One of the things that we love about fencing is that it improves agility. This starts from the very moment that a person step out to practice on that first day of training and continues to grow even in the most experienced fencers as they hone their craft. However as a sport, it doesn’t just improve our physical agility, which we would naturally expect, fencing also improves our mental agility.
Fencing is based on quick movements. However agility isn’t just about speed, it’s about precision. Physical precision means that you see your target and focus on it, then are able to command your body to do the things that you want it to do in that moment. Your body responds to your commands.
When you’re holding a foil or an epee or a sabre, that weapon becomes an extension of your physical self. Almost like an arm that is outstretched and reaching, part of you even though it’s not your flesh. A big part of the reason that fencing improves physical agility is because it demands that you learn to control not just your own body, but this long extension of you that you’re grasping.
Besides just the hands, fencing demands agility of the lower parts of the body as well. Being light on your feet as well as being very flexible is an essential skill in fencing. We practice these gross motor movement skills again and again in the club, rehearsing to teach our bodies to move in the fast and precise way that we want it to. The movements are wholly different than those that we have when we’re just walking around in the world, the steps might be very small, and the direction and the cadence changes all the time, so we must improve our agility in order to master them.
That improvement begins as soon as we start fencing, and continues to improve as long as we practice. Fencers also find that the skills that connect their ability to command that physical body transfer to places outside of the club. So as a fencer, it becomes easier to control the body in everyday life.
So often we say it – fencing is like a game of chess that is played out in real life. One of the big reasons that fencing improves our mental agility is because it is such a quick sport, with movements needing to be decided in a split second. You have to not only be light on your feet to be a good fencer, you also have to be light in your thoughts!
There are split second moments in which fencing matches are won and lost. In order to win the day, a fencer must quickly decide what their opponent’s intentions are by judging their personality and movements. What is your opponent’s plan at this very moment? What is the game they want to dictate and how will it change or dictate your own? Is your opponent passive or aggressive or constantly changing? Are they timid or ready to strike? An incorrect judgment can lead to defeat. As we train in fencing, we learn to almost see the match in slow motion, allowing us more time to analyze the movements of our opponent, to adapt to them, conceal our own actions and force the opponent to make a mistake or leverage their own mistakes.
Logic and strategy are hallmarks of a good fencer. Learning to fence helps you to enhance and improve your analytical capabilities, quickly assessing situations. There is a cool and calculating aspect to good fencing that comes before the improvisation and passion that drive it. For fencers, there are these two battling sides of the mental game – the need to be driven by emotion and the need to be driven by rational thought. That’s because fencing is an art. Where those two things come together is in mental agility. We must feel the passion that drives our sport, then channel it into the physical action that we need to accomplish.