are rated A, then the next 8 get B’s, then C’s to the next 8, etc.  For a tournament to meet standards of an A4, it requires 64 fencers with a specified minimum number of each rating.  The smallest possible tournament rating is an E1, where 6 unrated fencers would complete and first place would be rated an “E.” 
                There are currently 55 entries in my event and the ratings are well spread.  While your rating does indicate how well you fence, it’s easy to see how it’s possible for just about anything to happen.  According to the last few years of Nationals, there have been A’s finish near the bottom and E’s make it halfway to the top.  There are plenty of factors at play, notably how strong the competition is in your own yard.  Our division is dominated by Amarillo Competitive Fencing Association and the Texas Tech Fencing Club, both of which produce strong athletes so I definitely had to work for my “E.”
                I’ve never fenced an A, but I’ve been thrashed by B’s and C’s.  I’ve put a few points on all of them.  The only way I could describe fighting these people is like one of those dreams where you can’t run and you feel like your legs are submerged in quicksand.  Their speed and precision makes you feel as coordinated as a six month old puppy on a tile floor.  All of the ratings compete together, so U’s will face A’s and it all comes out in the wash.
                My hope is to promote to the finals after the pools.  I don't stand much of a chance in winning a rating because only the top 13 or so will rate and there are more than 13 A's and B's.  

                That’s the reason I’m aiming for the upper middle part of the very bottom.  I have a better chance of being hit by a meteor than placing high on the list, but I’ve set a goal that’s enough out of reach that I have to train hard.  That’s what amateur sports is all about!