Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Spirit Page 1 of 17

A Veteran Fencer’s Guide to Training through Difficult Times

Alan Buchwald at the finals of the International Veteran Foil tournament in Torino, Italy

Alan Buchwald is a true long distance fencer. Not only has he been fencing for many years with tremendous success, but he is also fencing from a long distance thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This veteran fencer continues to inspire me every day, and oftentimes I mention his name in discussions about persistence and goal setting.

These are difficult times for everyone. For some of us, they are definitely more difficult. 2020 has been a year that has turned the whole world upside down, and it’s easy to get caught up in all of that and forget who you are and why you’re here training. 

The older we get, the more understanding we have of how time and events work. Turbulent times have come before, but if you’ve never experienced that then this can all seem like the end of the world. I don’t think it is. I think it’s the beginning of a new and better world. One thing that I find helpful is to look towards people like Alan who have more experience and a longer vision. It keeps me going. 

Good role models matter

I recently saw a post from a very good young fencer who publicly notified the whole fencing community about her intention to quit the sport, right at the top of her career. It resonated with the fencing community because many young fencers are feeling this kind of deep uncertainty about the future. While it’s possible that her decision had nothing to do with the pandemic, the timing is impossible to ignore. It got kids messaging each other about the future in fencing being less than bright for them, that this might be a good time to step back from training and rethink fencing. The whole scenario evoked a sadness for me. I saw the influence in my own children, and in other fencers at our club. They questioned the rigor of what we did, of what we continue to do, and they were upset at the loss of a member of their community. 

It’s a situation that is difficult to navigate, for everyone. It’s both incredibly complex and also shockingly simple. Staying positive is the key. That’s simple. How to stay positive, that’s the complex part.

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Six-time Olympic Champion Valentina Vezzali on Foil, Female Empowerment, and Forward Thinking

6 Times Olympic Champion from Jesi - Valentina Vezzali.  Photo Augusto Bizzi
6 Times Olympic Champion from Jesi – Valentina Vezzali. Photo Augusto Bizzi

Getting to the top doesn’t happen in isolation. Though we are all feeling the isolation right now, for fencers we know that it takes a community to create a champion. During our in-depth interview with fencing dynamo Valentina Vezzali, we dived deep into what it means to get to the top of the fencing world.

Valentina Vezzali is a champion’s champion. With six Olympic gold medals, one silver, and two bronze beginning in Atlanta in 1996, she is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished fencers in modern history. She was the first foilist ever to win individual gold at three consecutive Olympics, in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Beyond the Olympics, she holds sixteen gold medals at the World Fencing Championships and thirteen gold medals at the European Championships. Beyond fencing, she is a twice published author and served as a member of the Italian Parliament.

What comes from this interview is the importance of inclusion, of the possibilities when we pursue women’s empowerment. Vezzali is so special not just because of her skills on the strip, but also because of her vision for what fencing, and the world beyond fencing, can be if we commit to making change. A fundamental part of her story is her burning desire and her unbeatable willpower. She is driven to push her own limits, whether in fencing or in any area of her life. These are the qualities that you need to have to succeed. Don’t settle for the status quo, always strive to do better! It’s a theme that we see again and again in her words.

A special thank you to Riccardo Calvi for helping us with the translation to and from Italian.

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Fighting the Demon with Fencing World Champion Nathalie Moellhausen

Nathalie Moellhausen - 2019 Women's Epee World Champion
Budapest, 15-23 July 2019 World Championships Epee Women and Sabre Men In photo: MOELLHAUSEN Nathalie Photo by #BizziTeam

“I have a demon inside of myself and when I fence, he comes out and he blocks me completely from expressing what I can do. So I came here to remove this demon.” – Nathalie Moellhausen

Who are you watching in fencing? If you are not following Nathalie Moellhausen, you are missing one of the brightest points of our sport. 

