Fencing can begin as young as seven or even six years old, and we want to encourage those littlest fencers to get the most out of the sport.
Any parent will tell you that elementary school-aged kids have very different needs than middle school or high school-aged kids. Often, fencing is focused on those older youths in the sport, but as kids sign up for fencing at younger ages and the Y8 fencing category becomes more popular and now an official event in regional competitions, it’s increasingly important for us to have the right tools to meet the needs of younger fencers.
Supporting your youth athlete as a fencing mom or dad starts with being there for them when they struggle. While coaching is one piece of the puzzle, coaches can only do so much. It’s parents who are in the throes of being there during the hard times and helping kids get through the tough moments.
While it’s important to encourage your young fencer to be dedicated to the sport, it is also important to remember that they are still little children and need time balance. The following tips will help you encourage your child in their fencing journey while showing them how to be resilient.
I’ve spent countless hours pondering the concept of setting and achieving goals, both in fencing and life in general. I’ve had conversations with fencers, parents, coaches, and enthusiasts about their aspirations. I’ve written about goal setting quite a lot on this blog. Yet, I’ve often found myself less than content with the goals people set. Some are too short-term, others overly ambitious, and some seem driven by the wrong motives.
In one memorable discussion with a young fencer I recently had, he shared an experience that stuck with me. He had set a specific goal for a competition – achieving a new rating. He meticulously calculated his chances, ensuring the competition met all the criteria for the coveted rating when he won a couple of DE’s and got to the round that would upgrade his rating should he win. The result? He felt less relaxed, more obsessed with winning, and, ironically, he lost a match to an opponent he had always beaten before.
This incident raised several questions and concerns, and I will get to some of them in one of the future blogs. But now I want to focus only on one aspect – should winning a rating or achieving a particular ranking be the primary focus for a fencer? Is it the most effective way to guide one’s journey in the sport? After much contemplation, I arrived at a simple yet profound realization: the true goal should be to win the next bout.
This goal transcends the complexities of points, ratings, rankings, placements, and qualifications. It directs your focus solely on the immediate challenge at hand, on something that you have the most control over. Your objective becomes crystal clear – win the next bout. This singular focus eliminates the weight of past performance or future expectations. It’s about the here and now.
When you adopt this goal, your training takes on a new dimension. Every practice, every drill, every bout becomes a stepping stone to achieving this goal. The effort you invest becomes directed towards immediate improvement. You’re preparing not just for the next competition but for the next bout, always striving for victory.
What’s incredible about this perpetual goal is its unique blend of being both short-term and long-term, ambitious yet achievable. You can’t fail in trying to win the next bout, and you can never say, “I’m done; I’ve fully reached my goal.” There’s always another bout to win, another challenge to conquer, another opportunity to prove yourself.
Even if you secure the coveted first place in a national competition, there’s no resting on laurels. It’s time to celebrate with a well-deserved ice cream, but then your focus shifts to the next bout, the next tournament, the next test. How will you prepare? How will you recharge from this competition to the next one?
The beauty of this perpetual goal lies in its simplicity. It’s a philosophy that transcends the boundaries of fencing and offers a valuable lesson for life itself. Win the next bout, and you’ll find yourself in a continuous journey of self-improvement, growth, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
Ever had those moments when you just can’t focus? Your brain becomes fuzzy and you can’t quite concentrate on what you’re doing, leaving you frustrated and unable to do the things you want to do in the ways that you want to do them.
Fencing is a sport that demands split-second decisions and precise movements, and these can be greatly affected by your mental state. There are times when your focus might feel a bit fuzzy, your reactions seem sluggish, and your performance suffers because of these things. When you find yourself grappling with this struggle, it’s essential to consider that a range of factors could contribute to this state.
First of all, if this is happening regularly or if you have other concerning symptoms, definitely talk to your doctor about it, no matter what your age. However, for most people, there are simple solutions. Having your mind go a little sluggish is not unusual, but it’s also not something that we want to have to deal with!
The philosophy behind fuzzy-headedness
Before we get into the practicalities, let’s talk about something bigger, more substantial. I was recently prompted to think more deeply about this issue when I saw a quote from writer Kurt Vonnegut online. It’s from his book A Man Without a Country, and though I’ve never read the book, the quote says a lot.
