Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Category: Spirit Page 1 of 19

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.  

Read More

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! 

Read More

You Were Always Training Alone

You were always training alone

Thanks to pandemic lockdowns, we have been forced to think differently about the way that we approach our training. Though fencing is an individual sport, it’s long been one that we practice in group settings, with coaches, classmates, training partners, and mentors on the strip to give us active feedback while we are learning to fence. Rarely was a fencer off training alone in their sport.

That is no longer an option, with pandemic lockdowns pushing our fencing at best to socially distanced lessons with masks and small groups, at worst to virtual classes over zoom. We are still part of a community, but that community is physically disconnected. 

We get lost in the rush of classes and competition. There is a busy-ness to being a competitive fencer. As the fencing season rose and fell, we were always following the hectic schedule of competition and training. There were so many things to do, and we chased them with gusto. When everything stopped, it challenged us deeply. We could no longer just think about where we were going next, we had to think about why we were going anywhere at all. 

One of the hardest parts of training throughout this whole time of lockdown has been that we are training alone.

Read More

Why Fencers Must Learn to Trust the Sweat

Why fencers must learn to trust the sweat

What does it take to become an elite fencer?  This is a question that just about every fencer wants to know, and it’s one that we are always on the hunt for an answer to. There is actually not a simple answer, not in the slightest. There are things that we know work, but one that cuts through them all is this simple mantra – trust the sweat.

The grind?

I am not a real fan of the idea of “the grind” because it sounds far too negative. Work is a daily grind. School can be a daily grind. These are things that we do not have much of a choice in doing, though we do them anyway because of the other good things that we know are on the other side of them. Fencing should not be a grind, because in the end it is something that we are freely choosing to pursue. Even kid fencers who are being shaped by their parents are hopefully choosing to pursue this sport rather than being forced into it.

When we think of grinding, we think of two things coming together and pushing on each other until one or both sides wear away or the thing that is between them is crushed. The notion in sport is that you have to grind away at your sport in order to slough off all of the things that are holding you back and to polish your athletic ability into the shiny thing that is underneath. 

Polishing is a great idea, in part because that metaphor hints at the wonderful things that are underneath. There are wonderful fencing skills under there for every fencer who is willing to pursue that dream! However, this idea that we have to grind away at ourselves to get better is not appealing. 

Fencing practice should not feel like punishment. Not ever. When we engage with elite fencing athletes, they all talk about motivation in positive terms. They feel an obligation to get up and practice even on those hard days, but it is an obligation that rises from inside of them, not one that is pushed onto them. It is important to take apart the difference between motivation that comes from inside and motivation that comes from the outside. Only one of those things is sustainable. No one can grind their way to success, and especially parents and coaches cannot grind fencers towards success.

All that being said, it does not mean that becoming great is a walk in the park. 

Read More

Mercantile Goals in Fencing

Mercantile Goals in Fencing

A mercantile goal is one that is based on trading up. You want to progress from where you are now to a place that is higher, for whatever reason, and there is a tangible payoff when you arrive. In fencing, some examples of mercantile goals would include getting into college, earning a rating, qualifying for a specific competition, etc. 

This is a phenomenon that we see in sports so clearly, but also that exists in every aspect of life. You can do things for the purpose of a payoff, or you can do things because you enjoy the process and the growth that you get in doing it. The satisfaction when it is about your own growth is deeper and more fulfilling. 

Read More

Page 1 of 19

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén