Traditionally, fencing is a sport that has been niche for many reasons, not the least of which is that fencing clubs are not easy to come by. For people who live in rural America, fencing is often totally inaccessible because they don’t live close enough to a place to learn it.
For our sport, this is an incredibly important subject. We want more fencers so that we can have more competitors, and also because we love the sport and want to share it. It’s a shame that distance is such a barrier, but for those who live outside of urban areas, especially in rural America, it’s a huge issue. How many potentially amazing fencers are there out there who will never make it to the strip because there is not a club nearby?
For many fencers, this isn’t something that they even consider. They think about their own sport, what their ranking is, where their next competition will be, and in the times of the pandemic they are understandably concerned about their own training. However, this is still a subject that is worth considering. We want our sport to thrive, and so that means thinking globally. Sometimes the biggest opportunities are in the most unlikely places.
This year has been one that we will never forget, but also one that we might wish not to remember, as we are saying to it – farewell 2020!
There is a running sentiment among everyone that 2020 is a year that we need to just put behind us. It’s been horrible, miserable, and is better left in the rearview mirror. There is certainly some ring of truth in that feeling, but to dwell on that idea is to ignore all of the great things that have happened this year. There have been positive things in 2020, and we don’t even have to wear rose colored glasses in order to see them.
This was a year of discovery, in wonderful ways that will affect our future and that we can build on. There is a sense that the world has shifted through the demands of this year, and with that shift we have grown.
As we say farewell to 2020, we cannot help but reflect on the good that we have found in it. Here are eight great things that we will take with us from this challenging year.
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.
It can feel like the last year has been nothing more than one long and impossible series of choices that are gut wrenching for us to make, yet they have to be made. Gratitude is not an easy sentiment to come by as the months drag on and on, especially when we realize that pandemic lockdowns are only going to get worse in the coming months.
I miss fencing competitions.
I miss the sound of swords clashing.
I miss hugging my family.
I miss the feel of getting on an airplane.
I miss my opponents.
I miss movie theaters.
I miss handshakes from my coach.
I miss sitting over dinner with my friends.
I miss yells on the piste.
I miss not having to think about coronavirus all the time.
I miss feeling confident in the future.
Before this pandemic lockdown, we knew what was what. We planned for fencing competitions years in advance at times. We knew that Fencing Summer Nationals would happen every summer and that every four years we could count on the Olympics to give us a fresh infusion of inspiration and determination. High school seniors knew that they would go off to live in a dorm in the fall. Middle school fencers knew they would come to the club after school and practice. You could count on these things, just the same as the seasons turning or the sun rising in the morning.
It is very much as though the sun isn’t rising the way it’s supposed to.
There’s no reason to deny the struggle that this time is. We can put a shine over it, try to dig harder to make it through, but that wears on us. It is wearing on us. The well of sunshine that we project is not endless, and it does no good to try to pretend it is. We are worried about our future, and also about our present. That makes our light dimmer, though it doesn’t put it out.
Sometimes, I think we should allow it to be dim. It’s recharging, and most of all it’s honest. The toll that this long lockdown has taken on small businesses, including fencing clubs, is real and it is wearying. Will fencing still be here when everything reopens? Once the vaccine does come, and it will come, what will be left? Once lockdown is not our everyday life, can our everyday life be what it was before? The truth is that life will not be the same as it was before.
These months have been demoralizing in many ways, for many different people and for a whole lot of different reasons. It activated a part of our brains that is focused on survival, something that most of us have not had to think about before. We are pushed to give more than we ever have before, and sometimes we don’t even know how to give it.
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.