Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: December 2020

Kindness in the Darkest Times – a Pandemic Fairy Tale

Kitoo Dubb and X'Pressions Team
Kitoo Dubb (third from the left) and her X’Pressions team

Bright things are happening, even in the seeming darkness of winter. 

We have experienced some wonderful, uplifting and beautiful acts during the pandemic. It is easy to focus on the hardships that the last year has brought us, but there are such good things that have come this year too! The community support and building each other up has been a true testament to our resilience. 

This is not something that we would normally publish on our blog, but then again this has not been a normal time. We wanted to share something uplifting and happy, something that would remind us that kindness exists.

This is a real magical Christmas story that will make you feel good!

Do you remember the fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen that look like a regular story about ordinary people, but suddenly turn into extraordinary twists and turns, making you believe in magic? This is the type of story that I am going to tell you, dear friends. 

When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now. But for now, let us begin. 

The Worst Purchase of 2020 was a 2020 Planner

The Worst Purchase of 2020 was a 2020 Planner

It’s a bold statement to say that the worst purchase of mine was my 2020 planner, but then 2020 has been a bold year. 

Twelve months of 2020 have almost come to a close, and as I sit here looking through my planner, I realize that it turned out to be a useless paperweight about a quarter of the way through. By April, whatever plans we had were not going to happen the way that we thought they were going to happen. We had to totally re-evaluate the way that we did things, and for every page that we turned in that calendar things kept on changing and challenging us.

Planning is my business

As a business owner, I spend a lot of time on planning. It’s basically my #1 job.

I need to plan ahead for so many details, too many to count really. Competition schedules, coach assignments and travel, classes and private lesson programs, finances, marketing, meetings, this blog articles, and so much more. To run a successful company, and I believe we are quite a successful organization, requires a lot of detailed planning and then execution on these plans.

And 2020 was no exception from all previous years, until it was.

We had big plans for this year. We had a wonderful and talented group of fencers in our school that were working hard for Fencing Summer Nationals. Our classes were growing at both of our locations and we welcomed students from all over the area to our open fencing times. We were hosting regional competitions and sending our fencers out all over the country to compete. Like the rest of the world, the upcoming Olympic Games offered us the chance to think bigger, to be inspired and to push higher. For us, growth was always an integral part of our model, not just for the sake of business but primarily for the sake of our students and the sport. Fencing is our passion here. 

After that first lockdown, all of those plans changed. We had to turn our focus to maintaining our students however we could and to mitigate the effects of being isolated for them as much as possible. It required adaptation and thinking on our feet. Never before had we been in a position where we had to change our lives so dramatically in one fell swoop.

When I look back to the beginning of the pandemic, I can of course say that there are things that I wish were different. For my family, for our club, for our community and our country and the world. It is not easy to look at any aspect of the planning and overcome the challenges of the reality that we faced. You can only plan so far. I cannot change the way things unfolded, and I cannot allow myself to become consumed with obsession over the unfairness of the world and the way that it crushed all of those well laid plans. 

The Best Fencing Swords of 2020

Illustration to the Best Fencing Swords 2020 - Olympic Bout in Men's Epee

Where can you find a definitive guide to the best fencing gear ever? You know, a comprehensive, exact list of the best fencing swords that will tell you exactly what you need to purchase for your fencer in a handy dandy blog that you can quickly zip through on your smartphone while you wait for that zoom meeting to start?

Not here. Not anywhere. Such a thing does not exist, because buying the best fencing sword is not that simple. It’s actually simpler than that. 

“Best sellers” can be deceiving

Anyone who has been fencing for a while will tell you that it’s a niche sport. You have to be a fencer in order to understand fencing. Sometimes we’ll run across information online that’s been written by non-fencers who are trying to get some clicks, and that’s frustrating because it’s not reliable and can lead new fencers especially in the wrong direction. 

The gear, the rules, the conventions of fencing, these are specific to our sport and it’s simply not possible to understand them any other way than practicing fencing. 

I recently had the parent of a new fencer come to me after having ventured out into an online shopping spree for her Y10 daughter. She asked me whether she should choose the “best” fencing sword for her daughter, or whether that sword was too advanced for the little girl just yet. The sentiment from the parent was genuine and honest, and it’s important to pause here to appreciate the way that this parent wanted to do the right thing by her child. That’s a great thing. 

I was curious about what she wanted to purchase as I had no clue what she was talking about, so I asked her to send me the URL so that I could check them out and potentially recommend one. She had a few, most from a review site that offers lists of the “best of” everything from toys to mattresses to heart rate monitors to hidden cameras. 

The piece that she’d been reading had some factual looking information. It listed the length of the fencing swords, the type of grip, the material they were made of, their weight, their brand, and a few more seemingly important and legitimate statistics. The write ups about each sword sound professional. 

The first sword she came to me with was a best seller on Amazon in the Fencing Sabre category. It’s called the “Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber”, and it’s one of many fencing swords available on Amazon. All of those people who were buying the fencing sabre couldn’t be wrong could they? After all, Amazon is a bastion of modern buying and selling. 

Here’s what the Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber looks like on Amazon.

Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber - "Best Fencing Sword" 2020

And here’s a picture of it in action from the comments on Amazon.

That’s right, this is not at all a fencing sword – it’s a color guard sword! For those who might not be familiar, color guard (or flag corps) is related to marching band and it’s a form of dance. The dancers spin and twirl flags, imitation rifles, and yes . . . sabres. This was not at all a fencing sword – it was a piece of color guard equipment!

Frankly, when I saw the sword, I didn’t know what my reactions should be. Part of me was blowing up with laughter, and part of me was terrified of what kind of information must be out there. What would happen if some young fencer drew their “best seller sword” in class and charged toward an unsuspecting classmate?

Parents and new fencers, please stay away from “fencing gear review” sites that are not otherwise devoted to fencing gear of fencing sport. 

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