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Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Interviews Page 2 of 5

Intersectional Championship Philosophy with Italian Epee World Champion Mara Navarria

2019  World Championships - Mara Navarria won Bronze medal with Italian Team
2019 World Championships – Mara Navarria won Bronze medal with Italian Team Photo by #BizziTeam

All fencers grow over the course of their career, but Italian epee powerhouse Mara Navarria has taken that growth to championship heights. She is a fencer with what might be called a simmering longevity in the sport, one who puts the time and hard work into her craft in order to build something that looks to be impossible to ignore in Tokyo next summer.

Though the Italian school of fencing is known for its tradition and rigidity, Mara has consistently broken with tradition in her training. This happened first with her formative coach Oleg Pouzanov, who incorporated Russian sensibilities into her fencing. After his tragic death in 2015, Mara refocused and rebuilt with French trained coach Roberto Cirillo. She currently trains away from the bustle of Rome in Rapallo, Italy, where she lived for 4 years. After the lockdown she moved to Carlino, her hometown in Friuli Venezia Giulia with her son Samuele and her physical trainer and husband Andrea Lo Coco.

What we learned from Mara Navarria through this interview is that innovation and creativity can meet with tradition and diligent work to create a new kind of champion. Her insight and her story is truly remarkable.

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Picking Apart Fencing Greatness with Cyrus of Chaos

Andrew Fischl, aka Cyrus of Chaos, videotaping a fencing bout

Some fencing figures are more than what they seem, and one such figure is Andrew Fischl, known to most of us as Cyrus of Chaos.

For those of you who might not know it, Cyrus of Chaos is a major resource for fencers on YouTube. I’ve been subscribed to this channel for many years, and his fencing videos and analysis have been a wonderful addition to my own fencing knowledge. They are in depth and thoughtful, and totally unlike anything else out there. It’s a resource that has become a huge value for many fencers, no matter your weapon.

In the last few months, the channel has branched out in a wonderful way, featuring analysis with fencing coaches, great fencers, and sometimes even with fencers themselves as they analyze their own bouts. It is refreshing, it is mind blowing, and it is positively brilliant.

This is a positive source of next-level fencing understanding who’s importance cannot be overestimated, particularly during these pandemic times when we are forced to be innovative and when we are looking more and more at our screens. Cyrus of Chaos offers us the perfect mix of a solid, tried and true member of the fencing community who knows what fencing is about, mixed with youthful, out-of-the-box thinking. 

In this interview, we learn more about the man behind Cyrus of Chaos, including how Andrew came to find this wonderful resource and what keeps him going. Some of the answers will surprise you, and all of the interview will enlighten you. 

If you aren’t already subscribed to Cyrus of Chaos’s YouTube Channel, hop on over and subscribe!

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Keeping it Moving with Epee World Champion Max Heinzer

Max Heinzer picking mushrooms

Everyone who follows epee fencing knows Max Heinzer. He is the greatest showman of epee, but he’s not just putting on a show – he’s got the competitive chops underneath to earn his place on the podium.

Max Heinzer is one of the most high energy fencers to take on the strip. Whether it is at the World Cup, the World Championships, or the Grand Prix, he is moving and making things happen. No one can miss his signature style. It draws the eye and it draws the crowds – something that we can all agree is important for drawing people to the sport.

What makes Max Heinzer so tremendous is that it is not all show. His flare is pronounced, but it’s pronounced in such a way because it is effective for him. What he’s doing, it works. More than that, you’ll find out in this interview that he is leveraging his natural talent and style to get the result that he is after. It’s unusual and it’s fascinating for anyone who is a fencer or a fan, and hopefully for those who are new to the sport. That same personality that you see with him on the piste, you’ll see it here in this interview as well.

Thank you so much to Max for taking the time to speak with us!

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2020 Olympic Talk with Top Ranked Foilist Nick Itkin

Nick Itkin with his dad and coach Misha Itkin
Nick Itkin with his dad and coach Misha Itkin

Fencers can sometimes seem to come out of nowhere and onto the world stage, but there is always a long and hard development behind that explosion. Even if you’re just twenty years old. Meet Nick Itkin.

Nick Itkin is currently ranked number seven in the world, which is truly remarkable for such a young fencer that just aged out of Juniors. He is the first American fencer to win titles at the NCAA Championship, Junior World Championship, and Division I in the same season. He also juggles his studies at Notre Dame, where he’s a junior and fences on the team. 

Among the many remarkable things about this young man is his perspective on his place in Team USA as we move towards Tokyo 2020. He is a fencer who grew up looking up to the legendary Men’s Foil Team, who won Bronze in Rio in 2016 and Gold in the 2019 World Championship. He is knocking on the door of competing alongside those same foilists for Olympic glory next summer. How he has gotten there, through determination and humility, is part of what drives his success. 

Nick spoke to us from Los Angeles, where he is currently training for the last qualifier to guarantee his individual spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He already qualified to represent the USA in the team event. In this interview, we learn how he has taken advantage of opportunities and discovered a boldness that is both valuable and inspiring. 

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Estonian Epee Champion Erika Kirpu Teaches us About Flexibility and Coming Back from Disappointment

Erika Kirpu is a bright star in the world of fencing. Anyone can appreciate her indomitable spirit and deep level of growth. She is a fencer who molds her experiences into new skills, building on what she has come from while embracing the forward fight. 

Erika is a two-time team Gold medal winner at the European Championships for Estonia and a two time team World Champion, as both a Junior and a Senior. This small country has power-packed epee fencers, and she is notably among them. In 2014, she won individual Bronze at the World Championships. Over the course of a career that started when she was very young and under the tutelage of her fencing coach father, Erika Kirpu has changed and grown dramatically. It’s impressive to see, and it’s something all fencers can learn from. 

During this pandemic, I came upon this opportunity to interview prominent fencers from around the world. As I speak with these champions, I’ve come to realize how unknown fencers are to the public. Even Olympic champions are known only to a narrow circle of fencers. Millions of people know what Serena Williams ate for breakfast yesterday but cannot name a single Olympic fencing champion. I’m sure that if sports fans see the lively and interesting people behind the faceless messages like “Estonia won a Gold medal at the World Cup”, then there will be more interest in fencing. Erika’s story is one such story. 

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