Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Spirit Page 1 of 20

Reflecting on Friendship, the Greatest Gift of Fencing

Reflecting on Friendship, the Greatest Gift of Fencing

We talk so often about the things that fencing brings to us. It brings us physical fitness and mental sharpness. It helps us to grow and find personal fulfillment through overcoming challenges. It allows us to find the best version of ourselves. All of those things are wonderful, they’re great. But I would say the greatest gift that fencing gives us is friendship. Not just friendship, but the lifelong friendship that enriches our lives in ways that no one expected when we first stepped foot onto the strip and picked up a sword. 

It’s not the medals we are after

This past weekend, we held our customary graduation party for our fencers who are ready to step out into the world. It’s become an important tradition for AFM that includes sharing memories, connecting our community, and sharing our excitement about the future. 

Last year, COVID pushed us into a virtual celebration. We made the most of it, highlighting our graduates with an online party and driving by their houses with signs. It wasn’t the same, but then nothing was the same during the pandemic. This year, we were ecstatic to be able to hold our party in person!

What I didn’t expect, what I never thought about happening, was for our graduates from previous years to come to the party. It was truly joyful to see them. These young people of the Class 2021 had gone on to different, fantastic places – Brown, Columbia, MIT, Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, Brandeis, and more. These were great fencers who had fantastic national achievements. They each brought something special to their training, and it was an enriching experience to have them back at AFM. 

Surrounded by these wonderful people who are making their way in the world, they asked me for some wisdom. When I looked around at them, all I could see was the friendships they had forged through fencing and how those continued long after they left the club. 

The thing is, they will forget that they were United States Champions or National Medalists. Those achievements are made up of long months of work, but they only flash for a moment. The medal is hung around your neck for a day or an evening. Family, friends, teammates, and coaches celebrate with you on social media and over festive meals. Then the next day comes and you go home, hanging up your medal or putting it in a drawer. We don’t celebrate our medals and our achievements every day, we keep on moving forward. The rank doesn’t make you shine, and even a wall full of certificates of national achievements don’t give you value. 

The next day after that amazing competition and that walk up the podium you’re back to your routine. It’s like nothing happened, but something remains with you.

After the peak that is winning those big competitions, what remains with you are the connections. The friendships that are forged through shared experiences don’t ever go away. In fact, with time they only grow deeper and more meaningful. The glow of getting that final point in a championship match is fleeting, but the bonds of friendship are long-lasting.

Champions cannot just sit back on their laurels and wait around for something to come along. They have to continue to get up out of bed every day and do the hard training. They have to continue to do the diligent work that makes those medals. The medals aren’t what we’re really after – it’s something else we’re looking for. That’s why fencers have a hard time stepping away from the strip, and indeed why many of them never do. The medals are part of the journey, but they are not the destination. 

Medals don’t define you. 

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Frustration in Fencing – the Beast or an Ally?

Frustration in Fencing - the Beast or an Ally?

Fencing can be infuriating. The frustration of things not going your way, even when you are working hard to do everything the right way, can be overwhelming for fencers at times. It’s the reason you see fencers get angry and throw their sword or yell at the referee. It’s the reason you see fencers clench their fists and it can be the reason fencers yell on the strip. All that balled-up emotion that gets pushed down deep. 

One of the unfortunate realities of fencing is that you can do everything right and STILL get hit.  That is, you can select a good action and execute it with the right distance and timing, but if your opponent guesses correctly, you can still lose the touch!

How can a fencer possibly combat this reality?

The metaphor of a beast in the case of frustration is a fitting one. But what if it didn’t have to be a beast? What if you could work with frustration to help your fencing get better? If this can happen, then frustration can transform from a beast to an ally.  

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Is Fencing a Difficult Sport?

Is fencing a difficult sport

There’s a range of what is difficult sport and what is not, with lots of places to start and lots of places to go. In the world of sports, this range is broad and always changing. 

No, fencing is not a difficult sport. We should start off by saying that. Is it difficult to become an Olympic fencer? Of course, it is. But it is not difficult to enter into fencing or to even become a competitive fencer. This is true no matter your age. 

As with anything, how hard fencing is has everything to do with the amount of practice that someone puts into it. If you practice often and smart and train with good coaches in a supportive environment, you can fence well by any measure. It is not hard to get started in fencing and it’s not hard to make positive progress.

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Training is Mastery

Training is mastery

There is a widely held misconception that training is preparation for becoming a master in fencing. We come into lessons every week and we work with our coaches in an attempt to learn and grow so that we can perform well in competition because the competition is the really important thing. Or is it? Is competition the most important factor in pushing forward towards mastery for a fencer, or is there something else that drives us?

Exploring this idea of what it means to practice and what it means to perform is central to understanding what is behind fencing as a discipline. There is no professional version of our sport as such, but we do have something akin in our international competitors. In terms of drive, skill, and dedication, those individuals would be our goal. However, imitation is not really what we’re looking for either. You can’t become a master of any sport by simply chasing the shadow of someone else. There are other factors because every fencer has to find their own way. 

Defining mastery

Training is mastery. 

That’s not the expected answer is it? (though it’s the title of this blog!) We generally think of mastery as being when you win an Olympic Gold or when you are the coach of high ranking fencers. We think of mastery as being that old maestro who saw glory days in competition decades ago and now pushes young fencers to move faster and strike with more precision. We might think of mastery as getting that A rating

Mastery has nothing to do with what you have done in the past. It has nothing to do with the rank that you got or the number of podium finishes you’ve made it to.  

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Celebrating 7 Years!

Celebrating seventh Anniversary

It’s the seventh anniversary of the AFM blog! We launched this online resource on February 3rd, 2014, and it’s been a joy every step of the way, even as it’s been a lot of hard work. In that way, it’s a whole lot like fencing itself. From that time, we set out to be a resource for parents, fencers, coaches, fans, and those who were just starting to dip their toes into this wonderful world. We never could have imagined how much we would grow or how far our words would reach, but for every reader and contributor, we are immensely grateful. 

The number seven has been a significant number for thousands of years. There are the Seven Wonders of the World, seven days in a week, seven continents, seven seas, on and on. Lucky seven is a trope in Las Vegas casinos because six and one are on opposite sides of a dice and because it wins big. It’s a prime number. It’s even the most popular number! No really – there was a poll done about the number seven in 2014 that showed that it was favorited! It’s a quantity that is considered lucky by cultures through time and around the world, and I personally find that it’s a magical number. 

Here, we cannot help but use this magical number to look back at where we came from, because really that is a great way to help us look forward. We’ll start here with our very first blog, published on February 3, 2014. 

This is a perspective that still holds wonderfully true today, and it sets the tone for everything that we see in our blog today. Fencing is, at its heart, a whole body and whole mind venture. Today we might say that fencing can give both young and not-so-young extra advantages! It expands our social circle, engages our physical selves, and it pushes us to continue to grow. 

To celebrate this major milestone in the life of our blog, we’re sharing seven categories of blogs that have been especially fantastic in the last seven years, plus seven blogs within each category that are among our most viewed or that we find to be particularly resonant. Seven times seven – that makes this super lucky right? Here you’ll find highlights of some of our most popular pieces, many of which you’ve probably seen, but some of which might be new to you! 

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