Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: March 2019

A Lesson in Inspiration – the Fencing Grand Prix in Anaheim

Absolute Fencing Gear Foil Grand Prix Anaheim 2019There are fencing competitions, and then there are fencing competitions.

The fencing Grand Prix is a fencing competition that is unlike anything else in America. There are certainly other competitions in the world that have a similar stature in terms of size or media coverage or fencing prowess, but not here in the United States. It’s a yearly exercise in the best, and it’s something I look forward to year after year.

What is the Fencing Grand Prix?

When we think of the words “Grand Prix”, for lots of people that brings to mind automobile racing. Honestly in fencing it’s much the same as it is in car racing, except instead of cars racing around courses in different parts of the world on the hunt for the top prize, it’s fencers chasing each other across the strip to hunt for the top prize.

The international governing body of fencing, FIE, organizes a series of nine events around the globe each year for the best fencers in the world to meet and challenge themselves. These competitions are called the Grand Prix, and they take place literally all over the world.

  • Men’s and Women’s Epee – Doha, Qatar
  • Men’s and Women’s Epee – Budapest, Hungary
  • Men’s and Women’s Epee – Cali, Columbia
  • Men’s and Women’s Foil – Turin, Italy
  • Men’s and Women’s Foil – Anaheim California, USA
  • Men’s and Women’s Foil – Shanghai, China
  • Men’s and Women’s Sabre – Caire, Egypt
  • Men’s and Women’s Sabre – Seoul, South Korea
  • Men’s and Women’s Sabre – Moscow, Russia

You can see that there are three Grand Prix held for each weapon, and that they are held across the globe. The competitions run from January through May, with fencers vying for international rankings and qualification for other competitions.

Grand Prix are different from the Fencing World Cup competitions, of which there are five each year. They are also distinct from zonal championships, which cover only a certain region of the world. The world rankings are fed into through qualification from World Cup, Grand Prix, and zonal competitions. The Olympics are a totally different thing, governed by a different organization, the IOC. Satellite competitions are held in addition to all of these other international competitions.

So there you are, the basics of the Fencing Grand Prix.

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College Admissions, Sports, and How You Can’t Buy Your Kid’s Happiness

College Admissions, Sports, and How You Can’t Buy Your Kid’s Happiness

“Money can buy material things, but real happiness must be earned.”  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1750

“Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today.” – Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

“Mo money, no problems.” – Notorious B.I.G., 1997

It’s a cliche for a reason, because it’s true. Money can do a lot of good things for people, but it can also cause a whole lot of big problems. It’s at the point that you start to think that money can buy you out of doing the hard work of life that problem comes in.

This can and often does become easily mixed up with parenting, because wealthy parents want to support their kids and protect them, just as all parents want to support and protect their kids. If you are in a place to provide a lot of monetary support for your children, you’d think it’s a good thing right? However it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes it can backfire badly.

Fencing is often a sport that is associated with higher social classes, going all the way back to its beginnings. It is considered a sport of kings after all. World class fencing teams are generally associated with elite universities like Duke and Harvard. Fencing equipment is expensive and traveling to competitions is expensive, so there has to be a certain amount of money involved to progress in the sport. The question is all about where we draw the line and how we create the most supportive experience for our fencers while still letting them stand on their own two feet.

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8 Signs You’re Coddling Your Fencer (And How To Stop)

8 Signs You’re Coddling Your FencerIn fencing, there are these two extremes that we often see in parenting. There are coddling parents and hard driving parents, and each is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Most of the parents that we see fall somewhere in-between, which is a good thing, but everyone can venture to one extreme or the other at times.

Coddling parents are thought of as those who pamper their fencers. They are highly concerned about feelings. They want to prevent their children from experiencing even the smallest hardship. They jump in-between fencers and their coaches, between fencers and their opponents, between fencers and themselves! They want their kids to win, but they want it to happen with as little discomfort as possible.

Hard driving parents are thought of as cold and ambitious. They are hard-nosed, and they care little about feelings. These are the “old school” fencing parents. Empathy for the opponent, for the coach, and indeed for their own fencer is not permitted. It’s about driving towards that victory. They want their kids to win, and it doesn’t matter how much discomfort happens along the way.

We tend to see more of the former in fencing, though hard driving parents definitely show up. There is a time and place for both. Let’s be clear about that – there are good reasons to coddle your fencer at times and to drive them hard at times. When child is physically injured, of course they need caring attention. When an emotional injury takes place, it’s not enough to tell them to “suck it up.” Coddling often moves well past these reasonable things though. It can become a way of life for parents. It comes out of a deep love for their child, but too much coddling hinders a young fencer’s ability to grow.

Too much of anything is not good. Letting your child become independent is challenging, and in fencing you’re letting them go with a sword!

Here eight signs you are coddling your fencer. If you’ve done one or two, then you might want to think about why those things happened. Three or four and you’re in danger of hindering their progress. If you’ve done more than five of the things on this list, then it’s time for change if you want your fencer to find independence!

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1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2 in Fencing

1 + 1 Does Not Equal 2 in Fencing:  Incremental Improvement in FencingThe distance from 0 to 1 is not the same as the distance from 1 to 2. At least, not in fencing.

It’s something that we’ve noticed when new fencers come in and start learning fencing, then competing. Initially, there’s this explosive growth. A fencer comes in to joining in Y10 and they are gangbusters right from the beginning. They start out with zero fencing and within just a year they progress to being a one – to being a fencer! This jump from zero to one seemingly happens overnight.

Then things stall out. They slow down, they become still. Or do they? In truth, that level of progress doesn’t keep going after that first year where parents see this massive change, but that does not by any means mean that growth has really stopped. Why does it seem to slow down so dramatically though? Why is it that one plus one doesn’t equal two in fencing?

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How Fencing is Preparing Our Kids for the Unknown Future

How Fencing is Preparing Our Kids for the Unknown Future65% of the school aged kids will work in a profession that doesn’t exist yet. That’s according to numbers from the United States Department of Labor. It’s an extraordinary number! How can parents possibly prepare their kids for things that we can’t possibly know?

This may sound like one of those questions that doesn’t have a good answer, but after a conversation with a fencing parent recently I realized that actually we know exactly how to prepare our kids for a future that we cannot possibly know. This mom had a clear idea of how she was going to shape her child to be able to face the unknown in the future, and as usual I found that I learned a lot from a fellow fencing parent.

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