Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Interviews Page 1 of 5

Quality, Growth, and the Future of Fencing with Leon Paul’s Director Ben Paul

Ben Paul in Leon Paul Fencing Club in London UK

For fencers, our equipment is a central figure in what we do. We talk about this all the time – our swords are an extension of who we are. For fourth-generation Leon Paul co-owner and Director Ben Paul, making top quality fencing equipment with compassion is clearly an extension of who he is.

Though we at AFM strive for neutrality and thus do not endorse any one equipment manufacturer, at the same time we recognize the good that everyone brings to the sport. This interview provides fencers with an inside look at what is really behind the fencing masks and swords that we can sometimes take for granted. Though there is a clear competition in the marketplace, it’s pleasantly surprising to hear that the philosophies of fencing that we hold so highly such as camaraderie and constant growth are mirrored at equipment manufacturer Leon Paul. It’s also fascinating to get an inside view into the impact of the pandemic on this storied and historic company.

The future of fencing is a subject that we are all interested in as we work to navigate the present ups and downs of COVID. What technology might bring to the sport and how we can expand access and excitement to fencing, it’s a subject that we are all interested in. Thank you to Ben Paul for his openness and insight into what might be on the horizon, as well as for his dedication to the sport of fencing.

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Rick Mayer, a Veteran Fencer and Referee Talks Discipline, Training, and Persistence

Rick Mayer reffing at nationals

Not all insight in fencing comes from the big names in the sport. Sometimes it’s the people that you haven’t heard of who can offer the most potent and relatable understanding of the sport. Rick Mayer has been fencing for decades, from his teenage years all the way to nearly his late sixties today, and we expect to see him still going.

With over fifty years in the sport, he’s fenced all over the world and in almost every age division. Through his service in the United States military, Rick brings rigor and discipline to his training and to his refereeing. He’s a longtime referee at the USA Fencing Tournaments, both national, regional, and local levels, as well as being a mainstay of the fencing community for many years in New Jersey. He competes today as a veteran fencer, and he offers some grounded perspective on where fencing has been and as such where it is going. What can we do to be better, and why are we pursuing those goals?

In this interview, you’ll learn that a love of fencing is driven by the simple joy in the sport. Competition is a driving force, but it is far more than winning medals. The motivation comes from the continuous challenge of oneself and others to be better every single day. It’s easy to be inspired by Olympic Champions, but most of us will never be there. However, the everyday heroes, like our veteran fencers who commit to the sport just out of pure love and joy of it, these people are often unsung heroes of the sport and they often provide a great insight into the sport and their passion for it. Hopefully, you’ll find that same inspiration from this interview!

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Olympic Fencing Commentator Karim Bashir on Passion, Knowledge, and Storytelling

Karim Bashir: "Sometimes great sponsors like Leon Paul let me go to the World Cups"
Karim Bashir: Enjoying Leon Paul’s sponsorship at World Cup

Karim Bashir is a commentator extraordinaire, bringing his fast and in depth knowledge of fencing to high level championships all over the world. He’s been the voice of fencing in commentary all the way up to the Olympics for many years, bringing new people into this sport from near and far as well as giving serious fencers the insight they need. He knows his way around the commentators booth and around the piste.

In this interview, we learn how Karim made his way from college fencing, through competition, and eventually to the Olympic commentator’s chair for fencing and other sports. It’s an exciting window into what it means to be passionate about our sport, as well as how powerful narratives can help us all to understand what it means to be a fencer. The answer to the question of how he got here and where he thinks the sport is going might surprise you.

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Attention in Fencing and How It Transforms to Life

Attention in Fencing and How It Transforms to Life - Nine Gifts Book Cover

Attention is basically the action of fixating the mind on some activity or some event. And when I say fixating the mind, it means being able to carefully listen and watch, and be in constant and instant awareness of everything happening in the event of interest. Driving is a fantastic example, right? You’re fixing your mind on the road, and you’re constantly aware of everything that happens near you—whether it’s other cars, pedestrians, traffic signs, a policeman, any obstacles on the road like potholes or objects, animals, whatever it is. 

You are constantly watching, you’re constantly listening to what happens. You are in a driving mind zone, where not only you’re aware of what is going on around you, but—because of that—you can essentially predict what will happen in the next moment, because you catch some subtle cues from the surrounding that allows you to predict. You see the body language of a pedestrian, showing that he or she is about to cross. A car starts to do a change of lane, or use their signal. The traffic light turns from green to yellow. 

So: Attention is the action of fixing your mind on something by carefully listening and watching, and being constantly and instantly aware of everything that happens around you. And, because of that, being able to predict the next moment. 

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The Best Fencing Referee in the World – A Conversation with Natalia Zhuravleva

Natalia Zhuravleva - World #1 Fencing Referee

We usually think of the accomplishments in fencing as something that is for fencers, but referees are chasing their own achievement as well. The most accomplished referees are those who are striving to always be better than they are, who are working hard to make the sport better. One of the referee shining stars right now is Natalia Zhuravleva, the best fencing referee in the world. 

It’s not lightly that we call her the best fencing referee in the world – Natalia was awarded this honor by the International Fencing Federation. She is a remarkable individual who deserves this highest accolade, and the reason why she was chosen is clear to anyone who speaks to her at any length. I was lucky enough to interview this truly amazing referee about what is important for fencers, the development of referees, and the direction of our sport. We all have a lot to learn from this powerful woman who is not just calling the shots, but who is teaching us all how to call them for ourselves. 

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