WWJD - What Would Jamie Do?
I have been a member of the Fencers Club since 2017. I fenced back in the 1970s for college and later in the US open. I knew Jamie Melcher since those days. He was about 10 years older than I and we fenced regularly at open tournaments run by the Met. division. He and George Masin were the top epee fencers at that period. The thing I remember most of that time was how gentleman Melcher always behaved on or off the strip. He would give us young kids advice on some technique and always encouraged us to do better. He was a role model for us.
Fast forward 35 years, I am retired and I decided to return to fencing not to compete but just for exercise. I joined the Fencers Club because my friend is a member and it is one of the top club in the country. I reconnected with Jamie after all these years. I was surprised he still remember me. I was a nobody back then, just one of many young fencers who has come and gone.
I later learned how Jamie single handed save the club from financial difficulties. He also served as board member and help raised a lot of money so we could buy our own space instead of leasing. We are expected to move to this new home in 2020.
I also learned in the past two years that Jamie is having to deal with dementia. His health declined slowly but surely. He came to practice less and less.
This article is my tribute to a great man and a great fencer. He will always be my role model. I decided to use this article to remind all of us the rules of conduct of being a member of the Fencers Club, the oldest fencing institution in America.
- Nov. 2019
Our Club's Mission
Fencers Club is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to the pursuit of excellence through the sport of fencing. We actively support a culture of sharing by performing community services that extend beyond fencing.
Rule of Conduct
- A member will always respect his or her opponent on and off the strip. We salute each other at the beginning of a bout and we shake hand at the end.
- A member will not use foul language.
- A member will not make extreme loud noises after making a touch giving the impression of taunting.
- A member will not hog a strip especially on a busy night when there are many members waiting to get on.
- A member will not use excessive force during a bout.
- A member will help his fellow members with advice or hints on improving their technique. Especially beginners and younger players.
- A member will not decline an invitation to fence except for good reasons.
- A member will try not to loose his or her temper even if justified.
- A member will support our club's various activities and fund raising activities. We are a non profit 501c3 organization.
- A member will respect his or her coach and share the honor with his or her coach when they win medals but not blame anyone for their failures.
The Golden Rule
If I could sum up the basic philosophy of a good conduct member, it would be the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This simple idea has been around for thousands of years and with many religions and cultures. The reason is simple. It works.
A few years ago, shortly after I joined the club, I witnessed this first hand. One of the elder club member was at practice and suddenly felt weak and short of breath. Jamie went over right away and sat him down. He went and got one of the Doctor also at practice in foil. The Dr. checked him over, and prescribes some water to hydrate...He was fine and was probably dehydrated.This is how Jamie treated every member.
At one of the club events, when Jamie was asked to give a speech, he is humble and just thank everyone there and expressed his sentiment that he felt we are a family. We treat each other as members of our own family. We share a common love for this sport. He is grateful that he was able to play a part in keeping the club active and vibrant. I could sense he was genuinely moved by the gathering of people there to honor him.
The Sport of Fencing
The sport of fencing was an elite sport of old. In the olden days, a person would defend his honor with a duel. The sport always had a reputation for being a gentleman's sport. Not that it was restricted for men, but that it was to be conducted in a fair and honest manner and that the participants agreed on a set of rules.
Whether win or lose, a contestant is expected to uphold the dignity and honor worthy of a champion. This has been eroded over the years and I am hoping to restore that sense of honor and gentleman behavior. There is no one more deserving of that role model than our own Jamie Melcher. That is why I titled my article WWJD? Next time, when faced with a difficult situation, ask "what would Jamie do?"
Jamie at the Harvard Club - 2017
Jamie and I Fencing at the Club - 2018
My Connection to Jamie...
I was flipping through some old clippings I saved from my fencing days in college. It was 1973, my senior year at CCNY, I made it to the Semi-final round in the International Martini and Rossi epee event held at the NYAC. This was published in the New York Times Sunday Sports section, dated March 25, 1973. It was the highest level of fencing for me at that time. I noticed Jamie and I ended up in the same pool. I lost to Jamie 5-3 as recorded. Jamie qualified into the final round and I didn't. Makler won that tournament with 90 competitors. It was quite an event.
Of course, Jamie and I fenced many times at the Metropolitan Div. open tournaments during that time period. It was George Mason and Jamie Melcher that top the epee ranks. I don't recall ever beating him even once.
Summary and Conclusion
I am 68 years old and retired. I had a great career and had some success in fencing in my college Varsity career, nothing to write home about. I was inducted to the Hall of Fame at CCNY my alma mater. I was fortunate to have had three great coaches, Professor Edward Lucia and Maestro Odon Neiderkirchner and later in my life Alexey Cheremsky.
Being one of the senior members in this club, I felt it is my duty to educate the youth of our club. Some of them did not have the luxury of a great well rounded education. I wish to instill in them, a sense of pride. This is a great sport with a very long tradition. It is one of the original sport in the Modern Olympics started in 1896 in Athens, Greece.
In the words of my Varsity coach as we leave for a tournament - "Gentleman, govern yourself accordingly."
We all knew exactly what he meant.
Another thought about the sport of fencing. As participating members of a small but growing minority, it is imperative that all of us contribute to the advancement of this sport. Currently, there are 35,000 active members of USA Fencing.
This may take the form of new techniques, or new enhancements and improved equipment and technologies to make this sport saver, and more enjoyable.
I am doing my small part as have others. It is hard to believe that in the modern days of smart phones and the internet, the basic fencing weapon has not kept up. It is essentially the same technology since the 1960s.
I and a few others have come up with some innovations to improve the epee. They are described here in another article.
Some Related Info
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jack Lee