Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Author: Irina Chirashnya Page 1 of 49

AFM Becomes an Epee-only Fencing Club

AFM Becomes an Epee-only Fencing Club

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. – David Allen

This quote rings so true for us at this moment. Though we often tell our children that they can do anything they want to in life, we must also balance that with encouraging them to focus on their strengths and to learn to adapt. In fact, adaptation and knowing how to change is what makes a fencer successful. Learning to adapt is a key skill, and it’s something that we have to practice even when things are difficult. Right now, we are making choices about how to adapt to make things as good as possible for our fencers. 

Doing the right thing often means making the most difficult decisions. This was very much the case for AFM when we decided to make the move to close our foil program and become an epee-only fencing club. When you want to grow and become better than what you are, you do well to focus on your strengths. That’s what we’ve decided to do, and it’s a huge step in the right direction for AFM. 

Through the last eight years, we built foil and epee fencing programs from the ground up. We began with two tremendous coaches and a handful of students. From those small beginnings, our club grew and widened its reach, all along the way with us cheering our fencers and their accomplishments. 

We are proud of what the foil program achieved and what everyone involved achieved up to this point. In the last season alone, we had national-level top finishes in every single NAC. Each and every one of our competitive fencers made us proud, growing as people as well as athletes. It’s not possible to put into words how much we appreciate the sacrifices and hard work that our foilists brought for this success. To part ways is heartbreaking, even though we step onto this path knowing that it’s the right thing to do. 

Once the dust settles and the logistics of changing clubs and adjusting to schedules has transformed into a daily routine of training, we hope that both our epeeists and our former foilists will see the integrity in this decision. We as a fencing community build beautiful things together, and that doesn’t stop. We are so privileged to be a part of this community and to have been a jumping-off place for the long and fulfilling journey that these incredible foilists will have in this sport. We will always continue to cheer our foilists on. We know that they will look back and see what a positive step this was in their fencing journey, even as it was an incredibly difficult step to take. 

Our epee coaching team is one of the best in the United States, and we are so grateful for our remarkable coaches. With two Olympians and coaches who have put many fencers through the many national teams, AFM has a core epee program that speaks to the best in our fencers. At every level, our epee fencers provide a strong competitive discipline that rivals any fencing in the United States. We are rightfully confident in our skills and in the direction that AFM will go with this new focus. 

Going forward, we will continue to raise the bar and improve our programs. As a strong fencing club with a laser-sharp focus in epee, our members will now be able to reach even higher heights, to reach out towards new horizons, and to elevate our epee fencers to whatever level they wish to rise to! 

This marks an exciting season for everyone. For the fencers in both disciplines, the future is brighter and better than it ever has been. 

Kindness in the Darkest Times – a Pandemic Fairy Tale

Kitoo Dubb and X'Pressions Team
Kitoo Dubb (third from the left) and her X’Pressions team

Bright things are happening, even in the seeming darkness of winter. 

We have experienced some wonderful, uplifting and beautiful acts during the pandemic. It is easy to focus on the hardships that the last year has brought us, but there are such good things that have come this year too! The community support and building each other up has been a true testament to our resilience. 

This is not something that we would normally publish on our blog, but then again this has not been a normal time. We wanted to share something uplifting and happy, something that would remind us that kindness exists.

This is a real magical Christmas story that will make you feel good!

Do you remember the fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen that look like a regular story about ordinary people, but suddenly turn into extraordinary twists and turns, making you believe in magic? This is the type of story that I am going to tell you, dear friends. 

When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now. But for now, let us begin. 

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COVID Restrictions and the Reality of Fencing in Pandemic Times

COVID Restrictions and the Reality of Fencing in Pandemic Times

After months of slow upticks in coronavirus cases, it looks as though the winter is bringing with it a new wave of cases and a new reality for us to face. Safety has to be our priority, and so we find ourselves having to step back and restock how fencing training will go forward. 

