Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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How USFA can Transform Team Fencing in the U.S. (And Why We Must)

How USFA can Transform Team Fencing in the U.S. (And Why We Must)

Right now, the everyday domestic vocabulary of American fencing is in the individual context. No one who thinks of fencing in any context thinks of it as being a multiple-player sport, at least not anyone in America. 

This is different in other places. In European fencing competitions, the team component is highlighted and embraced. The shorthand of fencing is that it’s an individual sport and a team sport. It’s just built into the way that sport is carried out in Europe. 

In America, on the other hand, we seem locked into the individual way of doing things. In fact, when we imagine folding team competition into American fencing, it seems like it’s a burden being placed on our system every time we add the team competition in. A square peg in a round hole. An extra thing that we do out of obligation instead of the enriching expansion that it really is. 

It shouldn’t be this way. Team fencing should be a great support to our fencing culture, for many reasons, including the way that it extends camaraderie and how it helps fencers better develop their skills. If our goal is to support the growth of fencers in skill and happiness, and if we also want to better position ourselves on the international stage, then how can we think of team fencing as a burden when it’s such a big part of international competition and when team fencing so beautifully supports personal and athletic development?

Team fencing needs to be expanded, and soon

We need to move on expanding team fencing in the United States, and we need to move on it soon. There’s every reason for us to have this kind of expansion in place next season, because our fencers deserve the kind of holistic development that team fencing gives them. 

Right now, we have almost no team events. When they do happen, they are a side note and people complain about them. That’s a tough mentality to push past, but I am saying here that it’s so worth getting past those limitations. 

It’s understandable that fencers prioritize the individual events over the team events, because I can see how you would extrapolate that team fencing is not a big deal because our fencers are not doing it now. If it isn’t broken, why would we want to fix it?

I think that this mentality is totally, totally wrong. 

Many of our most important events for giving fencers the skills they need for international competition, events like Div 1 and others, rarely offer the opportunity for team fencing. In any season, we have one Senior, one Junior, one Div1 team event, one Vateran, and this season there was one Cadet team event. One team event per age group. Because we don’t offer them, then fencers don’t train for them, and because they don’t train for them, no one participates in them. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps us locked out of one of the best fencing development paths we have. 

Fencing Referee Hand Signals (Infographic)

There are several essential components to a fencing match. One consists of the fencers themselves, who are vying for points. Another are the weapons, those things that make the points possible. And the final essential component to a fencing bout is the person who calls the points.

Fencing bouts are monitored by that same stalwart bastion of sport control that everyone has – the referee. Depending on the bout, the venue that it’s in and the purpose for which it’s being fought, the referee could be either an officially certified referee or another fencer. Either way, the ref is not part of the action. The more official the venue, the more official the referee must be. The more informal the venue, the less official the ref will be.

Why use hand signals?

Fencing refs use hand signals because there are often language barriers in fencing. Fencers often come from all over. That’s part of why we love this sport so much! It brings together people from everywhere. No matter what language you speak, you can learn to understand fencing referee hand signals fairly easily. It’s not that complicated!

Hand signals are also helpful because it can be loud in a fencing venue with lots of other bouts going on around you. Hand signals mean that you don’t have to be able to hear in order to understand what’s going on in the bout. That’s helpful for people watching the bout because they can just watch the big gestures of the refs without having to be close enough to hear what the referee is saying.

Hand signals give us a universal, simple language with which to communicate effectively about the fencing bout.

A simple primer to fencing referee hand signals

The good news is that hand signals are very, very easy to understand and we’ve created an infographic to help you to recognize and learn the hand signals. There is also a printable pdf version available to download (size 6’x2′) which might be a good tool for fencing coaches if it is hung in their fencing club. You can download it here.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed by fencing referee hand signals! With just a bit of quick study, you’ll have this down in no time.

