Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: February 2020

Relaxation Techniques for Fencers

Relaxation Techniques for Fencers

We hear a lot of people in athletics talking about psyching themselves into competition. There’s that competition mindset, the one that is supposed to propel us to the big wins. What if it’s not all about pushing the mind and body hard? Balance is the key to everything, and in fencing that includes balancing the tension and excitement of competition with looseness, relaxation and clarity.

Fencing is a tough and intensive sport. It’s tough on the body, but it can also be tough on the mind. This time of year, we see a lot of fencers feeling a little out of sorts and stressed out. With family obligations, school obligations, and fencing competitions that are heating up, there’s a lot that can make us feel tense. 

In order to perform at the highest level, fencers have to learn to relax. To help you do that, we’ve put together some powerful and doable relaxation techniques for fencers. Many of these you’re going to be familiar with, but the goal here is to put them in context for your fencing. 

Rock Paper Scissors – How to Think on Your Feet in Fencing

Rock Paper Scissors - How to Think on Your Feet in Fencing

Fencing is chess on the feet, or so they say. Many parents, and many novice fencers, are clueless as to what that means. It’s a conversation that I have with a lot of new parents and new fencers because they don’t really understand the importance of thinking in fencing. It isn’t like other sports, it’s truly a unique venture. With the right thinking, you can outplay opponents who are physically stronger than you are. This aspect isn’t always easy to explain, but my hope is to break it down here in a way that allows you to see the tactical side of fencing, particularly thinking on your feet.

Strategy in Rock Paper Scissors

To make it easier, let’s start with something familiar. Kids everywhere in the world play rock paper scissors. It’s everywhere! To understand the tactical side of fencing, let’s look at it through the lens of this simple game.

Competing to Train vs. Competing to Win in Fencing

Competing to Train vs. Competing to Win in Fencing - Mariel Zagunis at Absolute Fencing Gear Sabre World Cup in Salt Lake City December 2019

The goal of every fencing competition is to win, right? Wrong. Not all fencing competitions are the same, and fencers should not have the same goal of winning for every fencing competition. Not in every competition you are competing to win.

 There are two types of competitions in general. 

  1. Fencing competitions where you need to perform well.
  2. Fencing competitions where you need to push your boundaries and learn.

The first type of competition is the one that we usually think about, but expanding the understanding of what it means to be competitive can boost your fencing in ways that you never thought of. 

The Dilemma of “Going Easy” on a Fencing Opponent

The Dilemma of “Going Easy” on a Fencing Opponent

Is there ever a time when it’s appropriate “going easy” on your fencing opponent? The knee-jerk reaction might be to say “Of course not! Always fence your best!” It’s not really that simple though. 

Complicated situations

Fencing is a small community. Even in competition, we can see that there are nuances to various situations. Here are a few that might not seem so straightforward.

  1. What if you are fencing a clearly inexperienced opponent in a pool round at a local competition?  
  2. Sometimes in a school competition you might come across an opponent who is also a friend that you know is having a hard time, should you let them win to make them feel better? 
  3. What about in a simple practice, should you let an inexperienced fencer win just to boost their confidence?
  4. If you have already qualified for Summer Nationals and you end up fencing your friend who needs to win this bout to qualify, should you let them beat you?

These are some complex, nuanced situations. It is not always just a matter of going in and getting the point in order to win the bout. We are all humans and we would hope that we as fencers care about our opponents as fellow human beings.

The question is, well what exactly is caring?

Compassionate Competitors – How Fencers can Fight to Win Both Camaraderie and Points

Compassionate Competitors - How Fencers can Fight to Win Both Camaraderie and Points

Can you train to win in sports while still building positive relationships with your opponents, and be a compassionate competitor?

The answer is a big, bold, YES!

Competitive sports, even at the highest levels, don’t have to mean throwing your opponent under the bus to win. Too often today we see fierce competition devolve into schoolyard bullying or sometimes worse. Not just in sports, but in our wider culture as well. People can feel disconnected from each other anyway, and when you add on top of that a results-oriented mindset, the combination has the potential to become toxic. 

Figuring out how to balance the desire to win on the strip with the importance of being a good sportsman is no easy task, especially with all of the pressure that comes with working towards large competitions. However once fencers develop a mindset of compassionate competition, it’s easy to maintain it! In fact, it feels much better to fence from a place of camaraderie than it does to get on that podium! 

This is where many sports participants get hung up, especially kids who are still working on their emotional development and especially when they have parents or coaches who are pushing them to win at any cost. Driving home to kids that what matters most is the growth that they are experiencing through their training and competition is the path to balance. Being a competitor who is compassionate towards themselves and towards their opponents is a sweet spot.

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