Here it is:
Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet?
And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babies. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And I’ll ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know.
The moral of the story is – we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And it’s like we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.
What struck me about this when thinking about fencers who struggle with focus is that oftentimes it’s because they are just plugging in and going. They aren’t thinking too deeply about what they’re doing, just going through the motions in as speedy a way as possible.
Is your goal to fence it is it to get through the match? There’s a big difference between the two. If your goal is to get through it in a fast way, then you’ll do that. You’ll plug in and go fast and then you’ll be on the other side of the match and it doesn’t matter how you got there. You want to win a medal and then go home and do something else.
But it does matter how you got there, doesn’t it? You do want to be present during the match, don’t you? Life is meant for farting around, as Vonnegut put it. Life is meant for living. I could order a fencing medal online, just like Vonnegut could order envelopes online, but that’s not the point. Being present, right there, experiencing it, is so much of why we do this. The experience matters.
Ok, so there’s the philosophy behind why we want to be focused, apart from just being a better fencer and improving our performance. Now let’s explore three key elements that might be responsible for your lack of sharp focus during bouts and discuss effective strategies to combat this issue. Sometimes it’s not just an issue of being present, and so we need to do more.
Though we as a society, in general, have moved away from coming to blows to solve our interpersonal problems the way that people used to duel in the old days, combat sports are more popular than ever.
Combat sports have actually captivated people throughout history, giving us the chance to channel our physicality, to expand our strategic thinking, and to grow our competitive spirit. Kids and adults alike find themselves drawn to the world of combat sports, in no small part because we see them play out in our favorite movies. Whether it’s Mulan or Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or Raging Bull, Pulp Fiction or Nacho Libre, Karate Kid or Over the Top (yes, the one about arm wrestling), we have a love affair with combat sports and how cool they look. But they don’t just look cool onscreen, they are cool to do in real life as well.
Finding out which combat sport is right for you is all about personality, access, and you may be faced with the question of which discipline to try out. Let’s look at the distinct qualities of fencing compared to other combat sports, helping you determine which one is the right fit for you.
The Art of Fencing
Fencing stands out as a unique and elegant combat sport that combines speed, agility, precision, and tactical thinking. This is, notable, the only modern combat sport that uses weapons (archery doesn’t count as there is no actual combat in archery, just targets). Fencing of course traces its origins back to centuries-old dueling traditions and has evolved into a sport that emphasizes skillful swordplay.
There are three different weapons in modern sport fencing that utilize different scoring techniques and different rules. Foil, epee, and sabre are each individual sports but at the same time are extremely similar. Fencer generally specialize in one, though they do switch occasionally for a variety of reasons.
One of the key aspects that sets fencing apart is its emphasis on technique and finesse. Fencers must display grace, footwork, and accurate blade control while engaging in lightning-fast exchanges with opponents. The speed of this sport is faster than most other combat sports, thanks in part to electronic scoring, which is unique among combat sports. We have referees who play an important role in fencing, but scoring machines are the first line of indication here.
The weaponized aspect is important here, as a fencer’s blade becomes an extension of their body. Because of this, mental dexterity is central, as fencers must anticipate our opponent’s moves, strategically choose our attacks and defenses so that we can adapt swiftly to changing situations. The weapon also means that fencers have to wear gear to protect themselves from the blade. While fencing weapons are not sharp, they are still capable of hurting someone if they aren’t protected.
Injuries in fencing are less common than in any other combat sport, and in fact are less common than in a lot of non-combat sports like soccer or gymnastics.
In a world where sports transcend borders, sometimes athletes make decisions that go beyond medals and championships. Today, we bring you an inspiring story of courage, conviction, and unity on the fencing piste.
Meet Konstantin Lokhanov, a sabre fencer now training at the La Jolla Fencing Academy in San Diego, and Sergey and Violetta Bida, who have found their new home here with us, at the Academy of Fencing Masters. These remarkable athletes have taken a stand against the Russian war in Ukraine and defected to the United States. Their goal? To continue their fencing journey and represent their new home at the Olympic Games.
Watch a heartwarming video from the BBC, sharing the incredible journey of these fencers who are not only chasing their Olympic dreams but also championing a cause they deeply believe in. 🇺🇸🤺❤️ #FencingForPeace #OlympicDreams