Fencing, online? My first website was also my first fencing website. For those of you who know me please pardon that unnecessary truism. Netscape Navigator had just integrated a nifty WYSIWYG HTML editor and since grad school nor new baby girl left much time to actually learn another new language I was happy to "learn" web development in the Duplo Block method.
This original site was named Kabal Fencing and provided not only the practical means to advertise our fencing but also a strangely needed creative outlet. We had just formalized the newest fencing club in St Louis (1997, Baited Blade) from where I was making my departure to teach my newest group of students at St Louis University full time.
What I envisioned was an online resource to promote the seriousness of our efforts but with a slightly tongue-in-cheek humility. The initial logo (above) is a medieval depiction of the archangel Michael overcoming satan. Over the top? Comically so, but not without a pause to what we were after: effective swordplay.
Photos were taken, words were pixilated and before I knew it we had an online presence. There weren't many fencing websites prior to 2000 - especially few were those focused on documentation of fencing, rather than text. The aesthetic I attempted was hindered by resources. Bandwidth was low - we didn't even consider video - but decent photography was difficult enough.
We had many reasons to pursue this documentation. First, nobody else was doing it. Most fencing websites of the period were text only and if they had some photos they were often unclear action shots, or worse, the uncomfortable head-shot. So we focused on a sense of place and on what we were doing. Second, our fencing was getting better, albeit slowly, and closer to the practical ideal I had in mind. Looking back on these images now our mistakes are glaring...
Not to mention that the then formed Classical Fencing Society Salle D' Armes at Saint Louis University did not, as a student organization (1998-2007), have its own website hosted by the Uni. So I was free to continue experimenting.
Sometime around 2003 I lost access to the server hosting Kabal Fencing and tried a modified blog style format, first with Blogger and then later at Wordpress. This was a particularly uneventful period of online time for our fencing, although we did have a new site development for what was then the larger CFS, namely CFSSDA. Sadly, I don't have any evidence archived for this period in terms of the website. Some photographs that were posted include...
Just before the CFS was to celebrate its 10th anniversary we were invited to leave Saint Louis University. At first this was terribly inconvenient, but then I realized what potential there was in divorcing the fencing school from the Uni. Sure we'd lose funds and free space and a known, recognizable affiliation - but we'd gain liberty!
Thus began the great reformation from CFS to TDS. The logos and designs contained on this website were first published on our previous Wordpress account. Much of the design success is attributable to Patrick Capstick who worked free from hardly any complaints to create the banner-head...
Which also became the inspiration and source material for our tri-fold brochures and flyers. The previous website was limited by the presentation of services so it underwent a radical departure from what I had done before. Rather than the relatively dynamic presentation it became a static placard like website. Which would have worked wonders in 2000, but these days the kids want more. Deciding how to handle that has been a side project to distraction. Needless to say, we have a new site, a refined design, and more importantly a renewed vigor with which to promote our fencing.
Semi-regular posts here will archive training in both method and visuals, discussions on theory and application, as well as the occasional review. Looking back on the evolution of our fencing information online I feel that we're in just the right spot. All my thanks go to all my students and training partners, past and present. Without you this would have been yet another windmill in La Mancha.