Have you ever watched a scary movie and thought, “No, stop! Why are you going for a drive in the middle of nowhere with no gas on Halloween night! The bad guy will definitely get you!” One of the most consistent parts of those chilling films is that people make bad decisions that leave them face to face with the monster or in the clutches of the bad guy.
Do you know who would definitely survive in a scary movie? A fencer. Seriously, there are reasons why fencers would be the ones to make it to the sunrise on the day after the long night of mayhem. The skills that a fencer learns might not be combat realistic, but there are definite advantages that would make them more likely to survive than you average teenager in a slasher film. Here are six reasons why.
Taking a team to the highest level of fencing is a task that’s filled with tough decisions, long hours, and much sacrifice on the part of everyone involved. Getting there takes a team effort, and it takes a fencing coach with vision like Alexander Gorbachuk.
Originally from Ukraine, Gorbachuk has been the leader of the Japanese men’s epee fencing team for a dozen years now, but he’s always looking forward. Even after his team’s win on the world’s biggest sports stage, he’s got an eye for what comes next for Japan and for fencing.
His rigorous work ethic and layered understanding of the intertwining cultures of fencing across the world have helped him to lead the Japanese epee team all the way to the Gold in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Bridging the cultural barriers has not been a walk in the park, but after investing more than a decade into the Japanese epee team, Gorbachuk has found a way to bring out the best in his fencers. In this piece, he gives us a remarkable insight into how fencing in Japan works, from the way that various weapons interact to how athletes are supported during their fencing career, to what happens after.
Clearly, Alexander Gorbachuk is a deep mine of knowledge within fencing, but he’s also a coach who meets his staff and his athletes where they are. Once he meets them, that’s when he’s able to take them to the next level.
The transformational methods of his coaching are showcased in this series of interviews. In Part 1, he shared his experience shaping the team in the lead up to the Olympics. Then in Part 2, he showed us what it means to do the challenging work of crossing cultures in sport. Finally here in Part 3, Gorbachuk gives us insight into training through COVID and the path forward.
Understanding the dynamics of international fencing is fascinating for those of us who work primarily on the youth sports level. It is so incredibly different, from the methods of training to the rigor that is required. The stress of this level of competition takes its toll on everyone, and preparing for that kind of stress sometimes comes in some unusual and controversial ways.
Coach of the 2020 Olympic gold medal-winning Japanese men’s epee team Alexander Gorbachuk opens up about what it takes to get to the gold, both the highs and the lows. In our in-depth interview with Gorbachuk, he tells us what he really thinks about the most talked about subjects in Olympic fencing.
Coming from the Soviet Union and Ukrainian background, Alexander had to learn to navigate the substantial differences between fencing training and sports philosophy in Japan versus what he knew and what he knew to be successful. Shrinking the cultural chasm between the two was challenging, though his team’s incredible success at the 2020 Olympics proves that Gorbachuk’s methods were worthwhile.
The emotional depth and resilience that is needed for a fencer to reach this highest peak are incredible, and the road up to the top of this mountain was not an easy one. Alexander speaks candidly about the controversy surrounding his suspension from coaching, his relationship with his athletes, and how his philosophy of coaching is founded on preparing his athletes for the realities of competition.
This is Part 2 of our three-part interview with Gorbachuk. In Part 1, he walked us through the Olympic experience up to the final round. Part 3 focuses on what’s next for fencing and for his own career. Here in Part 2, he pulls back the curtain to show us the inner workings of the top men’s epee team in the world.
This is the story of one coach who went down in the history of Japanese fencing and world fencing through perseverance and strength of character.
For the world, one moment of Olympic Gold can seem like just one moment. For Alexander Gorbachuk, that one moment is the culmination of decades of hard work and a commitment to giving his athletes the best possible structure. Success in fencing on this level does not come without the application of a persevering mindset. Originally from Ukraine, Gorbachuk has leveraged his knowledge of fencing and his unique understanding of international competition to help the Japanese Men’s Epee team reach the highest level of fencing.
The Gold medal win for Japan might have seemed unexpected to the world of fencing but Alexander Gorbachuk was not at all surprised to see his athletes rise to the highest level of epee. In fact, he saw how their talents could be woven together to create a strong team that could make it all the way to the top. He shares with us how he was able to unleash the power of his fencers, including details of some of his training techniques that pushed them past their own barriers.
In our wide-ranging interview with Gorbachuk, we were privileged to garner an inside look at the process of getting to the Olympic Gold in fencing. His coaching of the Japanese epee team is nothing short of transformational.
This interview is split into three parts. Here in Part 1, we walk through the training experience and those preliminary matches. In Part 2, you’ll peek through to see what leadership in fencing means at this level. Finally, in Part Three we turn to the future. The whole of all parts will help you understand aspects of high level fencing that are fascinating and deeply personal.
Big Dreams to a Gold Medal – Part 1 of AFM’s interview with Alexander Gorbachuk
IG – Alexander, I start by congratulating you with great joy for your brilliant victory as the head coach of the Japanese National Epee Team – a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics!
AG – Thank you very much! For many, it was a very big and very unexpected victory. But for me, as a coach, it was a natural process that always went in the right direction, though it was long and difficult.
Though you’ll have a wide variety of experiences with a wide variety of opponents, it’s possible to gain a deeper understanding of those opponents with just a little bit of extra thought and analysis. No matter what level a fencer is, they can always learn something from whatever opponent they meet.
Three kinds of fencing opponents
When we look deeper into what our opponents in fencing really are all about, we find that there are three very distinct kinds of fencers that you’ll meet. Every single fencer that you come across will fall into one of these three categories without fail. These are:
Fencers who are as good as you are.
Fencers who are better than you.
Fencers who are worse than you.
This does not mean that you will win against every fencer who is worse than you, that you will lose against every fencer who is better than you, or that you will have a close score with every fencer who is on the same level as you. A great fencer can have a tough day and lose to a novice who is having a great day.