It’s the thing that defines us, fencers – the notion that fencing is about more than just banging swords together, it’s about learning to live life better.
Art of Fencing.
Fencing of course began not as a sport, but as a means of war. Sword fighting wasn’t invented because it was beautiful, it grew out of necessity. That necessity is in many ways very beautiful, in part because it speaks to something deep within us all – a fire to win, to survive, to protect.
The art of swordsmanship is elevated to something higher in many cultures across the world. Though modern competitive fencing has its roots in Europe, we see the same reverence and beauty in swordsmanship across Asia as well as in other parts of the world. Swords become these magical things. Think about the way that King Arthur’s sword is so central to the meaning of the tale – his sword was powerful and all the more so because it was he who wielded it. The samurai saw power in their blades. We can even extend it to the modern mythology of the Jedi, whose lightsabers are so deeply connected with mastery over themselves. Taking on the art of the sword is an honor across many cultures, making the people that much better than they would be otherwise.
There is something elegant, something beautiful and awe inspiring in taking this simple and straightforward piece of metal and using it as an extension of your arm. The handle of the sword and the hand become one thing, and the body is thus extended into far more than it was before. Person and sword meld into this marvelous thing that is more than either of them alone. No matter whether it’s an epee, a sabre or a foil – the principle is the same.
Though it began as a weapon, there is far more to a sword than being an instrument of destruction or hurt, rather it’s about the way that a human can find mastery over himself or herself. Fencing becomes an art form, inviting us to learn more about how to take control of our bodies and to teach them to follow our commands more closely. Taking our fencing to the next level means challenging the body to contort into shapes that it had not previously been accustomed to forming, to move in ways that it had not previously been accustomed to moving, to following commands in ways that it has never been challenged to follow before.
A fencing bout is truly something spectacular to behold. It draws us in, as two people focus their entire thoughts and all of their physical bodies on one singular thing – making that touch and getting that point. It’s at that point that fencing transcends and becomes more than just two pieces of metal banging against one another – it becomes emblematic of humanity itself, fighting for self-determination and fighting for life.
The art of fencing is the art of self-mastery.
Art of Life
Life is an art form, and having a good life means figuring out how to become an artist who creates and molds the life which we live. We all want to paint our lives into a beautiful picture, one that fills us with pride and with joy.
Fencing doesn’t stay in the club, it doesn’t stay at the competition. Fencing is so very much more than that – it takes on an incredible quality that is well beyond the training or the specifics. Fencing teaches us the art of life. By learning how to manage our bodies, to manage our minds, and to invoke that fire within, we are learning to master our life as we master the art of fencing.
Most serious fencers will gladly tell you about the ways that it has affected their lives, in all kinds of ways that seem to be completely disparate from what you would expect. Practicing fencing molds us in ways that reach all the way into our careers and our relationships.
We learn humility and grace in defeat, because no one wins every match. We learn how to lose a match without losing ourselves, and that is a lesson that is incredibly important for so much of the things that happen in life. Learning to take a loss and learn from it is the key to being successful in life, and it’s one of the most important tools that fencers learn.
Fencers learn to take instruction as they work to get better, because the coach always has some improvements at the ready no matter how well we might be doing. That ability to take in constructive criticism and to transform it into actual change is another integral part of the art of life.
There is a spirit to fighting, a deep thing that we draw out when we take up fencing that is a core of what it means to live life. Becoming a fencer awakens within us this thing that is so often kept silent in modern society – a passion that drives us forward. Life is not something to be lived without passion, because without that inner drive we just end up sitting around, never pushing forward and never finding the success that we deserve to have.
What is so incredible about fencing is that while it is most definitely swordfighting, it is at once so much more than swinging around a sword. Fencing is transfomative, helping fencers to take on the opponents of life just as they take on the opponents on the strip.