Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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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!

Exciting News: Join Me in the “Parents’ Corner” at American Fencer!

Parents' Corner at American Fencer!

I am thrilled to share some exciting news with all of you in the fencing community. Recently, I received a wonderful invitation to become a regular columnist at “American Fencer,” the online reincarnation of the renowned “American Fencing” magazine. American Fencer now offers more in-depth stories, allowing us to explore a wider range of fencing-related topics. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this prestigious platform, and I’m looking forward to contributing valuable insights on fencing parenting and related topics.

As many of you know, I have been passionate about fencing and dedicated to fostering the growth of young fencers through my work at the Academy of Fencing Masters (AFM). Over the years, I have had the privilege of sharing my thoughts and experiences through my AFM blog. Now, I’m excited to expand the reach of these discussions and delve even deeper into the world of fencing parenting with “American Fencer.”

My first article, “How Hard Should Parents and Coaches Push Young Fencers,” has already been published, and I invite you all to read and engage with it. This is just the beginning of what promises to be a great journey, and I can’t wait to continue sharing valuable insights, advice, and stories with the fencing community.

I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your ongoing support and encouragement. It’s your passion for fencing and dedication to the sport that motivates me to explore these important topics further. Together, we can continue to nurture the next generation of fencers and create a positive and enriching environment for all.

Also, I want to thank Serge Timacheff, the Editor-in-Chief of American Fencer, for believing in the value of our discussions on fencing parenting and related themes. I look forward to collaborating with the American Fencer team and sharing valuable insights with the fencing community.

Stay tuned for more articles in the “Parents’ Corner” at American Fencer, and let’s embark on this exciting journey together!

Thank you, and happy fencing!

Defying Boundaries: The Journey of Olympic Fencers

Defying Boundaries: The Journey of Olympic Fencers Konstantin Lokhanov, Sergey Bida and Violetta Bida

In a world where sports transcend borders, sometimes athletes make decisions that go beyond medals and championships. Today, we bring you an inspiring story of courage, conviction, and unity on the fencing piste.

Meet Konstantin Lokhanov, a sabre fencer now training at the La Jolla Fencing Academy in San Diego, and Sergey and Violetta Bida, who have found their new home here with us, at the Academy of Fencing Masters. These remarkable athletes have taken a stand against the Russian war in Ukraine and defected to the United States. Their goal? To continue their fencing journey and represent their new home at the Olympic Games.

Watch a heartwarming video from the BBC, sharing the incredible journey of these fencers who are not only chasing their Olympic dreams but also championing a cause they deeply believe in. 🇺🇸🤺❤️ #FencingForPeace #OlympicDreams

Celebrating a Decade of Growth & Excellence at AFM!

AFM Founding - installing our signature floors

Ten years ago today if you’d told Irina and I where we’d be today, there’s no way we would have believed you.

With our two sets of twin kids, all in elementary school, in tow, we opened the doors of the Academy of Fencing Masters with our coaches Natasha and Alexander Maximovich. Since those early days of just a handful of students working together in a small space, we have grown by leaps and bounds, watching our own children grow up and hundreds of fencers come through the doors. 

We came together with others to grow our shared love for the art of fencing. The dedication and perseverance of our incredible staff, athletes, and families have paved the way for a remarkable transformation from a small fencing club to one of the largest in the United States. As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of AFM, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the tremendous journey that we’ve come on together. 

It started with a dream & practical needs

Ten years ago, a handful of fencers gathered together in our not yet fully furnished location in downtown Campbell, ready to work and armed with their determination. With a shared vision of giving fencing a home in the Bay Area, we set about laying a foundation for a community that would grow beyond what we could have ever imagined. 

At the time, we felt there wasn’t a strong place for fencers here that focused on families in the way we see it. With our young children, we saw a genuine need for a welcoming home for people interested in fencing. We loved it, and then we surrounded ourselves with other passionate people, and now here we are!

AFM was always about community. Early on, we knew that we wanted to create a place for families, a place where they could bring their children to train in a safe, supportive environment. What truly sets us apart is  the strong sense of community that has blossomed over the last ten years. From those first days with those big dreams, we set out to foster a welcoming and inclusive community. Whether you had a background in fencing or were totally new to the sport, you were welcome here. No matter your nationality, race, or place in society, we wanted this to be the place that you could call home. 

AFM was always more than just a place to refine fencing skills; it has become a second home to people of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. We’ve seen friendships forged and mentorship established as we watched everyone develop their shared passion for fencing. There has been so much hard work involved in this journey, and much of it has been done by the staff, coaches, and families who are part of our community. We cannot emphasize enough how much this club is a group effort, much more than just one person or one family, but a whole group of people who share the same love of this sport. It’s wonderful. It’s exciting. It’s something we’re so, so thankful for!

