Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Month: February 2024

Petition to Fix the Summer Nationals Schedule

Dear Fencing Community,

I’ve just launched a petition that speaks to the hearts of fencers, parents, coaches, and clubs across the nation. This petition is a rallying cry for an immediate revision of the Summer Nationals schedule, and here’s why it’s so crucial.

The scheduling of national-level competitions has become riddled with issues that demand urgent attention. Take, for example, the April NAC in Men’s Epee, where the Senior Team event overlaps with Junior Men’s Epee. This year, we see a staggering drop in participation, with only 8 registered teams compared to the 30 teams that fenced the same event the year before (not clear that all eight teams will fence as usually some registrations scratch). This decline denies our fencers the opportunity to gain valuable experience and weakens our long-term prospects for developing competitive team fencing at the international level.

In the March NAC, events in the same weapon (for all weapons/genders) on the last day start simultaneously, creating insurmountable challenges for coaches to provide adequate strip coaching coverage.

Yesterday, the USFA released the Summer Nationals schedule, and after lengthy discussions with coaches, we’ve identified several issues that need urgent attention. Imagine gearing up for the biggest tournament of the year, only to be met with a schedule that forces you to make impossible choices.

Events overlap, conflicts arise, and the logistical nightmare becomes all too real. This isn’t just about inconvenience; it’s about the integrity of the competition, the development of our fencers, and the future of team fencing in the USA.

These issues affect fencers of all ages, from Y14 and up, in various weapons and genders, to our veterans who’ve dedicated years to the sport. It’s about ensuring that every fencer has the opportunity to compete at the national level and dream of representing the USA on the international stage.

As someone who has organized similarly complex events in the past, I understand the logistical complexities that the USFA team faces. It’s not easy and requires hours after hours of revisions and conflict resolution. While I sympathize with their challenges, I believe we can work towards a better schedule together.

That’s why I’m urging you to sign this petition, and to sign it now. We can’t afford to wait until it’s too late. The Summer Nationals registration is looming, and we need the USFA to take action ASAP. We need them to listen to our concerns, recognize the urgency of the situation, and implement the changes we so desperately need.

So, fellow fencers, coaches, parents, club owners, officials, and supporters of the sport, I implore you—don’t let this opportunity slip away. Sign the petition, share it far and wide, and let your voice be heard. Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can ensure that the future of fencing in the USA is brighter than ever before.

I believe that by uniting behind this cause, the USFA will be compelled to take action and seek input from the community on how to improve the schedule. After all, we all share the same goal—to make fencing better. Let’s turn this belief into action and create a platform for collaboration.

Let’s do this.

Link to the petition: https://chng.it/5Bn5BV7DbW

Confidence in Fencing

Confidence in fencing and in live

Confidence in fencing is like that elusive goalpost in a game you’re always chasing after but never quite reach. It’s the magic ingredient that transforms a good fencer into a great one. You’ve probably heard fencing coaches shouting it from the sidelines like a mantra: “Confidence! Be confident!” But what exactly does it mean? And how do you actually get it?

Let me share a recent conversation I had with some of my fencers. They were disheartened after being eliminated from their competition earlier in the day. I reassured them that they possessed all the necessary physical skills and conditioning to excel. What was lacking, however, was that intangible quality – confidence.

So, what is confidence, really?

Picture this: You’re cruising down the road at 40 miles per hour, approaching an intersection. Suddenly, the traffic light ahead switches from green to blinking yellow. You have a split second to decide: do you speed up and cross the intersection or hit the brakes?

If you’re a confident driver, you don’t waste time second-guessing. You swiftly calculate the distance and timing, weighing it against your gut feeling about the yellow light’s duration. With unwavering certainty, you decide to glide through the intersection safely.

Now, contrast this with the uncertainty of an inexperienced or insecure driver. They hesitate, unsure whether to accelerate or brake. Their indecision could lead to a screeching halt at best or a dangerous encounter with oncoming traffic at worst.

But let’s add a twist to this scenario. What if, alongside the blinking yellow light, you spot a fast-approaching train from the right? Suddenly, the stakes are higher, the danger more palpable. Yet, the fundamental factors remain unchanged – speed, distance, and timing.

