Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Spirit Page 1 of 22

Thanking mothers for doing what they do – everything

Thanking mothers for doing what they do - everything

There’s a little anecdote about mothers that’s been going around the internet for some time, and it pops up in many variations. It goes something like this:

When I was a child, my mother would always run back into the house when we were getting ready to leave for vacation. Everyone else was in the car, but she’d always go back and spend such a long time. I never could figure out what she was doing. 

Then, I became a mother and I realized what she was doing. 


She was doing everything.

Moms are the keepers of everything. There are a thousand little things that they take care of that kids and other adults even don’t see. They are the invisible hand that makes sure there’s always food in the pantry and the magical beings that poof birthday cakes out of nowhere. 

Need a pair of socks? Mom knows where to find them.

A snack in the middle of night when you wake up with a nightmare? Mom will pull one out of a hiding spot. 

Dropped a lump of burrito on your fencing jacket while eating between bouts at competition? Mom can get the stain out before the next round.

Knee scraped? Headache? Tummy troubles? Mom will come out with a solution to ease your ailments. 

It doesn’t matter where they are or what their child needs, moms always have a way of finding a solution. It’s why we come back to them again and again, not just as children but as adults, too. Though moms can’t fix all of the things in the world that are wrong, they do always offer us hope that there is a solution.

Daring Greatly – The Man in the Arena

Daring Greatly - The Man in the Arena

On a recent quiet night, I found myself reading a book by Michael Dell called Play Nice but Win, in which he quoted Theodore Roosevelt. Though I stumbled upon this quote many years ago, for some reason it resonated with me in a different way than before. 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It’s a meaty quote, with a dense mesh of words that are so thick that you can’t understand it in one go. When I came across it, I read it over again several times. Every time, I peeled layers of meaning back, one after the other, like an onion, until I got to the core of it. Or at least to what I thought was the core of it. 

I encourage you to read through it again before you go on. I would even go so far as to say that you don’t need to keep reading this blog, because what follows are my thoughts. Perhaps it’s best if you think over Roosevelt’s words and how they impact your life. It might be that you need to peel your own onion before you see how I peeled mine. 

Before we get into it, I want you to think about how it feels to do something versus watching something. As an Olympic sport and a combat sport, we are among a small group of sports that people see much more than they do it. Though everyone has picked up a stick and pretended to hold a sword, it is very different to do the actual thing. It’s very different to be a fencer than it is to play pretend with a pool noodle. 

We Must Stand United Against Injustice in Ukraine

We Must Stand United Against Injustice in Ukraine

Humanity must stand strong in the face of oppression. Humanity must win. Good must prevail over evil.

These are not just words, they are words with meaning and depth. We are sitting at a crisis point in which the world has to stand united against injustice. The fencing community is a global one, even as we are each in our own individual clubs across the world. What’s happening in Ukraine is affecting our global community.

An immoral war calls for us to speak out

Standing strong means publicly supporting those who are facing the unimaginable. This is beyond politics, beyond borders, and beyond our differences. There is no question that the people of Ukraine are brave, and it is up to us to find the bravery to speak for them. 

The aggression towards Ukraine is abominable. The blame for the lives lost lies directly at the feet of the Russian government because the overriding sentiment of the people of Russia is the same as the rest of the world’s view: this invasion is unjust. 

This is a moment where we have to do something. Over the last few years, the world’s eyes have been opened to layers of injustice. Today, we are urgently pressed to come forward and raise our collective voices for Ukraine. It is a true matter of life or death in an immoral war of aggression. 

There is good in the world, and there is evil in the world, and we are truly seeing an epic moment of clear-cut good versus evil. No country deserves to have its humanity violated. This is why the world is united on one side, with brave Ukrainian people who are standing up to this evil.

Our Ukrainian fencing community

We have seen, up close and personal, the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian people. 

Look around you, in your club or in your opponent’s club. Chances are there are coaches from Ukraine. Here in our San Francisco Bay Area, most of the fencing clubs have Ukrainian coaches, including AFM. There is a powerful tradition of fencing that has poured out of this nation. The culture and the people are worthy of admiration, and we are fortunate to have them among us. 

It’s difficult to imagine the strain that they are under, twenty four hours a day and with no end in sight. They live with the knowledge that their families are under fire, that their friends and colleagues back home are in the worst situation. The images that are coming out of Kyiv, Kherson, and Mariupol are difficult to look at for those of us on the outside – what must it feel like to see them when they are your friends and family? 

