Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Coaching Page 1 of 18

Driving in the rain and trusting your instincts

Driving in the rain and trusting your instincts

Let’s use an analogy that we all have experience with. Imagine you’re driving in the rain. The windshield wipers are fanning across the windshield furiously, with large drops plopping in your view so fast that the blades can barely keep up. Traffic is heavy and you’re having to watch out for cars that keep pulling past you. There’s that wiggly feeling under the steering wheel that tells you that the tires are barely gripping onto the asphalt. The glass in front of you oscillates between being clear and fogging up, so you have to keep turning the vent at the top of the dashboard on and off. 

This situation requires all of your focus and concentration. The people are driving fast past you, and you’re having to watch out for cars constantly. You know that you must point your attention to driving to keep the people in the car safe. 

Anyone who has been a driver for any amount of time will tell you that it all becomes automatic after a while. When you’re first driving, you worry about everything and overthink every turn of the steering wheel. With time, you don’t even think about it. You are just present in the moment and trusting your body and brain to react correctly. 

You learned to drive automatically by doing it again and again for many hours and in countless different situations – heavy, slow, or completely stalled traffic, different times of the day, from night moonless hours to bright days, you had been driving in the rain, snow or in many other weather and road conditions, you been in different cities or even countries, on 5-lanes highways to a poorly maintained country-side road, you had been driving different types of cars with different types of passengers, you had been driving being tired, sleepy, or angry, and many more variations.

In fencing, you have to learn to do that same thing. In the context of a fencing match, your brain is that person in the car. You have to learn to trust your body and brain to take over without you overthinking it. There is a constant talk in sports about “finding flow”. Dropping into the moment and being fully present during a match is a skill that’s developed over time and with a lot of training in different situations. It’s an important skill to develop because it allows us to maximize our mental agility without distraction and to bring our skills to the surface exactly when we need them.

Just a Fencer in a White Jacket

A fencer in a white jacket

For the most part, the things in our lives only have as much power as we choose to give to them. When you face an opponent, you have options about how much weight you give to that opponent. 

What you bring to the match is not just about your skill and technique, it’s also very much about how you perceive your opponent. If you think that it’s impossible to win against an opponent because they are bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced than you are, then you’re probably going to lose. Even if they are all of those things, you’re not going to fare any better against them because you focus on those dimensions.

On the other hand, if you can disentangle your perception of the opponent from the actions that you’re taking, you have a much better chance of winning against them. Even if you don’t win, you’ll have a much better bout that shows your skills and in which you level up. 

The physical component to fencing and athletics in general is certainly important, but the mental component is a driving factor of the physical reality. One goal that we must have in fencing is to control the automatic response that our body and brain has to the outside stimulation. In this case, we’re thinking of a much better opponent as that outside stimulation. 

Letting Go of the Pressure that Comes with a New Fencing Rating

New Fencing Pressure

The moment when a fencer gets a new rating is an exciting one. After working hard and continuing to grow, they finally push past their old rating and up to the next level. 

Like anything in sport, or anything in life, a rating captures a single moment in time. It’s a marker of where someone was on the day that the rating was granted. Because that rating follows fencers, being put next to their name and being used to seed them for competition, it can feel like it’s part of their identity.

Clubs congratulate fencers on their ratings in newsletters and social media posts, celebrating this achievement. It can seem like a rating is graduation from one level to another, like moving from the novice class to the advanced class. 

There are two sides to every coin, though. Intertwined with that joy and excitement about this accomplishment, there is also a great deal of pressure.

Patience in Fencing: Everything Takes Longer than You Think

Patience in Fencing

Everything in fencing takes longer than you think it will. Just as we have to practice footwork and hand position until we get it, we also have to practice patience.

One virtue that you need more than almost any other in fencing is patience. 

The first big jump

There is the initial feeling of mastery that comes from just picking up the sword. You go from never having held a fencing sword, just a normal person walking around, to the next moment when you are suddenly a fencer. The contrast is so drastic that it can make us feel like we have made a big leap, which we have. 

Then there’s the steep learning curve for all of the things surrounding fencing. You have to learn about all of the ins and outs of fencing, from the gear to the rules. There’s a new environment to become acclimated to. Fencing has a lot of gear, what with the masks and the electronic scoring equipment. It’s absolutely transformative in the beginning. That whole feeling of starting something new, what with the connections we’re making in our mind and the way that we feel physically. It’s so much to process, but it’s also such an exciting thing to process! 

Fencing in the beginning is all about acclimating to the new experience, and there’s zero patience required. In fact, in the beginning we don’t need much patience because we’re scrambling so much just to get our feet under us. Literally, trying to get our feet under us because we’re working on our footwork. 

This isn’t to say that it’s all roses when it comes to learning fencing. Those first few months might be exciting, but they’re also intimidating and can be overwhelming at times. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of growth happening though.

How to Impress Your Fencing Coach with Your Mental Attitude

How to Use Your Mental Attitude to Impress Your Fencing Coach

If you think that the only thing that would impress your fencing coach is your medals, you will be disappointed. The greatest fencing coaches are not impressed by fencers who win medals and show their power on the strip. The greatest fencing coaches are impressed by fencers who know how to use their minds and their focus effectively to improve their fencing. 

The physicality of the body is always driven by the mastery of the mind and the emotions. You could be the fastest, most flexible, strongest fencer in the world, but you could still lose. If you are undisciplined in your mind then you will never be disciplined in your body. 

A fencing coach sees fencers of all shapes and sizes come and go week in and week out. An experienced coach knows that the best fencers are the fencers who show their passion through their training

How do you do that? Here are eight ways to impress your fencing coach with your mental attitude. 

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