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AFM Safe Shield – Returning to Training Guidelines & Plan

AFM Safe Shield - Returning to Training Guidelines & Plan

The “AFM Safe Shield” Returning to Training Guidelines are based on CDC health considerations and tools for operating during COVID-19, California schools’ guidelines, CDC Considerations for Youth Sports and Summer Camps,  and Santa Clara County’s Public Health update and restrictions

Fencing is traditionally about swords, but now we are in a time when we need to act as a shield for our fencing community.

The last several months have been a whirlwind of change for everyone. Lockdowns, quarantine, social distancing, and a hefty dose of everyone feeling trapped and overwhelmed. Reopening is something that we all want to do, but we also want to do it safely. 

The problem is, most of us in the fencing world aren’t health experts. The good news is that we don’t have to be. There are a whole host of guidelines and structures that have been published to help businesses create safety plans that will make reopening fencing clubs as safe as possible. 

We’ve pulled information from the CDC, the government of California, and the Santa Clara County Health Department to create a plan for reopening fencing clubs, adapting it to the specifics of the fencing club training. Of course, there is always a risk and no system is perfect. However we have worked with experts and expert advice to come up with procedures that will minimize the risk of spreading the virus while also creating an environment where fencing training can continue. AFM is only working in clear accordance with the safety procedures laid out by Santa Clara County, all governmental restrictions and guidance, and what has been set out by Santa Clara County Schools. 

AFM continues to keep the wellbeing of our fencers, their families, and our coaching team as our highest priority. 

Flexibility, input, and accommodation 

Safety is what matters, whether it is in small groups classes or in private lessons as we move towards a new normal. The AFM Safe Shield Plan brings together the power of leading experts, parent’s suggestions, and the shared responsibility between us all.

AFM is adopting the hybrid approach for training our fencers. Members have several options for training with AFM. 

  • Small group training with precautions
  • Indoor or outdoor classes and private lessons
  • Zoom training
  • Any combination of the above

Everyone has their own considerations for safety and their own concerns about exposure. Whatever decision each family makes about their training, we support all of them. Accommodations and flexibility from us are a central tenet of our philosophy, especially now. Whatever we can do for fencing families, whether it is within these policies or not, we would love to hear it. All fencers deserve to have individual goals for training in fencing, no matter if they are in the club or training remotely. Growth is possible and still so important!

The input of families is a critical part of this process. This is a living document. 

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Talking Fencing and Coronavirus with Michael Aufrichtig, Fencing Head Coach at Columbia University

Talking Fencing and Coronavirus with Michael Aufrichtig, Head Fencing Coach at Columbia University

AFM recently had the amazing opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Michael Aufrichtig, the head coach of the Columbia University fencing team. He lives and coaches in New York City, which is of course the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Through our interview, we were able to talk about training during the coronavirus pandemic, how competitive fencing is going to be potentially affected by all of this, and to gain some insight into the uncertainty for fencers who are pursuing their college fencing dream during a global crisis.

We cannot say enough how honored we were to be able to get this insight from one of the top fencing coaches in the United States. If you are not familiar with Michael, then after you read this interview we highly recommend that you watch his TED talk about his innovative coaching style, which is incredibly unusual in fencing. He is nothing short of a titan in the collegiate sport today, and his insight is invaluable to all fencers.

Thank you Michael for your time and your insight! It is of a great help to the fencing community in this time of uncertainty.

(When the Zoom call opens, Michael is sitting in what appears to be the fencing training facility at Columbia University.)

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How Postponing the 2020 Olympics will Affect Fencing – First Thoughts

How Postponing the 2020 Olympics will Affect Fencing - First Thoughts

This week, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2020 Olympic Games will be postponed. The games will retain their name, the 2020 Olympic Games, but they will not be held until 2021.

This move is unprecedented in the history of the Olympic Games. Since they began, there have only been three Olympics that have been canceled. One in 1916, due to World War I, then two in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II. Two other times the Games were disrupted by world events, first the Moscow Games in 1980 that were boycotted by the Western Bloc, and then the Los Angeles Games in 1984 that were boycotted by the Eastern Bloc of countries. There have been a few other smaller boycotts, such as when Nazi Germany hosted the Games in 1936. Other than that, the Olympic Games have been held as planned and have been a show of world unity.

Postponing the Olympics is good

First of all, I have to give great kudos to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for postponing the Games. It shows what a fantastic movement this is. This decision communicates the commitment of the IOC to the safety of  everyone – the athletes, the organizers, the spectators, and the support personnel. The Olympic Games should bring joy and unity of people versus fear and concerns. It’s a great thing.

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The Dilemma of “Going Easy” on a Fencing Opponent

The Dilemma of “Going Easy” on a Fencing Opponent

Is there ever a time when it’s appropriate “going easy” on your fencing opponent? The knee-jerk reaction might be to say “Of course not! Always fence your best!” It’s not really that simple though. 

Complicated situations

Fencing is a small community. Even in competition, we can see that there are nuances to various situations. Here are a few that might not seem so straightforward.

  1. What if you are fencing a clearly inexperienced opponent in a pool round at a local competition?  
  2. Sometimes in a school competition you might come across an opponent who is also a friend that you know is having a hard time, should you let them win to make them feel better? 
  3. What about in a simple practice, should you let an inexperienced fencer win just to boost their confidence?
  4. If you have already qualified for Summer Nationals and you end up fencing your friend who needs to win this bout to qualify, should you let them beat you?

These are some complex, nuanced situations. It is not always just a matter of going in and getting the point in order to win the bout. We are all humans and we would hope that we as fencers care about our opponents as fellow human beings.

The question is, well what exactly is caring?

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Which Fencing Weapon is the Most Prestigious?

Which fencing weapon is the most prestigious

A common question that I get from fencing parents is this one: “Which fencing weapon is the most prestigious?”

It makes sense in a way. It’s a kind of logical question when you think about it, because these people don’t know a whole lot about fencing, and so they’re trying to make sense of something that they don’t have a reference for. They know that there are three different weapons. They know that their child is going to have to choose one. They want to guide their kids in the right direction, but they don’t know at all how to do it. So they ask questions that make sense to them. It’s a good thing.

Which one is it? Is it epee, foil, or sabre? Which fencing weapon is the most prestigious? It’s a big question that there must be an answer to! People who are new to fencing rightly want to have some understanding. 

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