Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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Essential Tips for Adult and Senior Fencers Starting Their Fencing Journey

Essential Tips for Adult and Senior Fencers Starting Their Fencing Journey

Starting fencing as an adult or even as a senior citizen opens up a world of possibilities, but it also comes with its own set of considerations. While this blog primarily focuses on youth fencing and parenting topics, recent requests from adult and senior fencers have prompted us to delve into their specific needs.

Fencing is not a hobby you can master overnight: it’s a lifelong journey. Unlike some other activities, you can’t become a proficient fencer in a short period of time. While it’s possible to take a short course and discover that fencing isn’t for you (unfortunately, this might happen!), truly enjoying fencing requires a long-term commitment. From developing fundamental techniques to building fencing-specific stamina, understanding tactical elements, learning to compete, and fostering relationships with fellow fencers, coaches, and referees, the journey is rich and multifaceted. It’s about more than just participating in bouts; it’s about immersing yourself in the culture of fencing and embracing it as a significant part of your life. If you invest the time and effort into this journey, you’ll find that fencing can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Embarking on this lifelong journey in fencing starts with that first step onto the strip. As you delve into the world of fencing, here are some essential tips explicitly tailored for adult and senior fencers to navigate this enriching pursuit.

Confidence in Fencing

Confidence in fencing and in live

Confidence in fencing is like that elusive goalpost in a game you’re always chasing after but never quite reach. It’s the magic ingredient that transforms a good fencer into a great one. You’ve probably heard fencing coaches shouting it from the sidelines like a mantra: “Confidence! Be confident!” But what exactly does it mean? And how do you actually get it?

Let me share a recent conversation I had with some of my fencers. They were disheartened after being eliminated from their competition earlier in the day. I reassured them that they possessed all the necessary physical skills and conditioning to excel. What was lacking, however, was that intangible quality – confidence.

So, what is confidence, really?

Picture this: You’re cruising down the road at 40 miles per hour, approaching an intersection. Suddenly, the traffic light ahead switches from green to blinking yellow. You have a split second to decide: do you speed up and cross the intersection or hit the brakes?

If you’re a confident driver, you don’t waste time second-guessing. You swiftly calculate the distance and timing, weighing it against your gut feeling about the yellow light’s duration. With unwavering certainty, you decide to glide through the intersection safely.

Now, contrast this with the uncertainty of an inexperienced or insecure driver. They hesitate, unsure whether to accelerate or brake. Their indecision could lead to a screeching halt at best or a dangerous encounter with oncoming traffic at worst.

But let’s add a twist to this scenario. What if, alongside the blinking yellow light, you spot a fast-approaching train from the right? Suddenly, the stakes are higher, the danger more palpable. Yet, the fundamental factors remain unchanged – speed, distance, and timing.

Confidence is about maintaining that same level of conviction even in the face of added challenges. It’s about executing your actions decisively and wholeheartedly, regardless of external circumstances.

In fencing, as in life, confidence can make or break you. It’s the difference between seizing victory and conceding defeat. You may possess all the technical skills and strategies, but without confidence, you’ll struggle to unleash their full potential.

Confidence in fencing isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s the lifeline that keeps you afloat amidst the swirling currents of competition. Do you remember the heat of a priority minute when you’re engaged in a fierce exchange with your opponent, every touch crucial as you battle for victory? Do you recall those nail-biting last two seconds of a bout with you one-touch behind or ahead of your opponent, where every movement counts, where a single touch could mean the difference between victory and defeat? Can you relive in your mind that pivotal moment just one round away from the medals, where the pressure is palpable, and the stakes couldn’t be higher?

In each of these scenarios, confidence isn’t just a luxury – it’s a necessity. It’s the force that delivers you that half inch of the distance you need for the touch, that split second to win the timing, those additional 10 grams of power to fully contract the spring and make the machine light up. It’s what separates the champions from the rest, allowing them to rise above the uncertainty and deliver when it matters most. So, when you step onto the strip, carry with you the unshakeable belief that you have what it takes to succeed and the unwavering belief in your abilities. Trust yourself, trust in your training, embrace the challenge, commit to your actions, and let your confidence propel you towards success.

And for those nitpickers pondering the legality of our traffic analogy, let’s just focus on the bigger picture here – confidence. After all, it’s the driving force behind every triumph, pun intended.

Image: Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mastering Patience in Fencing

Mastering Patience in Fencing

As a fencer, you’re no stranger to the challenges and rewards of this exhilarating sport. However, there’s a universal truth that resonates deeply with fencers: it’s the importance of mastering patience in our journey toward success.

In competitive fencing, everything often takes longer than we anticipate. We set our sights on achieving specific skills or rankings, winning that national medal, or getting recruited to a top college, and often we envision a swift ascent to success. But reality teaches us that the path to excellence is more of a marathon than a sprint and that patience is not just a virtue but an indispensable ally in your fencing journey.

Your Coach Might Be Wrong – But It’s Your Responsibility

Your coach might be wrong

In a recent scenario at the November NAC in Fort Worth, a fencer faced a challenging bout, losing to an opponent who seemed, at least on par in skill. When asked about the opponent’s scoring actions, the reply was, “in attack.” Further inquiry revealed that the fencer, following the coach’s directive, repeatedly employed the same unsuccessful defense action. The fencer justified this persistence, stating, “because I know the action was correct, and the coach told me to do it, but I just didn’t succeed in the execution!”