Schools, hospitals, and everyday people are subject to a war that they did not ask for. In any place in the world, in any war or oppression, human pain and suffering are intolerable. In the case of Ukraine, especially for the fencing community, it’s the suffering of a family of somebody that you know, somebody that is dear to you.

Stop for a moment and take stock of how many friends and fellow fencers you know who have connections to Ukraine. The people who you share your club with and who you fence with and tell jokes with. Right now, their families are being bombarded by the invading army of a totalitarian regime. It is unimaginable. 

As a fencing community, we have no influence on what happens with international politics. But as people, as human beings, we all have a huge influence on each other. Public sentiment may not directly stop the tanks from rolling through the wheat fields of Ukraine, but it can make a difference as it pushes politicians to make choices that will stop those tanks. 

Together, we have an impact

When we speak out, we plant a seed. If the world unites in global outrage at this brazen violation of sovereignty, the international community can indeed make this war stop soon, fast, and forever. 

Many Ukrainians now feel helpless. Those who have emigrated are far away and unable to make a change, and those who are trapped under this siege in Ukraine itself are facing a deep horror at their door. 

Speak out with your support! Your voice, when you speak to your Ukrainian colleagues and fellow fencers, makes a huge difference in helping them feel less alone. If you have friends in your club or coaches or families, take a leap and talk to them! Don’t walk around on eggshells with their feelings. They will tell you if it’s overwhelming, but they’ll also feel your support. Sometimes even a listening ear helps make all the difference.

Many people have asked about how they can support the Ukrainian community. The first thing is to be a front line with your coaches and teammates with Ukrainian connections. Show them your empathy and your compassion. 

That is the first step, and it’s the best way for you to make an impact. If you want to do something that reaches out beyond your local community, look to this link for more information on how to make a difference on a global scale – how to help Ukraine

Right now, right here, it is absolutely critical that we stand up for what is right. We can speak out against the cruelty and greed of war, and in doing so we show a small piece of the bravery that the people of Ukraine have shown while they face the worst kind of brutality.

Why You Aren’t Done When You Get to the Top of the Mountain

Why You Aren’t Done When You Get to the Top of the Mountain

It’s very difficult to climb the mountain.

It’s very easy to fall down.

I recently had the privilege of seeing a fencer get his A-rating. It’s a long, hard road that goes over a lot of years to get to this point, and it’s a huge accomplishment. There’s a feeling about this achievement that is something akin to getting to the top of a mountain, because it’s a long way up! It’s hard not to look at how far you’ve come up to this point and not marvel at the height of it. 

What happens when you get to the top of that mountain though?

Staying at the top

What happens when you scramble up to the top of something? Do you stay there, or do you have to keep on holding on? After everything that you’ve put into the journey thus far, you want to maintain your position at least. 

A big misnomer is that, when you get to the top, that you’re stable there. As though you can stand on the ledge and just look around, take a long sip of water and maybe a nap. Anyone who has ever been rock climbing will tell you that it doesn’t work like that. 

When you’re actually on a rope and climbing up a mountain, there’s no real rest. There are moments of quiet and reflection, but you can’t just hang there on the rope all day. You have to put your hands back on the rock and keep on moving. Even when you stand on a ledge for a while, turning around to take in the view, you’re not stopping. 

Once you get to that peak, that doesn’t mean that the work is over. The work doesn’t even slow down here, because life is a constant push to stay where you are. 

Cool Runnings Again: Beating the Unbeatable

Cool Runnings Again: Beating the Unbeatable

After 24 years, the Jamaican four-man bobsled team has at last qualified for the Winter Olympics again. 

When I saw the Jamaican bobsled team in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, I was completely in awe of their story. It stuck with me through the years, continuing to inspire me whenever it ran across my mind. A couple of days ago, the story of the new four man bobsled team from Jamaica making the Winter Olympics popped up while I was watching the news on TV, and I was suddenly inspired all over again! It fast forwarded me back 34 years with the same spirit, and so I decided to dig deeper into the history and write a post about it. These guys once again showed me that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It’s a feat that is almost unimaginable, but it’s one that we need right now. We need to feel the rush of inspiration and the belief that anything is possible. Particularly now, as we are all looking for things to fuel our passion after the last two years have drawn us through the wringer. 

This is the underdog’s underdog story. It gets people’s attention because of the juxtaposition of a warm Caribbean island and the frozen bobsled track. It keeps our attention because of the heart of sport that it represents. 

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