This process has been long and exhausting, but we are in it together. Fencing is helping so many to get through the hardest parts of this pandemic – it is a touchstone that helps us to make sense of a world that keeps changing. COVID restrictions are coming back with a vengeance as numbers rise, and we have to find ways to keep fencing. We cannot lose faith. 

Think like a fencer amid new reality

Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is the inability to know what to do. As fencers, we like to know exactly what is going on and how to move forward with our training. We have come to rely on the regularity of our classes and our competition season to craft goals that move us to where we want to go. Though we cannot control the outcome of a match, we have always been able to control our preparation.

That’s not something that we can do right now. We can’t know that we’ll be able to fence in our clubs or go to tournaments. We can’t know that there will be major competitions to prepare for, or when things might return to some kind of normal. We can’t even count on consistent forward progress. 

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A Veteran Fencer’s Guide to Training through Difficult Times

Alan Buchwald at the finals of the International Veteran Foil tournament in Torino, Italy

Alan Buchwald is a true long distance fencer. Not only has he been fencing for many years with tremendous success, but he is also fencing from a long distance thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This veteran fencer continues to inspire me every day, and oftentimes I mention his name in discussions about persistence and goal setting.

These are difficult times for everyone. For some of us, they are definitely more difficult. 2020 has been a year that has turned the whole world upside down, and it’s easy to get caught up in all of that and forget who you are and why you’re here training. 

The older we get, the more understanding we have of how time and events work. Turbulent times have come before, but if you’ve never experienced that then this can all seem like the end of the world. I don’t think it is. I think it’s the beginning of a new and better world. One thing that I find helpful is to look towards people like Alan who have more experience and a longer vision. It keeps me going. 

Good role models matter

I recently saw a post from a very good young fencer who publicly notified the whole fencing community about her intention to quit the sport, right at the top of her career. It resonated with the fencing community because many young fencers are feeling this kind of deep uncertainty about the future. While it’s possible that her decision had nothing to do with the pandemic, the timing is impossible to ignore. It got kids messaging each other about the future in fencing being less than bright for them, that this might be a good time to step back from training and rethink fencing. The whole scenario evoked a sadness for me. I saw the influence in my own children, and in other fencers at our club. They questioned the rigor of what we did, of what we continue to do, and they were upset at the loss of a member of their community. 

It’s a situation that is difficult to navigate, for everyone. It’s both incredibly complex and also shockingly simple. Staying positive is the key. That’s simple. How to stay positive, that’s the complex part.

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Happy Father’s Day! Why Fencing Dads are Our Rock

Father’s Day 2020

Father’s Day this year won’t be like any Father’s Day that’s come before. Social distancing alone means that there won’t be big family gatherings or baseball games. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and support our fathers!

There is nothing like the bond between a father and his children, it’s deep and it’s formative for kids. Strong relationships with parents are a huge part of the healthy development of kids. For fencers, those strong relationships help them to keep going even when times are tough and training seems almost impossible. We cannot thank our dads enough for what they give us!

Dads are in the details

With everyone at home, there are all kinds of new things that need to be figured out and taken care of for fencing training and school to continue. Dads really stepped up to the plate and made things happen that we all needed!

All the Zooms and online classes have meant that the computers and the wifi have been going into overdrive. Dads have stepped in to figure these things out and keep everyone virtually connected, which has been no small endeavor. 

Fencing dads have turned into armorers! With all of these millions of touches on the targets via zoom, weapons are getting more abuse than they did in the club. Fencing weapons did not magically become unbreakable because fencers are at home, but coaches cannot make house calls to fix them either. Dad to the rescue to replace snapped blades! Dads are also out there making home fencing targets so that fencers can practice and keep those skills honed and ready. 

Some dads are even becoming sparring partners for their kids! I know one dad who bought a jacket, weapon, mask, and glove to be the partner for their child to practice their parries with. Even better, the coach gave private lessons to a child with his/her dad doing what the coach told to let their child practice.

Balancing is a big part of this. Most of the time, moms are the ones who are doing more of the lifting in taking care of the kids at home. Now suddenly dads have started playing a bigger daily active role in helping with the kids. Those millions of details, dads are digging in!

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