Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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Goal Setting

A guest post by Corwin Duncan.

Goal Setting in Fencing

I saluted my opponent, put on my mask, and got on guard. I listened for the referee’s command to fence, and for just a moment I felt the intense desire to win this bout; this bout I had been waiting for for years, working tirelessly so this one moment I could do my best. I felt that intensity, and then I let it go and focused, and as the referee said ‘fence!’ – I was ready.

It was July 5th 2008, and I was fencing the final of Junior National Championships. That bout was strange for me – every touch seemed to last minutes, but only seconds passed on the clock. Most of the time I made the wrong action, but it seemed like my opponent was moving through molasses, and somehow I could always find a way to land the touch. My mind and my body were more prepared than they had ever been before, and everything flowed together.

One minute and 38 seconds into the bout – just past the first half of the first period – I scored the final touch of the bout, winning 15-1.

It felt amazing to be fencing in the final of national championships, and it felt even better to win. But what I mostly felt in that moment was the culmination of years of preparation. You see, I didn’t just have a good bout, or competition, or season – since I was 15 my goal had been to win Junior National Championships. Every time I took a lesson, fenced a practice bout, or competed, I could connect it to that one goal – and that gave me focus, direction, and motivation.

Fencing History was Made in Tokyo 2020

Fencing history was made in Tokyo 2020 - Italian Women's Foil Team greets their opponents before the match starts
Italian Women’s Foil Team greets their opponents before the match starts

Anyone who either watched the events live or followed the results from Olympic fencing in Tokyo would agree – history was made at Makuhari Messe event hall. These were fascinating Games in general across all sports. There was incredible, real drama at each turn. Decades-old world records were broken. Huge topics that had been hidden beneath the surface of the sport rose to the top. Camaraderie between athletes shown through across countries, with athletes sharing moments of both glory and defeat in union and community. 

These Games were everything the sport can display, once again showing us why so many people across the globe come together for two short weeks every four years. Even those who barely follow sport in their everyday lives watch for the outcome beneath the Olympic rings. Suddenly, everyone across almost the entire population engages in a conversation about the human spirit, achievements, healthy competition, taboo topics, and the real drama unfolding before our eyes. 

Everyone who watched fencing at the Olympics should be awed by such a great tournament. I would call the outcome of the fencing competition at Tokyo as surprising as any we’ve seen in any year, challenging even the most seemingly inevitable predictions. These Games produced, in my opinion, the most diverse results we could imagine and added tons of new fencing records to what we’ve seen.  A lot of things happened for the first time in these Games. Surprises both positive and negative characterized the action both on and off the piste. 

Just a short while ago, I wrote about my predictions in the individual competitions. Now let’s take a closer look at my initial predictions regarding the team competition and how the events played out at Makuhari Messe. 

How Fencing is Recovering Post-Pandemic

How Fencing is Poised for Recovery Post-Pandemic

The world of fencing saw a drastic decline with the pandemic. All sports saw a huge decline, with the world being pushed into unknown territory and an unclear path to recovery. 

With the cancellation of almost an entire fencing season and the forced shutdown of most fencing clubs, fencing went online and dormant for the better part of a year. There were times that it looked truly dire, and even the most optimistic of us wondered what things would look like when the world reopened. 

We are now able to see some hint of what will happen with reopening, how and when fencing might recover. Below, you’ll find a series of charts that break down the membership numbers from USA Fencing, followed by an analysis of what those numbers mean. Keep in mind, this is just the beginning. Right now, we have numbers from January 2021, at the height of lockdown, and June 2021, when reopening started to take hold. The numbers are encouraging.

Keep reading to see what’s been happening!

Adapting to Fencing After the Pandemic

Adapting to Fencing After the Pandemic

It has been a long year of lockdowns, closings, and slow reopenings. What’s changed now is that we are in the bright sunshine of a new day and a new time! There is the golden opportunity to turn the page while still remembering the lessons of the book that we all just read together.  

While no one could call the process of the last year easy, especially for families with kids, we can all agree that reopening is a joyful finale to the tribulations that we’ve worked through together. We made it through all of this with the support of each other, and we will keep on moving forward with that same kind of support. 

Why fencing is important post-pandemic

The loss of in-person sports was tough on a lot of kids. Fencing provides a needed stress relief, emotional release, and physical outlet for kids.

Training through zoom and social distancing did indeed take us far! We are thankful that it dulled the loss and kept us going, but now that restrictions are lifting left and right and vaccinations are pushing case numbers down, we need to get back into the groove of what life can be like. The last year has been a fog that in many ways obscured the feeling of accomplishment and excitement that fencing brings. 

For many fencers, this is a hobby and also an identity. “What do you do?” “I am a fencer.” It’s not like “I play soccer” or “I do gymnastics” – “I am a fencer.” Without the ability to go to clubs and compete, they did not feel themselves. We worked hard to keep that connection online and with training through masks and outside, but without competition and in-person connection, it could not be as it was. 

Reconnecting with this identity is important for kids, and for adult fencers. For new fencers, this sport offers a place to reset and create a new post-pandemic identity. We get to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and learn more about who we can be. 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – 6 Ways to Keep Going When You’re Down

When there is a will, there is a way

Everyone says that “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” What happens when you’re struggling to put your mind to it though? 

There are times that it’s easy to push through and keep on going, but there are also times when you need to find some new tactics because you get stuck. That’s especially true if you’ve failed recently, because failure challenges our belief that we’re capable. Tactical thinking is something that fencers are good at in general, it’s a skill that we develop as part of our training anyway. Just as we know that we can always look at a fencing problem in a new way, we can look at larger problems that aren’t on the strip in a different way. Make no mistake – there is always a way to keep moving forward. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Motivating yourself is mostly a matter of getting some new tools to refocus and keep going. 

Here are six ways to keep going when you’re down. 

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