Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: January 2024

Can Fencing Be Used for Self-Defense?

Can fencing be used for self-defense

I recently came across an inspiring news story about self-defense that underscores the remarkable skills and courage honed by a former Italian National Fencing Team coach, Attilio Fini, who is now 93 years old. Just a month ago, he found himself in a perilous situation that required quick thinking and action.

As he was returning home one evening in Milan’s Piazza De Agostini, Fini noticed a shadow drawing too close for comfort. He soon realized that the approaching figure was pointing a gun directly at him. In that critical moment, he relied on the reflexes and instincts instilled in him during his fencing days.

Fini’s fencing background proved to be invaluable. Without hesitation, he disarmed the armed robber, striking his hand and causing the weapon to fall to the ground. He didn’t stop there; with a swift push and punch, he further incapacitated the assailant, sending him tumbling amidst parked scooters. Two brave bystanders joined in, helping to immobilize the attacker until the police arrived.

The assailant, as it turns out, was wanted for murder in Algeria, his home country, and faced charges for multiple robberies. Fini’s remarkable response to this dangerous encounter can be attributed to the fearless mindset and quick reflexes fostered by his fencing training.

While fencing is not typically associated with self-defense, it undeniably played a pivotal role in Fini’s ability to respond effectively to a life-threatening situation. His story serves as a powerful reminder of the transferable skills and attributes developed through sports, which can unexpectedly prove crucial in real-life scenarios. But also, it raises an interesting question – can fencing be used for self-defense?

Fencing is a combat sport. Much like karate or ju-jitsu, fencing is the act of facing an opponent and coming into physical contact with them in order to gain the advantage. That connection to the combat sports arena gives a lot of people the idea that maybe fencing teaches self-defense skills. 

So it’s a good question! We’re going to explore this idea, but we want to start off by being very, very clear: sport fencing is not meant for self-defense. That is not what we’re training for. We are training to get points against our opponent in a controlled situation. Period.

With that as our foundational point, we can start to explore how fencing has a legacy of self-defense and the ways that fencing could help in a combat situation. Though every kind of physical fitness activity would be beneficial for someone facing a dangerous situation, fencing does is a special case.

Unleash Your Inner Warrior: Insights from Rafa and Fencing

Unleash Your Inner Warrior: Insights from Rafa and Fencing

Recently, I immersed myself in the pages of Rafael Nadal’s captivating memoir, “Rafa,” where one of the all-time greatest tennis players invites readers into the inner workings of his journey to the pinnacle of the sport. It’s a literary gem that offers profound insights into the mindset and determination required to achieve greatness in any field. In this post, I want to delve deeper into a particular passage from Nadal’s book, a passage that holds universal significance:

“During a match, you are in a permanent battle to fight back your everyday vulnerabilities, bottle up your human feelings. The more bottled up they are, the greater your chances of winning, so long as you’ve trained as hard as you play and the gap in talent is not too wide between you and your rival. The gap in talent with Federer existed, but it was not impossibly wide. It was narrow enough, even on his favorite surface in the tournament he played best, for me to know that if I silenced the doubts and fears, and exaggerated hopes, inside my head better than he did, I could beat him. You have to cage yourself in protective armor, turn yourself into a bloodless warrior. It’s a kind of self-hypnosis, a game you play, with deadly seriousness, to disguise your own weaknesses from yourself, as well as from your rival.”

Nadal’s words resonate far beyond the tennis court. They transcend sports, touching on the universal struggle we all face – the battle against our doubts and fears, and the need to rise above vulnerability. It’s a battle that extends to countless domains, including the world of fencing.

In my own club, I recently witnessed a situation that vividly reminded me of the profound importance of what Rafa articulates. As many of you know, Sergey Bida trains with us. In our competitive class, he regularly engages in spirited bouts with our competitive fencers. During one training match, a promising fencer managed to secure a significant lead early on. However, what transpired next was intriguing. Instead of capitalizing on his advantage, the fencer abruptly shifted to a defensive stance, ceding control of the bout to Sergey. While Sergey eventually emerged victorious, he couldn’t help but question his opponent’s decision. Why had the fencer retreated and opted for a defensive strategy when victory seemed within reach?

The answer provided valuable insight into the mental aspect of competition: “I was afraid to lose my advantage, and I thought that by adopting a defensive tactic, you wouldn’t find it easy to score against me.”

While tactical discussions could analyze the pros and cons of this approach, and are beyond the scope of this post, it’s the underlying mental state of the fencer that intrigues me. In a way, it mirrors the essence of what Rafa described in his book – the need to silence doubts, transform into a bloodless warrior, and conceal one’s vulnerabilities, not just from the opponent but also from oneself.