This woman is an innovator in fencing. Not only on the piste, but in the world. Her social media will make you smile and challenge you to get better. We’re serious about this one – you should follow her on Instagram just as soon as you’ve read her mesmerizing interview – @nathaliemoellhausen. She is a positively captivating figure in fencing. Besides having a personality that makes you stop in your tracks, she has the championship athleticism and prowess to back it up. World Champion level prowess.

She started her epee career representing Italy, but now represents her mother’s native Brazil. Her fencing career began thirty years ago at the age of five, and to say that she breathes the sport is an understatement. She won her first World Cup medal in 2009 with a bronze, then went on to compete at the highest level through the 2012 Olympics, where she was an alternate. After a break from competition in 2013, during which time she worked with FIE as an artistic director, she roared back into the sport in 2014 under the Brazilian flag and made it all the way to the quarter finals at the Rio Olympics.

Nathalie Moellhausen is the current World Champion in women’s individual epee, and she has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. In this meaningful and delightful interview, she talks about the mindset of a champion, the importance of losing, and how she is working to keep the sport alive and growing. She is a global citizen, a person who is an ambassador for fencing across the world. The real deal.

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We Can’t Stay Silent. We Stand Together.

Today’s world is a place that is unfortunately divided. Deeply divided. We see people throw down gauntlets between each other over race, political views, nationality, economics, religion, just so many things. Little things sometimes that don’t matter in the bigger scheme, and sometimes very big things that really do matter.

In the last week, we have seen a huge upheaval all across the United States because of brutality and deeply embedded racism. It is not just about the loss of one life or one injustice, it is a pattern that we see repeated again and again. 

We do not condone looting, property damage, or riots. We do condone speaking out to condemn violence and oppression.

I cannot comprehend that in the 21st Century that inequality and discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, or political views are not things of the history books. This is the first time since the murder of MLK that America has felt the full weight of racial injustice in the streets. Not because it wasn’t there, but because it was burning under the surface. Now it is burning in the streets.  

I cannot fully understand, but I will not be silent

Black lives matter. 

I cannot fully understand what it means to be black in America. There are parts of this story that are much too complex and layered in history for me to understand. I cannot think of what it must be like to have your family sold into slavery and sent across an ocean, to fight for your right to exist. That fight is not over. Racial injustice is everywhere and it is right now.  There are experiences that I will never have but that people of color have every day. The fear and injustice, knowing that you are targeted for something that you cannot change. You are targeted with brutal violence, and also in a million other ways. 

The idea of privilege is not new. People can have economic privilege or class privilege. It is something that we talk about in fencing, because our sport is one that is much more accessible to people who are economically privileged. Economic privilege can be changed, we can create programs or help people. You can escape economic conditions. We recognize that racial privilege is not the same. You cannot escape it. 

As immigrants, we came to the United States to build a better life. Many of my family members were murdered in the Holocaust. My uncle was killed in action in the first days of the war. My grandfather was killed in the war and my father grew up fatherless, never knowing his dad as he died when my father was a toddler. While I cannot comprehend the black experience in America, I can very much feel the weight of brutality and injustice on families and across generations. We are different, but we are together. 

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Stop Complaining and Move Forward

Stop complaining and move forward

We know, things have changed. Times are hard. For most of us, the experience of this pandemic has meant a fundamental change in our everyday lives. It’s time to realize that we cannot continue to stay still. We have to move forward.

There are a lot of terrible things that have happened with COVID-19. The loss of life is the worst and most humbling. That’s the piece that stops us in our tracks. The toll on healthcare providers, who are putting themselves in danger daily, is immeasurable. We recognize the magnitude of our frontline workers. 

There are other terrible things too, the loss of jobs, the damage to the economy, the setbacks that kids face without school, the emotional and mental toll that it’s all taken on each of us. Fencing has been hard hit, with the competitions canceled, the distance from our community, and the dreams put on hold or dashed altogether. 

Many of these things are irreparable. 

What is easy to miss, but that we cannot miss, is that many of the things that we are facing are things that we can change. There is not a loss of power in this point of our history. 

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