Confidence is about maintaining that same level of conviction even in the face of added challenges. It’s about executing your actions decisively and wholeheartedly, regardless of external circumstances.

In fencing, as in life, confidence can make or break you. It’s the difference between seizing victory and conceding defeat. You may possess all the technical skills and strategies, but without confidence, you’ll struggle to unleash their full potential.

Confidence in fencing isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s the lifeline that keeps you afloat amidst the swirling currents of competition. Do you remember the heat of a priority minute when you’re engaged in a fierce exchange with your opponent, every touch crucial as you battle for victory? Do you recall those nail-biting last two seconds of a bout with you one-touch behind or ahead of your opponent, where every movement counts, where a single touch could mean the difference between victory and defeat? Can you relive in your mind that pivotal moment just one round away from the medals, where the pressure is palpable, and the stakes couldn’t be higher?

In each of these scenarios, confidence isn’t just a luxury – it’s a necessity. It’s the force that delivers you that half inch of the distance you need for the touch, that split second to win the timing, those additional 10 grams of power to fully contract the spring and make the machine light up. It’s what separates the champions from the rest, allowing them to rise above the uncertainty and deliver when it matters most. So, when you step onto the strip, carry with you the unshakeable belief that you have what it takes to succeed and the unwavering belief in your abilities. Trust yourself, trust in your training, embrace the challenge, commit to your actions, and let your confidence propel you towards success.

And for those nitpickers pondering the legality of our traffic analogy, let’s just focus on the bigger picture here – confidence. After all, it’s the driving force behind every triumph, pun intended.

Image: Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0

Victory, Change, and Paris 2024 with Grand Prix Champion Yuval Freilich

Yuval Freilich with his support team Alexander Ivanov and Angelo Mazzoni

Almost four years ago, we interviewed rising star in epee Yuval Freilich, who at the time had just won his first Gold medal at the European Championships. At the time, we wrote that it would not be the last time you would hear from him, and that we predicted he would be a force in the world of epee over the next several years.

Flash forward to Doha, Qatar, earlier this month and the 2024 Grand Prix and Yuval once again took the top of the podium. This Gold medal finish takes him one step closer to the Paris Olympics this summer, which are coming up faster than we can imagine.

We talked with him about his training regimen in this Olympic year, the challenges of preparing for high-level competitions given the pressures of everything pushing on athletes right now, and what he sees next for himself and for fencing in general.

Igor Chirashnya: This victory was played out in the news all over the world, for many reasons that have nothing to do with fencing. How did it feel when you returned home from Doha?

Yuval Freilich: The night after the competition, I was already on the plane back to Israel. The truth is, I’ve completely disconnected from the media, from the press, and from the news, so I don’t know what was written and what was said. For me, the competition was a regular competition. I’m not blind to reality, I understand perfectly the significance of this competition apart from the sporting aspect. We had security guards with us there, and we had our own little special room that they put us in during the competition, but I approached it as normal competition.

The Measuring Mentality – How Constant Calculations Hurt Youth Fencers

The Measuring Mentality - How Constant Calculations Hurt Youth Fencers

Before kids are even born, we’re bombarded with the idea that everything has to be measured. How long is the baby during each sonogram? How many times did they kick in the last 24 hours? Are they on time for their due date?  Once they get here, we’re told to monitor their height and weight percentile, count how many teeth they’ve lost, list the words that they know. How do they compare to the norm? From academic milestones to physical changes to social interactions, we are constantly measuring how much our children are doing as compared to other kids their age. Society conditions us to constantly evaluate our children’s progress and compare them to their peers. 

This measuring mentality extends to the world of youth fencing, where parents often find themselves caught up in a web of constant calculations and comparisons. Are they doing as well as other kids in the Y8 age category? They started fencing at the same beginner fencing camp as another child who just earned a new rating, are they measuring up? 

All of this measuring misses the point, and more importantly it can even be detrimental. We must understand that nurturing our children’s unique abilities and focusing on their individual growth is much more relevant to their overall happiness than any measure that we might have against other kids. Embracing individual progress is much more important than pitting kids against each other, even if it’s done with the best intentions.

