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Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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The Best Fencing Swords of 2020

Illustration to the Best Fencing Swords 2020 - Olympic Bout in Men's Epee

Where can you find a definitive guide to the best fencing gear ever? You know, a comprehensive, exact list of the best fencing swords that will tell you exactly what you need to purchase for your fencer in a handy dandy blog that you can quickly zip through on your smartphone while you wait for that zoom meeting to start?

Not here. Not anywhere. Such a thing does not exist, because buying the best fencing sword is not that simple. It’s actually simpler than that. 

“Best sellers” can be deceiving

Anyone who has been fencing for a while will tell you that it’s a niche sport. You have to be a fencer in order to understand fencing. Sometimes we’ll run across information online that’s been written by non-fencers who are trying to get some clicks, and that’s frustrating because it’s not reliable and can lead new fencers especially in the wrong direction. 

The gear, the rules, the conventions of fencing, these are specific to our sport and it’s simply not possible to understand them any other way than practicing fencing. 

I recently had the parent of a new fencer come to me after having ventured out into an online shopping spree for her Y10 daughter. She asked me whether she should choose the “best” fencing sword for her daughter, or whether that sword was too advanced for the little girl just yet. The sentiment from the parent was genuine and honest, and it’s important to pause here to appreciate the way that this parent wanted to do the right thing by her child. That’s a great thing. 

I was curious about what she wanted to purchase as I had no clue what she was talking about, so I asked her to send me the URL so that I could check them out and potentially recommend one. She had a few, most from a review site that offers lists of the “best of” everything from toys to mattresses to heart rate monitors to hidden cameras. 

The piece that she’d been reading had some factual looking information. It listed the length of the fencing swords, the type of grip, the material they were made of, their weight, their brand, and a few more seemingly important and legitimate statistics. The write ups about each sword sound professional. 

The first sword she came to me with was a best seller on Amazon in the Fencing Sabre category. It’s called the “Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber”, and it’s one of many fencing swords available on Amazon. All of those people who were buying the fencing sabre couldn’t be wrong could they? After all, Amazon is a bastion of modern buying and selling. 

Here’s what the Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber looks like on Amazon.

Excalibur Color Guard Fencing Saber - "Best Fencing Sword" 2020

And here’s a picture of it in action from the comments on Amazon.

That’s right, this is not at all a fencing sword – it’s a color guard sword! For those who might not be familiar, color guard (or flag corps) is related to marching band and it’s a form of dance. The dancers spin and twirl flags, imitation rifles, and yes . . . sabres. This was not at all a fencing sword – it was a piece of color guard equipment!

Frankly, when I saw the sword, I didn’t know what my reactions should be. Part of me was blowing up with laughter, and part of me was terrified of what kind of information must be out there. What would happen if some young fencer drew their “best seller sword” in class and charged toward an unsuspecting classmate?

Parents and new fencers, please stay away from “fencing gear review” sites that are not otherwise devoted to fencing gear of fencing sport. 

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Holiday Shopping for Fencers – The 2020 Pandemic Version

Holiday Shopping for Fencers - The 2020 Pandemic Version

We have put out many gift guides for fencers in the past, but for 2020 we have had to rethink how we approach gift giving and holiday shopping. The needs are not the same for fencers as they have been before, so to give the right kinds of gifts, we need to think about where things are right now.

There is not a need for the usual travel equipment, obviously. Fencers also aren’t decorating backpacks or looking for bumper stickers to show their fencing pride. The needs this year are more pressing perhaps than in years past, both because we need the extra boost and because we just have different needs. 

Though there is hope that things will get back into the direction of normal in, fencers must prepare to continue to train with social distancing protocols into the foreseeable future. That makes this a wonderful time to give practical gifts to make that training easier! These little boosts are incredibly meaningful right now, and for the fencer in your life, a thoughtful and useful gift can make a major difference. Both the thought and the practicality count!

Here’s our 2020 pandemic guide to fencing gifts!

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Gratitude in the time of COVID

Gratitude in the time of COVID

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. 

But the sun does still rise. 

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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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Why Introverts Make Great Fencers (And How to Help Them Become Even Better)

introverts in fencing

Quiet.

Shy.

Reliable.

Rigid.

Reserved.

Passive.

Though there are introverts in every sport, in fencing we see lots of them. Enough that we believe it’s a topic we felt was worth exploring – we want to support everyone in this sport!

When people think of introverts, they often think of the kid in the corner at a school function who isn’t interacting with their peers or the child at the fencing club who is sitting far away from their peers. Introverts are easily cast as shy and reserved, quiet and rigid, reliable and passive. That’s not entirely accurate, and even though it may be the case for some introverts.

On the whole, extroverts are boosted by time with people, introverts are drained by time with people. Ambiverts are a mix of the two. 

This is a spectrum, just like most things, and we are certainly not experts on the subject. Some introverted people are buoyed by one-on-one interactions but need breaks from large groups. Some introverted people need to take solitary solace after interacting even in a one-on-one setting. It’s all about who you are, and everyone is unique. What’s fantastic is that introverts and fencing go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

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