Midwest Fencing Guild 2013-2014 Season Championship

Congratulations to our 16 year old foilist Emma Groom on her 7th place finish in the men’s and women’s combined and #1 in the Women’s bracket in the Midwest Fencing Guild’s 2013-2014 Season Championship yesterday.

The League is in its 4rd year and it keeps growing. This year’s foil championship boasted 38 entrants.

The Midwest Fencing Guild is a Confederation of Missouri and Illinois University fencing clubs. Millstadt Venture Crew (the Fencers of the Corn) is the only non-University club to be a member of the league.

Community Health Magazine

Page 40. April 2014 edition. cmghealth.net

Page 40. April 2014 edition. cmghealth.net

A bit of nice publicity for fencing and our club. The caption written by Ms. Watt at Community Health Magazine reads:

A sharply different pair. Tyler Higgenbotham, (left) 18, and Pearce Wilson, 54, fence with epee fencing swords atop the Eads Bridge in St. Louis. The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic that day for pavement repairs. Both men practice at the Fencers of the Corn club in Millstadt, Ill.

Savvy Swordsmen. Wilson works as head coach for Fencers of the Corn as well as head fencing coach at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. Higgenbotham is now a student at the University of Missouri.

Fighting in good fun. “I started this club 10 years ago as nothing more than a way to inject some adventure into teens’ lives, and keep them out of trouble a few nights a week.” says Wilson, of Millstadt, Ill. “I had no idea things would go this far.”

“Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon…”

“… where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” –Garrison Keillor

That is also true of fencers everywhere in the world!

Last night one of our fencers (wearing her fencing jacket) was at a gas station 5 miles from where we practice.

An elderly man behind her in line asked her, “Are you headed to fencing practice?”
She replied, “Yes.”
He said, “I bet you’re pretty damned good.”
She answered back, “Why do you say that?”
Man, “I’ve heard that all the fencers in this area are pretty damned good.”
Man, “You’re going to protect your face, right? Because it’s pretty damned good too.”

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that elderly men can get away with saying things that might get a younger man slapped, the man was right.

Fencers, both male and female are attractive. Fencers are physically fit. Physically fit is attractive. Fencers have an air of confidence about them. Confidence is attractive.

Fencing is great fun and great exercise but the downside is you will have to learn to deal with the swarms of adoring fans. :-)

New intercollegiate fencing program in our backyard. McKendree University

I am excited to be part of a new NCAA fencing program.



McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois (25 miles from St. Louis) is launching a new fencing program for the 2014-2015 season.

We are looking for epee, foil and saber fencers for the 2014-2015 season. We plan to develop full men’s and women’s teams in all three weapons over the next two seasons.

Our eventual goal is to apply for NCAA status. However, I must stress there are no guarantees on the timetable.

McKendree is a Division II school and as such has the ability to offer athletic scholarships. In my talks with the Athletic Department and the University Administration it became clear that McKendree is very serious about this program and is prepared to offer very generous equipment, competition travel and scholarship opportunities.

We are late into the college selection timetable for next fall’s enrollment. Recruiting begins at once.

If you are a high school senior interested in fencing for McKendree please contact me.

If you are a high school junior I would also be interested in hearing from you for possible 2015-2016 enrollment.


Pearce Wilson
Head Coach
McKendree University Fencing


Grizzlies In A Small Boat.

That tweet started a conversation with the Saskatchewan Fencing Association, @SKFencingAssoc Sask asked if I could blog a bit about some our our ‘plays’.

First let me stress that the names of these ‘plays’ are meaningless. We are having fun. We intentionally come up with sometimes ridiculously fun names. Actual fencing, hitting each other with a metal stick, like all sports, is silly. But using the analogy of sport to life to develop the mind and body? That is not silly. We take winning seriously but we never forget to have fun along the way.

When I teach fencing actions I tell the kids that the simple individual actions are like Legos. Each Lego piece has a function. The fencer has to understand all the pieces she has available. She has to understand how they fit. The fencer/artist puts the pieces together in novel ways to create a masterpiece.

A newer fencer can get flustered in a bout. To build that Lego masterpiece under the pressure of competition is hard. So we develop some attacks in practice that the fencer can fall back on during a tough bout. These are just like the plays a football coach might develop. We try to develop plays that have a single beginning but have 3, 4 or 5 possible endings. The goal is to make the opponent wait long into the attack before he can decide which response is correct. Hopefully by that time it is too late, he is already hit.

Grizzlies In A Small Boat is a foil fencing example of this.

This started out as When Grizzlies Attack which I use to help fencers understand running attacks. When the grizzly attacks, she runs at you. If you turn and run, she continues to chase you until it is lunchtime. If you stand your ground, she stops just out of range. Only after she has sized up her prey does she complete the attack. The fencer should do the same. From the engarde lines the fencer partially extends her foil and leaps forward as far as she can but stays just outside her opponent’s attack range. If the opponent upon seeing the attacking fencer flying towards him, retreats, the attacker with no hesitation continues the aggressive attack. But if the opponent stands his ground, the attacking fencer stops her aggressive attack and sets up for a more traditional fencing encounter. She stops to size up her prey just like the grizzly does.

