Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: June 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Fencing Gear in the Time of COVID-19

A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Fencing Gear in the Time of COVID-19

We’ve written a lot about cleaning fencing gear over the years. In normal use, gear gets all kinds of stuff on it. Sweat, tears, more sweat, bits of fluff from the floor of the club, more sweat, etc. Fencing is a hugely physical sport, which means there are all of the normal things that you’d find with any sports gear. 

These are not normal times though. As fencers start to look towards getting back into clubs for socially distanced and safe fencing practice, cleaning fencing gear takes on a new significance. It’s not just about maintaining your fencing equipment anymore, it’s about preventing the spread of the coronavirus. 

The good news is that fencing gear is easy to clean. In an age where we have gotten to the point of washing our grocery bags, cleaning fencing gear will seem like a simple thing!

Note that these are our recommendations. We’re not health experts. We have read lots of guidelines from lots of experts. We obviously know our way around fencing gear already. These guidelines are what we are recommending to our fencers and their families as we reopen physically. Best practices. These guidelines are comprehensive, with instructions for every facet of fencing equipment that requires attention for cleaning, which is pretty much everything.

Some things might seem like they’re repeated. That’s on purpose. We want to emphasize that this is important, and that cleaning every piece of equipment needs to become a habit for the foreseeable future. We want you to be sick of reading the cleaning steps instead of actually getting sick. 

Now let’s get into it!

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Graduates of 2020 – Fencing and the World

Graduates of 2020

There is a new reality, one that the graduates of 2020 will step out into. It’s not like anything that has come before, a world of shifting paradigms and social upheaval. The crises swirling all around our young people will require adaptation like nothing before, in areas from learning to working to socializing. 

Our young fencers have found themselves in a world that changed dramatically just as they were starting to celebrate their long journey through school and into adulthood. The carpet has been pulled out from under them. It gives new meaning to the phrase “think on your feet”, because these graduates don’t know what college will look like in the fall, or what condition the world will be in when and if they step foot on campus. 

There is the strangeness of the new normal that coronavirus has brought to our world. Fear and insecurity. There is a generational change that we can see happening right now, in the streets all over America. This generation of graduates is the first since the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968 to feel the full weight of racial injustice

It’s a lot. These young people are extraordinary though. They have inherited a troubled world, there is no doubt of that. They are capable of meeting it with grace and strength. There is no doubt of that either. 

Adaptation is a learned skill

How do we learn to adapt to new things? Adaptation is a skill that is best developed over the course of many years, and fencers do a good job of developing that skill in their training and through competition. We have seen our fencers learn and grow in their training. This skill of adaptability is the simple most important skill for them to have right now in this world that is changing so drastically for them. 

We’ve had the privilege to talk with all of our graduates and their families, to hear about how their experience at AFM has changed them. The change has come through making new friendships, developing mentor relationships with coaches, and learning how to think quickly and solve problems. Fencing has helped our graduates to be more self assured and confident. This sport teaches how to set goals and pursue them, even in difficult times. 

I feel that through the values of equality, inclusion, respect, and camaraderie that they have learned in part through fencing, they are ready to lead us into the next chapter. Make no mistake – it is these young people who will be the leaders of the future. They are the ones who will show us the way, not the reverse. It is humbling to see this transformation that our graduates have experienced. 

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Six-time Olympic Champion Valentina Vezzali on Foil, Female Empowerment, and Forward Thinking

6 Times Olympic Champion from Jesi - Valentina Vezzali.  Photo Augusto Bizzi
6 Times Olympic Champion from Jesi – Valentina Vezzali. Photo Augusto Bizzi

Getting to the top doesn’t happen in isolation. Though we are all feeling the isolation right now, for fencers we know that it takes a community to create a champion. During our in-depth interview with fencing dynamo Valentina Vezzali, we dived deep into what it means to get to the top of the fencing world.

Valentina Vezzali is a champion’s champion. With six Olympic gold medals, one silver, and two bronze beginning in Atlanta in 1996, she is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished fencers in modern history. She was the first foilist ever to win individual gold at three consecutive Olympics, in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Beyond the Olympics, she holds sixteen gold medals at the World Fencing Championships and thirteen gold medals at the European Championships. Beyond fencing, she is a twice published author and served as a member of the Italian Parliament.

