During the COVID-19 pandemic, fencers are faced with something that we have never been faced with before – with a feeling of solitude in an absence of an opponent in front of them.
What is a fencer without an opponent? Are we really anything? Certainly we must be something. As this quarantine drags on, we find ourselves searching through deep and wide thoughts about how to define fencing.
The clubs are empty. The strips are bare.
Right at this moment, there is no next competition. There is no next opponent. Yes, we know that there will be, but we don’t know when that will happen or who it will be. That is a challenging place to be for a sport like ours, which is driven by the cycle of competition.
Rather than allow ourselves to be dragged down and fall into depression about this, we have decided to adapt. This gives us an opportunity to explore what fencing is beyond our comfort zone. I don’t know that any of us realized what a comfort zone we were really in until this global pandemic disrupted everything. Any experienced fencer will tell you that pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone is where growth is.
So let’s grow.
What does it mean to be a fencer with no opponent?
Quarantine can be quite a downer if you’re not careful. Staying positive is a critically important part of getting to the other side of this tremendous and extraordinary time, but how can you do it?
The key is to have lots of strategies to keep you going. If you are trying just one thing to keep positive, well then you will find yourself hitting a plateau. Just like in fencing training, you have to keep changing up your strategies if you are going to keep progressing.
To help you, our readers, keep that positive attitude, we’ve put together a list of strategies to help you stay positive during these times. These came together from things that we have done ourselves, things we’ve read online, things that our fencing families have said work for them. At this point we, like all of you, are pretty willing to try anything to keep those spirits up.
The world has been turned upside down in the last couple of months. Completely and totally upside down. The world that we all knew just doesn’t exist anymore, and to be honest we all know that it will never be the same again, at least not in the closest future. What comes back after this is all over will be different. We will look at each other differently. We’ll be closer in some ways, further apart in other ways.
We have written before about how this lockdown does not mean stopping training for a long period of time. If the lockdown was only going to go for a week or two, well that would be one thing. You could just say that you’re taking a short break, like we do at the winter holidays or after Summer Nationals. Now it is clear that the situation is going to be much longer. Here, the California governor has said that public schools will be closed through the end of the school year. That most probably will mean that most businesses will stay closed, and definitely most fencing clubs. That means that the two week break from in-club fencing is stretching out to at least another two months. That is too long.
We can look back to other world crises to know that life will go on. Though a global pandemic is new, world events that touch everyone are not. There have been huge events like this before, and life went back to a different kind of normal after. I had read that even during WWII some universities continued to operate, even in countries so deeply immersed in the war such as Russia. People were working in factories to create defense products during the day, and continued to study at universities during the night shifts so that they could be prepared to pick up where they left off after these enormous conditions.
Sofya Velikaya: “If I took gold at my first Olympic Games, I would have ended my career”
Fencing is a sport that crosses continents and languages. It is not always easy to connect with fencers who are titans in the sport when they don’t speak the same language that you do. That’s why we’ve translated an interview with one of the greats in the World Fencing, Sofya Velikaya from Russian into English, because it is worth it for fencers everywhere to read!
Sofya Velikaya is truly a fencer to watch, if you are not already watching her. She is a champion that we can learn so much from! In this interview, she talks about everything from getting a Silver behind her teammate’s Gold in the Rio Olympics to the challenges that she faces as a parent. It’s a wide ranging and worthwhile read for fencers, fencing coaches, and fencing parents.
On behalf of all fencing coaches, I would
like to thank you for supporting your child in keeping on learning the Olympic
sport of fencing during this challenging time. Your commitment and dedication are
truly amazing and inspiring.
Our team has been working a lot to find the best solutions to conduct group and private lessons in new circumstances. Online fencing lessons are new to everyone, so we are all constantly and continuously learning (personally, I am far from being a computer geek -)). As you all know, we have already held a month of group classes/lessons on ZOOM platform which proved to be efficient and cool/fun! However, each student has his/her strengths and weaknesses as well as unique talents which often require an individual approach to develop one’s own pattern.
Let me point out one aspect of fencing
lessons from the perspective of a coach. As you may have noticed, each
professional fencing club has walls with mirrors in its premises which are used
to let sportsmen see their reflection and fencing positions. Nonetheless, the initial
purpose of mirrors was to enable a coach to observe students not only from the
front perspective but also from different angles. During online lessons,
cameras to some extent replicate mirrors by allowing coaches to clearly see
students’ movements and positions as during face-to-face lessons. Without any
doubt, this option provides a great potential to conduct not only group classes
but also individual ones
to enhance fencers’
You may be
wondering what indisputable advantages of individual lessons are. Throughout my
years of fencing/coaching, I have always been convinced that only
individual/private lessons give a chance to adopt general strategical fencing
tactics to unique individual abilities of each student. It allows to focus on
developing most efficient systematic and simultaneously quite flexible lesson plans to meet needs of
each individual student. 20-minute online private lessons will be an essential part
of a sport life for those young ambitious fencers who strive for new
achievements, tournaments and victories!
Eventually, life will go back to normal. We are all eagerly waiting to come back to our AFM premises and meet with our students. We miss them all! Hopefully, it will be soon! Meanwhile, I would like to encourage those who are willing to pursue new goals, enhance fencing skills, keep fit and motivated, to sign up for private lessons even during this virus-infected time. Show must go on! 🙂