Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Author: Irina Chirashnya Page 1 of 48

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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A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Fencing Gear in the Time of COVID-19

A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Fencing Gear in the Time of COVID-19

We’ve written a lot about cleaning fencing gear over the years. In normal use, gear gets all kinds of stuff on it. Sweat, tears, more sweat, bits of fluff from the floor of the club, more sweat, etc. Fencing is a hugely physical sport, which means there are all of the normal things that you’d find with any sports gear. 

These are not normal times though. As fencers start to look towards getting back into clubs for socially distanced and safe fencing practice, cleaning fencing gear takes on a new significance. It’s not just about maintaining your fencing equipment anymore, it’s about preventing the spread of the coronavirus. 

The good news is that fencing gear is easy to clean. In an age where we have gotten to the point of washing our grocery bags, cleaning fencing gear will seem like a simple thing!

Note that these are our recommendations. We’re not health experts. We have read lots of guidelines from lots of experts. We obviously know our way around fencing gear already. These guidelines are what we are recommending to our fencers and their families as we reopen physically. Best practices. These guidelines are comprehensive, with instructions for every facet of fencing equipment that requires attention for cleaning, which is pretty much everything.

Some things might seem like they’re repeated. That’s on purpose. We want to emphasize that this is important, and that cleaning every piece of equipment needs to become a habit for the foreseeable future. We want you to be sick of reading the cleaning steps instead of actually getting sick. 

Now let’s get into it!

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AFM Safe Shield – Returning to Training Guidelines & Plan

AFM Safe Shield - Returning to Training Guidelines & Plan

The “AFM Safe Shield” Returning to Training Guidelines are based on CDC health considerations and tools for operating during COVID-19, California schools’ guidelines, CDC Considerations for Youth Sports and Summer Camps,  and Santa Clara County’s Public Health update and restrictions

Fencing is traditionally about swords, but now we are in a time when we need to act as a shield for our fencing community.

The last several months have been a whirlwind of change for everyone. Lockdowns, quarantine, social distancing, and a hefty dose of everyone feeling trapped and overwhelmed. Reopening is something that we all want to do, but we also want to do it safely. 

The problem is, most of us in the fencing world aren’t health experts. The good news is that we don’t have to be. There are a whole host of guidelines and structures that have been published to help businesses create safety plans that will make reopening fencing clubs as safe as possible. 

We’ve pulled information from the CDC, the government of California, and the Santa Clara County Health Department to create a plan for reopening fencing clubs, adapting it to the specifics of the fencing club training. Of course, there is always a risk and no system is perfect. However we have worked with experts and expert advice to come up with procedures that will minimize the risk of spreading the virus while also creating an environment where fencing training can continue. AFM is only working in clear accordance with the safety procedures laid out by Santa Clara County, all governmental restrictions and guidance, and what has been set out by Santa Clara County Schools. 

AFM continues to keep the wellbeing of our fencers, their families, and our coaching team as our highest priority. 

Flexibility, input, and accommodation 

Safety is what matters, whether it is in small groups classes or in private lessons as we move towards a new normal. The AFM Safe Shield Plan brings together the power of leading experts, parent’s suggestions, and the shared responsibility between us all.

AFM is adopting the hybrid approach for training our fencers. Members have several options for training with AFM. 

  • Small group training with precautions
  • Indoor or outdoor classes and private lessons
  • Zoom training
  • Any combination of the above

Everyone has their own considerations for safety and their own concerns about exposure. Whatever decision each family makes about their training, we support all of them. Accommodations and flexibility from us are a central tenet of our philosophy, especially now. Whatever we can do for fencing families, whether it is within these policies or not, we would love to hear it. All fencers deserve to have individual goals for training in fencing, no matter if they are in the club or training remotely. Growth is possible and still so important!

The input of families is a critical part of this process. This is a living document. 

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How to Stay Positive During the Coronavirus Quarantine

How to Stay Positive During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Quarantine can be quite a downer if you’re not careful. Staying positive is a critically important part of getting to the other side of this tremendous and extraordinary time, but how can you do it?

The key is to have lots of strategies to keep you going. If you are trying just one thing to keep positive, well then you will find yourself hitting a plateau. Just like in fencing training, you have to keep changing up your strategies if you are going to keep progressing.

To help you, our readers, keep that positive attitude, we’ve put together a list of strategies to help you stay positive during these times. These came together from things that we have done ourselves, things we’ve read online, things that our fencing families have said work for them. At this point we, like all of you, are pretty willing to try anything to keep those spirits up. 

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