What comes from this interview is the importance of inclusion, of the possibilities when we pursue women’s empowerment. Vezzali is so special not just because of her skills on the strip, but also because of her vision for what fencing, and the world beyond fencing, can be if we commit to making change. A fundamental part of her story is her burning desire and her unbeatable willpower. She is driven to push her own limits, whether in fencing or in any area of her life. These are the qualities that you need to have to succeed. Don’t settle for the status quo, always strive to do better! It’s a theme that we see again and again in her words.

A special thank you to Riccardo Calvi for helping us with the translation to and from Italian.

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Fighting the Demon with Fencing World Champion Nathalie Moellhausen

Nathalie Moellhausen - 2019 Women's Epee World Champion
Budapest, 15-23 July 2019 World Championships Epee Women and Sabre Men In photo: MOELLHAUSEN Nathalie Photo by #BizziTeam

“I have a demon inside of myself and when I fence, he comes out and he blocks me completely from expressing what I can do. So I came here to remove this demon.” – Nathalie Moellhausen

Who are you watching in fencing? If you are not following Nathalie Moellhausen, you are missing one of the brightest points of our sport. 

This woman is an innovator in fencing. Not only on the piste, but in the world. Her social media will make you smile and challenge you to get better. We’re serious about this one – you should follow her on Instagram just as soon as you’ve read her mesmerizing interview – @nathaliemoellhausen. She is a positively captivating figure in fencing. Besides having a personality that makes you stop in your tracks, she has the championship athleticism and prowess to back it up. World Champion level prowess.

She started her epee career representing Italy, but now represents her mother’s native Brazil. Her fencing career began thirty years ago at the age of five, and to say that she breathes the sport is an understatement. She won her first World Cup medal in 2009 with a bronze, then went on to compete at the highest level through the 2012 Olympics, where she was an alternate. After a break from competition in 2013, during which time she worked with FIE as an artistic director, she roared back into the sport in 2014 under the Brazilian flag and made it all the way to the quarter finals at the Rio Olympics.

Nathalie Moellhausen is the current World Champion in women’s individual epee, and she has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. In this meaningful and delightful interview, she talks about the mindset of a champion, the importance of losing, and how she is working to keep the sport alive and growing. She is a global citizen, a person who is an ambassador for fencing across the world. The real deal.

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We Can’t Stay Silent. We Stand Together.

Today’s world is a place that is unfortunately divided. Deeply divided. We see people throw down gauntlets between each other over race, political views, nationality, economics, religion, just so many things. Little things sometimes that don’t matter in the bigger scheme, and sometimes very big things that really do matter.

In the last week, we have seen a huge upheaval all across the United States because of brutality and deeply embedded racism. It is not just about the loss of one life or one injustice, it is a pattern that we see repeated again and again. 

We do not condone looting, property damage, or riots. We do condone speaking out to condemn violence and oppression.

I cannot comprehend that in the 21st Century that inequality and discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, or political views are not things of the history books. This is the first time since the murder of MLK that America has felt the full weight of racial injustice in the streets. Not because it wasn’t there, but because it was burning under the surface. Now it is burning in the streets.  

I cannot fully understand, but I will not be silent

Black lives matter. 

I cannot fully understand what it means to be black in America. There are parts of this story that are much too complex and layered in history for me to understand. I cannot think of what it must be like to have your family sold into slavery and sent across an ocean, to fight for your right to exist. That fight is not over. Racial injustice is everywhere and it is right now.  There are experiences that I will never have but that people of color have every day. The fear and injustice, knowing that you are targeted for something that you cannot change. You are targeted with brutal violence, and also in a million other ways. 

The idea of privilege is not new. People can have economic privilege or class privilege. It is something that we talk about in fencing, because our sport is one that is much more accessible to people who are economically privileged. Economic privilege can be changed, we can create programs or help people. You can escape economic conditions. We recognize that racial privilege is not the same. You cannot escape it. 

As immigrants, we came to the United States to build a better life. Many of my family members were murdered in the Holocaust. My uncle was killed in action in the first days of the war. My grandfather was killed in the war and my father grew up fatherless, never knowing his dad as he died when my father was a toddler. While I cannot comprehend the black experience in America, I can very much feel the weight of brutality and injustice on families and across generations. We are different, but we are together. 

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