From Local Training to the National and International Stage

Our journey from a small fencing club to one of the largest fencing clubs in the country has been marked by success from the ground up. It’s all driven not only by the dedicated members of AFM on the fencer side, but also of course by the exemplary coaching and training programs that have been developed throughout the last decade. 

Because of our innovative coaching staff, we offer something unique. The training continues to grow and change with new demands, and we particularly saw some amazing pivots and innovation during the pandemic. As our reputation has spread, we’ve been able to work with fencers from across the country and the world to scaffold the growth of everyone. Coaches from across the world are part of our dynamic community, and recently, we’ve seen our homegrown fencers compete at the international level. What a remarkable achievement!

Central to AFM’s success is our commitment to nurturing young fencers. Our youth fencing program gives young fencers a place to learn, grow, and shine locally, then regionally, and eventually on the national stage. Our emphasis on mentorship and sportsmanship has not only produced remarkable athletes but also helped us create a roster of past and present fencers who embody the values of hard work, creativity, perseverance, and commitment. 

The culture of AFM is about so much more than just winning medals or going to competitions. Those things are great, but it’s not why we started this club ten years ago, and it’s certainly not why we keep going. We’re building a legacy through the countless fencers, coaches, and families whose lives have been enriched by their involvement in the sport and in both our community and the wider fencing community. From beginner youth fencers to veterans still enjoying the sport, every single person has contributed their own unique chapter in the story of AFM.

Eyes Towards the Future

As we celebrate this milestone tenth anniversary, we don’t just look back at what’s behind us, but we also look forward to the next ten years with excitement and so much optimism. The journey of the past decade gives us a solid foundation that we can build on. 

Through our commitment to promoting the sport of fencing by being an inclusive place that nurtures talent and fosters a strong sense of community, we’re looking ahead to keeping it all going for many years to come. This is just the beginning for us, though the beginning has been a huge swell of support from so many people over the years. 

Our transformation as a club from a small gathering of dedicated coaches and families to where we are today is a testament to the power of dedication, passion, and shared vision. Over the past ten years and with your help, we have not only reveled in the sport of fencing but also created a tight-knit community that supports and inspires one another. As we celebrate this major milestone, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to every family, every member, every coach, every supporter, and every friend of AFM who has contributed to the remarkable journey of our fencing club. 

Here’s to the next decade of excellence, challenges, growth, and the enduring spirit of camaraderie that defines us!

AFM founding - installing our sign on the building

The Countdown Begins: Join us for the Electrifying AFM Super Regional Tournament!

The Countdown Begins: Join us for the Electrifying AFM Super Regional Tournament!

We’re excited to announce that we’re hosting the coming AFM Super Regional Tournament!

This will be the second year that AFM has been the organizer for this major fencing competition. After the great success of last year’s tournament, we can’t wait to see how this year’s will come along. 

The Mega Tournament

Last year, we aptly called this competition a “Mega Tournament,” and that’s exactly what it felt like when it actually happened. It’s a colossal regional competition that brings together three circuits into one exciting event. Over the course of a single weekend and under one roof, the tournament combines a Super Youth Circuit (SYC), a Regional Junior and Cadet Circuit (RJCC), and a Regional Open Circuit (ROC). 

Because of the tournament’s wide-ranging nature, the vast majority of the participants can compete in at least two events. This is an excellent opportunity for fencers to get in a lot of tournament competition early in the season, gaining both experience and points for the upcoming season.

We are proudly hosting this all-encompassing competition from October 6-8th, 2023 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. You can register online by clicking here. Register early to secure your place!

As the biggest event on the West Coast for the 2023-2024 season, a large number of fencers from all over the country, particularly the West and Southwest, are expected to participate in this competition.

This remarkable tournament will feature 60 metal strips and scoring apparatus provided by Absolute Fencing Gear. Additionally, there will be an Olympic-sized fencing strip exclusively reserved for the finals. The tournament setup will resemble that of prestigious events like NACs and Fencing Summer Nationals, complete with national-level referees and officials. Our Head Referee is Mark Stasinos, with Charles Astudillo as Assistant Head Referee, Brandon Rochelle as Bout Committee Chair, and Dwight Chew as Head Armorer. Absolute Fencing will be on hand as an equipment vendor, and the convention center is a major venue with lots of amenities. This tournament offers fencers a thrilling opportunity to compete in an electrifying format.

By consolidating all these elements under one roof, this tournament supports fencers who desire a larger and more diverse competitive experience. Although nothing compares to Fencing Summer Nationals, a mega competition like this brings a semblance of a national tournament right here in the heart of Silicon Valley. Similar to an NAC (North American Cup), this competition offers fencers a taste of competing alongside a multitude of participants from various levels. That kind of cross-level competition helps fencers to see what’s possible and get that fire for their own progress. 

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