Fencing Referee Hand Signals

Why you need to understand fencing ref signals

While it might seem like you can just roll on without knowing the fencing ref’s signs (I mean they generally say things anyway right), it can actually make things MUCH more clear when you’re watching a match! Fencing matches run so quickly that there’s often not time to process the sound before the next thing happens. The better you know the fencing referee signals, the easier and more fun watching matches will be!

Keep in mind that every ref is going to be just a hair bit different. In general these signals are easy to recognize, but they can also be a bit confusing if you’re not exactly clear on what you’re looking at. That’s another reason it’s so important to learn those signals, because then you’ll have a better handle on what’s happening in the match, even if the ref’s signals are a bit unclear or vary slightly from the norm.

If you’re at a match with an electronic scoreboard, it’s incredibly informative to watch the scoreboard and the referee alternately to help you really learn the signals. This will allow you to make much more sense of the signals and to connect them with what’s happening in terms of the match winning or losing!

If you or your child is new to fencing, we highly recommend that you work to learn the hand signals of the fencing referee. Don’t just watch your child’s match – watch other matches to help you learn the signals and scoring!

Power in the Ballot – Why and How Fencing Parents Should Join USA Fencing by February 1, 2023

Power in the Ballot - Why and How Fencing Parents Should Join USA Fencing by February 1, 2023

There is power in the ballot.

Investing ourselves in the process of who and how are running the things that matter is important and for us in this context, that means USA Fencing. Though it can seem like we are unable to affect the big machines of organizations without investing time and energy that we may not have, in truth, we can make a huge difference with a single vote. 

Your child’s fencing journey is directly connected to the opportunities that USA Fencing puts before them. When the structure of competition changes, it changes the long-term outcomes of your children. You should have a say in that. You do have a say in that.

The people who read this blog have a deep passion for fencing and fencing education – that’s why you’re reading this. It’s that passion for the sport that drives me to keep pursuing the hard work of writing it. Fencing parents have the power to take that passion to the next level by casting a vote in the upcoming USA Fencing Elections. 

You must have Access Membership in USA Fencing by February 1, 2023 to vote in the May elections!

You can sign up for Access Membership here.

The Board of USA Fencing makes decisions on what events are offered, where those events are offered, how fencers qualify, policies, and so much more. It’s critical that parents take part in making those decisions by voting! Fencing parents have a distinct perspective on what their children need because we’re on the ground seeing how these decisions affect our kids. 

In the next few months, there is a major election coming up that will shape fencing in the United States for the next three years due to the number of seats that will open all at once. In the past, fencing parents have not come out in force to vote in these elections, even though their children are the most affected by the decisions made! 

Power belongs to the fencing community. Voting for the board members has the potential to significantly impact the immediate and long-term future of our fencers. 

An Open Letter to the USA Fencing Board of Directors Regarding Y10 & Y12 National Events

Dear USA Fencing Board of Directors,

The push and pull of the responsibilities of USA Fencing is significant, particularly as our sport has grown and of course through the massive challenges of the pandemic. 

It’s critical that we look out for the future of our sport, and that means looking out for our youngest competitors. Youth fencers who compete early get a head start, making the road to the highest levels more attainable and, importantly, less stressful along the way. 

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the current motion to cancel Y10 and Y12 national fencing competitions that was placed before the board back in October. In it, I encouraged our readers to reach out to their board members and to sign the petition urging the Task Force to recommend that these competitions remain in USA Fencing. 

Understanding the National Ranking System in Fencing

Understanding the National Ranking System in Fencing

On its surface, the national ranking system employed in fencing can look pretty confusing. However, understanding and using the National Points List is crucial to advancing in competition and growing as a fencer. 

The more you understand how national points are awarded and factor into a fencer’s place on the national points list, the easier it is to take advantage of competitive opportunities that could boost your ranking. National points can support qualification for Fencing Summer Nationals, which is a major goal for many fencers. 

Regional points are earned with similar mechanics, but for now, we’ll focus on national points as they apply across the board. 

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