Here’s the revelation, dear fencers: Your coach might be WRONG!

Now, before fencing coaches worldwide rally to defend their profession, let’s delve into what this really means.

Fencing isn’t a precise science; it’s an art. Unlike math, there isn’t a single solution for every situation. The goal is to score a point, achievable through myriad strategies. Your coach, experienced and knowledgeable, observes situations and provides specific instructions based on their wealth of experience. They understand your skills and read your opponent well. All of this is correct, but there’s one thing they can’t fully gauge – your current state.

Maybe your fingers are numb, or your sense of distance is off. Perhaps your feet ache, or your timing feels different. A million factors can influence the effectiveness of an action. While your coach’s instruction may be spot-on in theory, executing it successfully rests on your shoulders.

One critical aspect is that the responsibility for the bout’s outcome lies with you, not your coach. They’re involved, but you’re committed. If you win, your coach feels pride, but if you lose, it’s you who bears the weight.

Understanding this fundamental truth is crucial. It’s you on the strip, and your coach is there to assist, not dictate. They’re involved; you’re committed. Once you internalize this, you grasp that the decision on the strip is yours alone.

Your coach is experienced, and their instructions are tailored to the situation, your opponent, and your skills. However, they can’t assess your current physical and mental state. If external conditions impede your execution, persisting with the coach’s advice may lead to repeated failure.

Consider the dynamic nature of a bout. Situations change rapidly – distances alter, rhythms shift, and opponents adapt. While the coach’s instruction may have been perfect a minute ago, it might not fit the evolving dynamics.

So, if you find yourself repeatedly attempting a coach-recommended action without success, don’t persist blindly. Let the authority guide you, not dictate your final decision. The ultimate judgment rests with you.

Let me share a story I heard about a year ago. While I couldn’t verify the details, it emphasizes the point well.

Centuries ago, a Prussian officer defended a position as ordered by the King, persevering until the last of his soldiers fell. Expecting commendation because he succeeded in deflecting the enemy’s army and preserving the Prussian position, the officer was sent to a field court instead. Perplexed, he exclaimed, “Your Majesty, I followed your orders! I held my ground against the enemy!” The King, with a wisdom that transcended blind obedience, responded, “You are a royal officer not to blindly follow my orders but to apply your best judgment in any situation. Your actions cost me the battalion.”

Don’t be that officer; learn to apply judgment.

Now, it’s essential to acknowledge that, in most cases, the coach is right. Their advice, observation, insight, and moral support are crucial. However, there are situations when the prescribed action doesn’t work, and it’s okay to exercise your judgment.

Remember, fencing is not just a physical sport; it’s a mental one. In any competition, you must adapt, assess, and, when needed, make decisions that align with your current reality. In this delicate balance between coach guidance and personal judgment, you’ll find the path to continuous improvement and success on the fencing strip.

Perpetual Goal

Perpetual Goal

I’ve spent countless hours pondering the concept of setting and achieving goals, both in fencing and life in general. I’ve had conversations with fencers, parents, coaches, and enthusiasts about their aspirations. I’ve written about goal setting quite a lot on this blog. Yet, I’ve often found myself less than content with the goals people set. Some are too short-term, others overly ambitious, and some seem driven by the wrong motives.

In one memorable discussion with a young fencer I recently had, he shared an experience that stuck with me. He had set a specific goal for a competition – achieving a new rating. He meticulously calculated his chances, ensuring the competition met all the criteria for the coveted rating when he won a couple of DE’s and got to the round that would upgrade his rating should he win. The result? He felt less relaxed, more obsessed with winning, and, ironically, he lost a match to an opponent he had always beaten before.

This incident raised several questions and concerns, and I will get to some of them in one of the future blogs. But now I want to focus only on one aspect – should winning a rating or achieving a particular ranking be the primary focus for a fencer? Is it the most effective way to guide one’s journey in the sport? After much contemplation, I arrived at a simple yet profound realization: the true goal should be to win the next bout.

This goal transcends the complexities of points, ratings, rankings, placements, and qualifications. It directs your focus solely on the immediate challenge at hand, on something that you have the most control over. Your objective becomes crystal clear – win the next bout. This singular focus eliminates the weight of past performance or future expectations. It’s about the here and now.

When you adopt this goal, your training takes on a new dimension. Every practice, every drill, every bout becomes a stepping stone to achieving this goal. The effort you invest becomes directed towards immediate improvement. You’re preparing not just for the next competition but for the next bout, always striving for victory.

What’s incredible about this perpetual goal is its unique blend of being both short-term and long-term, ambitious yet achievable. You can’t fail in trying to win the next bout, and you can never say, “I’m done; I’ve fully reached my goal.” There’s always another bout to win, another challenge to conquer, another opportunity to prove yourself.

Even if you secure the coveted first place in a national competition, there’s no resting on laurels. It’s time to celebrate with a well-deserved ice cream, but then your focus shifts to the next bout, the next tournament, the next test. How will you prepare? How will you recharge from this competition to the next one?

The beauty of this perpetual goal lies in its simplicity. It’s a philosophy that transcends the boundaries of fencing and offers a valuable lesson for life itself. Win the next bout, and you’ll find yourself in a continuous journey of self-improvement, growth, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Image Attribution: Alpha Stock Images

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