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How Equipment Checks Can Screw Up Your Fencing Tournament – and What To Do About It

How Equipment Checks Can Screw Up Your Fencing Tournament - and What To Do About It

Speed and accuracy are notoriously tough things to mix. It’s something that we experience with our fencing, and it’s a thing that can push us far behind. No one wants to get caught on the wrong side of making a mistake, but it happens all the time. In particular it can happen with equipment checks at fencing tournaments.

We saw this first hand with many of our fencers at the recent November NAC in Milwaukee and this experience prompted me to write this blog.

Timing is Tough

Many of our fencers arrived late at night before the following day’s competition. They didn’t want to miss an extra day of school, because of course they were concerned with their academic performance as well as their fencing performance. That’s understandable. However, this meant that they could not participate in the equipment check the night before as armorers already left. They had nothing left to do but to come in the morning, just an hour before the event registration was done and the venue was open. 

The line was huge, wrapping around and moving slowly. Some of them waited themselves, and some of them had parents who waited for them. Either way, the whole process took the entire hour. That hour is time without the ability to do anything else that’s really productive, even with parents waiting in line. All of this is just to get the equipment – mask, body cords, and glove, back just a few moments before the pools got started.

The result is that they didn’t get to fence in the warm up bouts before the pools. Some of the fencers were barely even able to warm up and stretch. This means that when they went into the pools, their warm up was literally the first few pool bouts. 

This is a brutal way to go about fencing. Forget about precision or mastery of the actions, forget about timing or distance control. Their fingers were hardly able to follow the target. This left many of the initial bouts just doomed to failure. At best, they were unnecessarily difficult and ineffective. Points that should have been scored were not scored, and many points were scored against these fencers. 

Of course it’s painful to see it go down this way. These fencers got all the way to the NAC, only to perform in this mediocre way. Once you do a poor job in the pools, you then have an unnecessarily difficult time in the Direct Elimination rounds. That seeding follows through the tournament. Not to mention the mental push down that also follows these fencers. It makes things very tough, for no really good reason. 

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How to Watch Your Pool Opponents Fence

How to Watch Your Pool Opponents Fence

There have been many times here at the AFM blog that we’ve written about the importance of tactical thinking in fencing. This sport of ours is not one where the strictly physical qualities of an athlete can determine the outcome of the bout. It is the mental and tactical savviness that is most important for success. 

Extending tactical thinking beyond the scope of just the match allows fencers to make the most of opportunities. When fencers take on this whole-competition mindset for growth, the possibilities are simply huge. The pool rounds are a place particularly where fencers have the chance to grow, in part because this section of fencing competition is often overlooked, especially by beginner fencers. 

Improving through the pools

A typical pool rounds lasts for one and a half to two hours, with six or seven fencers in each pool. Each fencer fences all of the other fencers individually in the pool.

For a pool of seven fencers, there twenty-one bouts that are fenced. These go in an order like this: 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 5, 3 vs. 6, 7 vs. 1, and so on, where each number means the number assigned to a specific fencer who has been selected to be in the pool. That means that in the first bout, fencer  #1 competes against fencer #4, then when they are done the referee calls #2 against #5, then #3 against #6, then #7 against #1, and so on.

This means that you will see all of the fencers fence from the beginning of the pools until your second bout, with the exception of your first bout. And if you are #7, then it’s even better – you will see all 6 fencers fence 1 bout before you step on the strip for the first time.

Moreover, you yourself will fence a total of 6 bouts out of 21, which means that for the 15 bouts that you are not fencing, you’re just waiting. What do fencers typically do during this time? This definitely depends on how advanced they are in fencing. Beginners will do whatever they can to pass the time – playing games, listening to music or audiobooks, chatting with their friends. 

Serious competitors will spend this pool time learning their pool opponents.

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Victories Won in the Past Become Uninteresting in the Present – Interview with Ildar Mavlyutov [Translated from the Russian Fencing Federation]

Ildar Mavlyutov with Inna Deriglazova

This incredible interview of Ildar Mavlyutov by Tatyana Kolchanova was posted originally on the Russian Fencing blog on October 18, 2019. Ildar Mavlyutov is a major fencing coach from Russia who has been a mentor to Inna Deriglazova. Inna is the 2016 Olympic Champion, a six-time Fencing World Champion, and Olympic powerhouse foilist. 

It is always fascinating to learn from the world’s best athletes and coaches, and Ildar Mavlytov and Inna Deriglazova definitely proven themselves to be of that world’s best caliber. Deriglazova is called by some “the Fencing Goddess”.  They both live in the small city of Kurcharov, which is near Kursk, a city in Russia which became famous due to a World War II battle. Kurchatov is a very small city, with a population of slightly over forty thousand people, yet it is home to multiple World and European foil fencing champions who have been raised by Ildar Mavlyutov. When he offers his insight about fencing, training and motivation, using the example of his best student, Inna Deriglazova, it is definitely worth to read.

A few months ago I translated an interview with Deriglazova, which showed her character. Now it is even more interesting to learn about her character through the lens of her famous coach. So I am happy to bring this insight from Ildar Mavlyutov to an English reading audience.  We’ve kept this translation as true as possible. You can find the original piece here. Happy reading!

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Coach fraud

Coach Fraud

A fraud issue that we’ve heard reported at major competitions is also one that many fencers are afraid to talk about. It’s hard to call out fellow coaches on bad behavior, and it takes a brave person to do it. You might have seen some of these same things happen yourself, but either didn’t know what to do or maybe were too timid to confront the individual.

Luckily, we have a guest poster who isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues in fencing. Read on to learn more about one of the dark sides of high level fencing competitions that no one is talking about, but that we should all be more aware of.

This opinion piece is offered to us by Coach Yakov Danilenko, head coach and owner of the Medeo Fencing Club. We think that his perspective is an important one to share!

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Fencing Mindset – Afraid to Lose or Want to Win?

Fencing Mindset - Afraid to Lose or Want to Win?Perspective is everything.

How a fencer thinks about fencing has a massive effect on how they perform. Two fencers who have the same amount of talent and skill can do dramatically differently in competition depending on how they think about it. It’s not only how many hours you put in in practice or what kind of equipment – how you frame your thinking about competition is equally as important.

On the other side of every fencing match are two options for the fencer:

  • A win.
  • A loss.

Are you driven to win or afraid to lose? While it might seem that both lines of thinking lead to the same end, that’s not entirely true. Which one you put the emphasis on changes how you feel, how you think, and how you fence. There is a huge difference between the two! One mindset is great for achievement, the other is terrible. How you approach the challenges and demands of fencing is critically important.

Which is which? Let’s talk about that.

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