There is more to fencing than just being passionate about it and wanting to do it – you have to have the means to fence. There are many reasons that someone might not be able to fence, but by far the biggest impediment is the simple fact that it is accessible everywhere, that there are no fencing clubs in every town, or even sometimes in a region.
If we want to grow our sport, we need to understand where we are right now so that we can see those opportunities. There are so many opportunities! Defining the parameters is an essential part of the process, kind of like evaluating a new opponent on the strip.
We are not alone at least. Many Olympic sports face similar challenges to what fencing faces in terms of reaching into sparsely populated areas. This is a reality for anyone who wants to train for an elite competition of any kind, even when it is not specifically sport related. Think about the arts or academics – the best tutors and the highest universities are generally centered around urban areas, or at the very least aren’t too far from them. If you want to be the best, then you need to go where the best teachers are, and the best teachers, by definition, have to be rare.
For fencing, it’s not just that most of the population is far from the best coaches, it’s that most of the population is far from ANY coach. There are irregularities in the training that is available, both in the quality of instructors and in the ability to compete, which is such a big driver for growth in fencers. These are problems to solve and overcome, but also realities that won’t change too much with time. We have to figure out where we are at so that we can make the most of what we can be as a sport.