But what does this mean beyond the world of sports? How can we apply these principles to our own lives and endeavors? The answer lies in recognizing that the battles we face on the field, the court, or the strip are mere reflections of the internal battles we wage within ourselves. We all grapple with doubts, fear, and vulnerability. It’s the ability to channel these emotions, to turn them into fuel rather than stumbling blocks, that sets champions apart.

In the end, whether we’re striving for victory on the sports field, in our careers, or in personal challenges, Rafael Nadal’s wisdom offers a timeless lesson: to become a relentless competitor, we must first conquer the doubts and fears that reside within us. It’s not just about the sport we play; it’s about the battles we face within ourselves and how we choose to confront them. In doing so, we become warriors not just in our chosen arenas but in the game of life itself.

How to Transition Kids from Other Sports to Fencing

How to Transition Kids from Other Sports to Fencing

Most kids start sports somewhere like tiny soccer leagues or toddler gymnastics classes, but most of them start learning to work with teammates and play right on the playground. They naturally transition from one activity to another, but all too often we see kids and parents get stuck in the idea that one sport is the be-all-end-all, and not in a positive way. 

Let’s talk through a scenario:

Your recently turned eleven-year-old child has been really into soccer for the last four years. They love the team aspect and the physicality of it, but they’ve started to get bored with running back and forth across the pitch. Yes, it’s exciting sometimes, but they aren’t challenged anymore with the sport. They like it, and they have a ton of friends in it, but it’s just not the same as it was before. 

This past season was quite a slog towards the end, and you tried to encourage them to stick with it, but their interest just wasn’t in it anymore. 

Now it’s time to start signing up again for the next season of soccer, and you’re stuck – your child loved this sport for so long, but you can tell by their demeanor that they aren’t going to sign up for soccer for themselves, but rather because of lots of other pressures from teammates and their coach. Their sibling or friend has been doing fencing for a long time and you want your child to try it out because you think it’ll be a good fit for them. 

How can you transition them from this sport that they used to love into something that will ignite their fire? How do you transition them from being in something that they no longer are passionate about into something else that will help them reach their full potential?

Transitioning a child from another sport to fencing can be an exciting, intimidating, but delicate process. Here are some ideas for the parent in this situation, and maybe they’ll help you work out how to help your child with their own transition.

A Call for Change: Re-running for USA Fencing Board of Directors

Rerunning for USA Fencing Board of Directors
Time For Change Representing At Present And Presently

In the world of fencing, a strong, visionary leadership at the helm is vital to the sport’s growth and development. Last year, I ran for the USFA Board of Directors, and while I did not secure a seat, my conviction to make a difference has only grown stronger. I firmly believe that now, more than ever, the board needs individuals deeply entrenched in the fencing world—people who understand the diverse perspectives of coaches, clubs, parents, fencers, and referees. People who have their feet on the ground, know the ins and outs of the sport, and are committed to growing it from the grassroots level. Together with Andrey Geva, owner and head coach of Alliance Fencing Academy, former Head Coach of Women’s Epee, and USA Fencing Hall of Famer, we are committed to steering the USFA towards a brighter, more organized future.

A Vision of Transformation

Our decision to re-run for the USFA Board of Directors isn’t driven by personal ambition but rather by a profound vision for the future of fencing in the United States. Our goal is to lead the USFA toward better organization, inclusivity, and efficiency.

As leaders with our feet firmly on the ground, we have worn many hats within the sport. From coaching on the national and International stage to experiencing fencing as parents ourselves, we possess a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of the sport. This firsthand experience has equipped us with unique insights into what our fencing community needs.

New Year, New Goals – The Whole Fencer Blueprint for 2024

New Year, New Goals - The Whole Fencer Blueprint for 2024

Every year, we start off in January setting goals that will hopefully carry us through the next year and help us level up to where we want to be. Of course, you’re going to change over the course of a year no matter what you do, but at the start of every year we have this feeling that we should somehow control the direction of our changes in a year. 

We talk about goals a lot on this blog, and we do it because they’re important. You have to have an idea of where you’re going to figure out how to get there. We see so many fencers who miss out on opportunities because they don’t know where they want to go. If you don’t want to miss a turn on the highway, you have to have directions. 

But this year, I was thinking about goals and how we approach the whole thing, and I couldn’t help but feel like we’re missing something. Most resolutions are discarded within a few weeks. What if there’s another way? That’s when I started thinking about fencing as a holistic endeavor. We could look at this not just in isolation, but from the standpoint of how it all interacts across not just fencing, but in a broader area of our lives.

The Whole Fencer Blueprint is a concept that aims to cultivate well-rounded, resilient, and fulfilled young fencers. It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense for the new year, especially as youth fencers are trying to balance a whole host of activities and aspirations. 

Here’s how it might work: rather than just thinking about fencing goals, let’s expand our understanding into seven different and distinct areas that all feed into one another. 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén