Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: March 2021 Page 1 of 2

Quality, Growth, and the Future of Fencing with Leon Paul’s Director Ben Paul

Ben Paul in Leon Paul Fencing Club in London UK

For fencers, our equipment is a central figure in what we do. We talk about this all the time – our swords are an extension of who we are. For fourth-generation Leon Paul co-owner and Director Ben Paul, making top quality fencing equipment with compassion is clearly an extension of who he is.

Though we at AFM strive for neutrality and thus do not endorse any one equipment manufacturer, at the same time we recognize the good that everyone brings to the sport. This interview provides fencers with an inside look at what is really behind the fencing masks and swords that we can sometimes take for granted. Though there is a clear competition in the marketplace, it’s pleasantly surprising to hear that the philosophies of fencing that we hold so highly such as camaraderie and constant growth are mirrored at equipment manufacturer Leon Paul. It’s also fascinating to get an inside view into the impact of the pandemic on this storied and historic company.

The future of fencing is a subject that we are all interested in as we work to navigate the present ups and downs of COVID. What technology might bring to the sport and how we can expand access and excitement to fencing, it’s a subject that we are all interested in. Thank you to Ben Paul for his openness and insight into what might be on the horizon, as well as for his dedication to the sport of fencing.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Fencing?

How Long Does it Take to Learn Fencing?

How long does it take to learn fencing? That’s a straightforward question with a less than straightforward answer. That’s because what it means to “learn fencing” could mean a lot of different things.

It takes a lifetime to master fencing, but that is part of the joy of the sport. We are always growing, always improving, no matter how long we have been fencing. Obviously, becoming an elite fencer on the international level takes many years of heavy practice and training. Elite fencers are not the only fencers though, and most fencers aren’t pushing towards that level, certainly not in the beginning. 

That pulls us down to the basics of fencers. If you’re an average person who wants to do this sport for enjoyment, for the thrill of competition, and personal growth, how long will it take you to learn fencing?

Kids Summer Camps in Pandemic

Fencing Summer Camps for Kids in Pandemic

There is movement in the right direction when it comes to the pandemic, and so we are now looking at promising possibilities for the coming summer. Last summer was tough with COVID keeping everyone at home. We didn’t even know the full extent of the virus then, and it’s hard to even remember how much fear and uncertainty there was at that time. There was no choice but to keep kids home out of summer camps and to keep them on Zoom. That made for a long, difficult time period as we know that kids need social interaction in order to thrive. What could be next and how could we go about it? It’s a topic that we have to explore. 

Prudence paired with practicality

At this point, kids MUST get out of their houses for the sake of their mental health and social development. There was a point in time where the danger of going out of the house was real, but that time is coming to a close. We aren’t quite there yet, but with the vaccine rolling out quickly and projections that every eligible adult will be able to get a vaccine by early summer, we can have some practical optimism that activities will be able to resume, even in a modified form. 

We cannot run recklessly towards any activities that might not be safe. It is always, always better to err on the side of caution than it is to go too fast and find ourselves in a bad situation. Whatever the CDC’s guidelines are, we have always believed that it was best to go at least that far and then a little further where we could as a precaution. However, there is every indication that we will be able to reopen for longer periods of time this summer safely. Not to jump too fast, but what a remarkable possibility!

It is this balancing act of deciding what is safe that every parent is trying to judge. Some kids are going back to school now, while others will be learning at a distance for the rest of the summer. It all just depends on what a family’s given comfort level is, as has always been the case. Right now, we are all ready to get back to a normal life. But how can we pair prudence with practicality so that we can do it safely?

There should still be caution, still distance, and still masks. There are new variants out there flying around, and these measures all protect against infection. There’s just no reason to jump too quickly when the end is in sight. But we can take steps towards the finish line. Last year, lockdown happened pretty much instantly. This year, reopening will happen slowly and methodically. 

Rick Mayer, a Veteran Fencer and Referee Talks Discipline, Training, and Persistence

Rick Mayer reffing at nationals

Not all insight in fencing comes from the big names in the sport. Sometimes it’s the people that you haven’t heard of who can offer the most potent and relatable understanding of the sport. Rick Mayer has been fencing for decades, from his teenage years all the way to nearly his late sixties today, and we expect to see him still going.

With over fifty years in the sport, he’s fenced all over the world and in almost every age division. Through his service in the United States military, Rick brings rigor and discipline to his training and to his refereeing. He’s a longtime referee at the USA Fencing Tournaments, both national, regional, and local levels, as well as being a mainstay of the fencing community for many years in New Jersey. He competes today as a veteran fencer, and he offers some grounded perspective on where fencing has been and as such where it is going. What can we do to be better, and why are we pursuing those goals?

In this interview, you’ll learn that a love of fencing is driven by the simple joy in the sport. Competition is a driving force, but it is far more than winning medals. The motivation comes from the continuous challenge of oneself and others to be better every single day. It’s easy to be inspired by Olympic Champions, but most of us will never be there. However, the everyday heroes, like our veteran fencers who commit to the sport just out of pure love and joy of it, these people are often unsung heroes of the sport and they often provide a great insight into the sport and their passion for it. Hopefully, you’ll find that same inspiration from this interview!

A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 3: Modern Fencing

Fencing Match at the First Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece
Fencing Match at the First Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece

Modern fencing, for the purposes of our exploration of the history of fencing, starts with the modern Olympics in 1896, which were founded by Pierre de Coubertin. We have already explored fencing in the Ancient World in Part 1 and moved through the development of fencing as a distinct discipline in Part 2. You don’t have to read those two pieces in order to understand this next step in fencing history, but it’s highly encouraged!

It’s in this period that fencing looks like what we know of fencing today. We see the onset of modern fencing equipment and scoring. There is also the solidification of the three weapons and all of the differences that go along with each of those. The tournament system that is such a driving force behind our current view of fencing rises during this time. We’ll talk a little bit about what fencing is today in the modern world here, and we’ll give some insight into American fencing and how it came to be what we know of. 

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