Nine Must See TED Talks for Fencers

Quarantine is a time when you’ve got some extra time. That makes this a wonderful chance to inject some inspiration into your fencing! TED Talks are a perfect way to do that. 

It’s not always about what a fencer does in the club or with their coach, much of the development of a fencer happens in learning and growing and thinking outside of their actual training. We’re always wanting to expand what we know and so improve. 

TED Talks are an incredible resource for learning and growing. If you aren’t familiar, TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design” and are short presentations given by expert speakers in sanctioned conferences held around the world. The organization has been doing this for over thirty years, and it continues to grow. You’ll find thousands of free TED Talks online dealing with every subject imaginable, and they are almost universally compelling. 

We’ve collected nine TED Talks that we find to be beneficial for fencers. Some of these talk about goals or thinking, some of them have nothing to do with sports, and two specifically about fencing. They’re perfect to watch on a cell phone or tablet anywhere you are, and you’ll find each to give you an extra push of motivation for your fencing!

1. Michael Aufrichtig – One Touch to Glory

It’s all in the numbers. When you have your head around the data, you can make amazing things happen, and that drives practice and focus. 

This TEDs Talk by Columbia University Head Fencing Coach Michael Aufrichtig was a game changer. His unconventional approach to fencing has been influential across the sport, and he offers insight into competitive fencing that you need to hear. 

(Don’t miss AFM’s interview with Michael, which you can find here.)

2. John Wooden – The Difference Between Winning and Succeeding 

We talk all the time about how important it is that fencers not define themselves by the number of trophies or medals that they win. But that leaves the question – what are we as fencers chasing?

John Wooden gives a master class in what it means to succeed. His communication is a little “old school”, but what he says is grounded and resonant for anyone. Wooden is known as one of the greatest basketball coaches in history, having led UCLA to ten championships. 

3. Carol Dwerk – The Power of Believing That You Can Improve

Can you become a better fencer? Researcher Carol Dweck works to understand how the brain’s capacity to solve problems affects whether we are successful. When you watch this talk, ask yourself what you say to yourself when you lose a point in fencing, or when you lose a match. That first inclination that you have at a setback in your fencing is a big indicator of how well you’re set up to move forward.

4. Stephen Duneier – How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

On this blog we talk a lot about goal setting and how important it is to fencing. That’s because if you’re going to do big things then you have to plan in a big way! Duneier goes through his incredible insight into decision making and how it plays into achieving those goals. After you watch this talk, you’ll find that you can see how the small things can add up to big goals, and how to become an active participant in your fencing journey. 

Don’t miss this one! It’s worth listening to at least once. 

5. Aimee Mullins –  The Opportunity of Adversity

What is the language you’re using in your fencing that’s holding you back?

Aimee Mullins has several TED Talks, and they are all worth watching. This one in particular focuses on disability and the power of language in shaping how we progress. Watch how she describes reshaping her experience through the words that she used, and then think about how your own language is limiting your ability to become a better fencer. 

Mullins is a Paralympic Olympian who leveraged her success in sport to make changes, working with the U.S. State Department to forward and the International Olympic Committee after her athletic career was over. 

6. Angela Lee Duckworth – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

It’s a buzzy word that we hear a lot, but educator and psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth gives us a beautiful understanding of how we become successful. It’s not about who is the smartest or the strongest. That’s powerful information for fencers, because as it turns out that you don’t need to be a super athlete to get there! It’s grit.

7. Ben Saunders – Why bother leaving the house?

It’s a major question that everyone is facing these days – what’s the point of doing anything if everything can be replicated digitally? Everyone, kids and adults, are glued to screens. 

That of course begs the question for fencers too of why should you fence? Why should you get off the couch and go to the fencing club? This is a great TED talk by an adventurer and explorer who answers the question of “why”. Ben Saunders gives a wonderful spark of inspiration for fencers about what it is that calls us to do things. 

Note that this TED Talk is great for adult fencers, who can struggle getting lost in responsibilities of work and family. 

8. Judson Brewer – A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

Fencers universally struggle to break bad habits, and it’s one of the toughest challenges that we face because they are so ingrained in us. Psychiatrist Judson Brewer uses shows us how to use mindfulness techniques to banish those nagging bad habits that we can’t seem to get rid of. While he of course doesn’t talk about fencing specifically, the techniques he describes are very applicable to fencers.

9. Jason Rogers – Advancing Your Story

Jason Rogers was part of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Sabre Team in both 2004 and in 2008, the latter of which he won a Silver Team Sabre with. What’s fantastic about this talk is not that it’s about fencing, but that he shows how fencing has been a part of his wider life, teaching lessons that stretch well past the strip. Instead it’s about how to face challenges and how his journey through fencing have shaped him. This isn’t just swords! How fencing integrates into the life that we live is the real message here, and it’s incredible.

It’s a very personal tale that fencers will appreciate and can learn so much from.