Celebrating a Decade of the AFM Blog: A Journey of Words and Fencing

Celebrating a Decade of the AFM Blog: A Journey of Words and Fencing

It’s hard to believe that exactly ten years ago, on this very day, we embarked on the journey of creating the AFM Blog. Back then, we had little more than a vague idea of what it would become. It felt like stepping into the unknown, with only the first step known to us, while the direction and duration remained shrouded in mystery. But, oh, the lessons we’ve learned along the way!

Writing the blog for ten years is hard. It’s impossible to understand the determination that would be required when you just start. To do something, anything actually, no matter how hard it is, for a short period of time is easy. I didn’t know that it would be hard when I started. The first number of blogs were easy. The difficult part is to write every week, rain or shine, whether I travel or not, whether I have a well-developed concept or a very initial idea. So, in the last ten years, I learned what it means to have a goal and what it takes to develop grit and discipline.

Yet, amid the challenges, we’ve discovered the immense reward of having a dedicated audience, people who value our work, provide feedback, and simply say a kind word. For that – a huge thank you!

Our initial motivation for starting this blog was simple: we wanted to connect with our local fencing community, particularly parents, and assist them in navigating the intricacies of the sport. However, it soon transcended our expectations. What began as a modest blog has grown into a widely cited source on all things fencing. It has not only crossed geographical boundaries but has also connected us with diverse audiences, sparking meaningful conversations. One of the most rewarding aspects has been its role in introducing countless new parents to the world of fencing. We’ve often heard newcomers say, “I discovered fencing through your blog.” There’s no greater satisfaction than knowing our efforts have contributed to the growth of the fencing community.

The true power of words lies in their ability to connect people, and it’s exhilarating to see how the AFM Blog has achieved this over the past decade.

Education has been at the heart of our mission from the very beginning. Whether it’s guiding novice fencers in selecting the right weapon, explaining rule changes to seasoned practitioners, or sharing tips on maintaining fencing gear, it’s the educational component that has made the most significant impact on our readers. Supporting our fencing community through knowledge sharing has been a fundamental goal, and it continues to be a cornerstone of our work.

In the course of a decade, we’ve established some cherished traditions here at the AFM Blog. Among them, our April Fool’s posts are my favorites. Yet, every April, I find myself questioning whether my sense of humor is on par with our readers’ tastes. It remains a delightful puzzle.

We are always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. If there’s something that has resonated with you or a topic you’d like us to explore, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us through this platform or on our social media channels. What we share with the world matters to us deeply. We aspire to bring more people into the fencing through education and information, and, on occasion, provoke change. This blog has served as a platform for discussing opportunities for growth within the sport and addressing broader issues that affect everyone, both inside and outside the fencing community. We take this responsibility seriously and are immensely grateful for our readers’ willingness to engage with our thoughts.

However, all these accomplishments pale in comparison to the heart of this blog – the fencing community!

Parents and fencers, not only across our nation but from around the world, have turned to us for information and insights. We view this blog as a repository of fencing knowledge, a place where new fencing families can seek guidance and where experienced fencers and their families can find motivation and support. To fulfill this role, we continue to be learners ourselves. We understand that we can’t provide more if we don’t keep seeking new ideas, constantly striving to understand the ever-evolving world of fencing. While the art of swordsmanship has ancient roots, it continually adapts to new techniques, technologies, rules, sensibilities, and the needs of both youth and adult athletes. Writing this blog has allowed us to stay sharp and open-minded. As we often say, competing in fencing forces you to grow, and for us, writing this blog forces us to remain open and engaged.

In essence, the power of blogging lies in its ability to bridge gaps, create communities, and inspire change. It stands as a testament to the profound impact words can have in influencing, educating, and connecting us. What we contribute to the world holds immense significance, and we are grateful to have you, our readers, along for this incredible journey.

As we raise a virtual toast to the start of our second decade at the AFM blog, we reflect not only on what we’ve accomplished thus far but also on the limitless potential for what we can achieve together.

Thank you for being a part of this remarkable journey and for reading our blog!

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