Many weeks later I was trying to teach my fencers how to intimidate their opponent. I had the theme from the movie Jaws playing through the speakers in the salle. We were bouncing up and down on the balls of our feet slowly at first in cadence with the music. Then if you remember, as the shark approaches closer, the music begins to speed. We sped the cadence of the bounce. And of course the final measures when the shark attacks? The fencer attacks. The kids joked how we were going to need a bigger boat. The name stuck. We began calling it You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. and here is where the Legos come in. We combined When Grizzlies Attack and You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat to make Grizzlies In A Small Boat. Again, the kids came up with the name. The execution of the move starts like When Grizzlies Attack as the attacking fencer lands from her leap, she must be prepared for one of 5 different endings. If the opponent runs, she chases them. If the opponent counter-attacks, she completes her attack with right of way. If the opponent stands still, she starts the bouncing action of You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat in an attempt to intimidate the opponent. If the opponent takes just one step back, she leaps again into a high target attack. Finally, an option for when the opponent takes just one step back, she fakes the second leap with her shoulders and instead executes a long low lunge into a low target. The fencer uses the split second while she is in the air during that first leap to determine which ending of the attack is the appropriate one.

The various Lego pieces used in this ‘fencing play’ are When Grizzlies Attack, You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, Tiger, Cobra, Mongoose, Bird of Prey, Rosemary’s Baby and Scorpion’s Tail.

The names of the Lego pieces need to be created with and for the student. My students are currently mostly high school fencers. Having fun is important. If your fencers are fun loving, then silly names like this work. If your students are serious, these silly names probably won’t work.

Selling the Sport of Fencing-Part 3: No one cares about you.

An important part of turning fencing into a financially successful sport is to start a feedback loop.

An increase in the number of slots for college fencers will help convince more high school students to take up fencing. More high school students participating will help convince more high schools to field fencing teams. More high school funded fencing programs will convince more high school students to try fencing. More high school fencers will help convince more colleges to field fencing teams. A feedback loop.

I was recently asked by a local university to help them start an intercollegiate fencing program at their school. Other fencing enthusiasts have asked me how this happened. It happened the same way any great product gets promoted to a consumer with an unmet need.

Step One: Learn your product. What are its features? What are its benefits?

Step Two: Whose needs match your product’s benefits?

Step Three: Educate the consumer on the match between their needs and your product’s benefits.

If you understand your product and find the consumer who truly needs your product and you take the time to educate, the sale (if you want to call it that) is impossible to stop.

The problem comes when you spend too much time thinking how this will benefit you. No one besides your mom really cares about you. If this product is not a great fit for the consumer’s needs there will be no sale. If it is a great fit for the consumer’s needs, you will look like a genius when actually you have little or nothing to do with the sale. The product sells itself.

You are not a salesman. You are a researcher. You are a teacher.

There is a TV show in the works!

We spent 3 hours with a film crew last Saturday on location across St. Louis. The footage is destined for a show that will air on the St. Louis ABC affiliate and another local TV station. But equally exciting is that this footage is being assembled with an eye to national broadcast on a major cable network.

Here are some stills from the video shoot:

horizontal girder

TV pose1

TV pose2

steel bar gates

Vanderbilt Cumberland Open

corey gold at vanderbilt

Great tournament for us at Vanderbilt University in Nashville TN.

Three of our fencers competed in foil.

TJ had an off day. It wasn’t until his direct elimination bout that he fenced to his potential. But that’s the way things are, some days you just don’t have it.

Shelby fenced better than I expected her to. No medals this time but her fencing keeps getting better.
***UPDATE*** A clerical error at the scorer’s table, once corrected, puts Shelby into 3rd place in Women’s Foil. We discovered it too late for Shelby to receive the Bronze Medal but she did earn it.

Corey told me she thought she had a good day. I told her no, she had an average day, average for her. Corey doesn’t fully understand her potential. She is on the path to being a great fencer. She won the gold medal in the women’s foil category with only two losses all day fencing in a mixed competition. She was one touch from being undefeated in the pool round losing 4-5 to a higher rated male college fencer. Then she lost a well fought Direct Elimination bout to another higher rated male high school fencer, the eventual bronze medalist in the mixed event.

…and in almost news…

Boys’ Life Magazine? Check.
Encyclopedia Britannica? Check.
Local ABC affiliate? Check.

Adding Nickelodeon and Hallmark networks to the list of media who have run stories about us? Why not?

The TV producer who filmed us at the Adewale Cup is meeting this week to pitch a TV show to network executives.

Absolutely insane. A bunch of kids in a cornfield who don’t know what impossible means…