Young foil fencers try to find the right fencing strategy in the boutGood parents worry about their children. We can’t avoid it because we love them and want the best for them. The good news is, when it comes to your child’s fencing personality, or fencing strategy, you don’t have to worry! I’ve had countless conversations with parents who ask me whether their child is too aggressive or not aggressive enough, or why they don’t do that thing that the parent saw another fencer do. While these questions come from a positive place, the truth is, you can let it go and just watch.

Why? Well, every fencer has their own set of fencing strategies that work for them. They may evolve over time as they learn and get better, but at any given moment, they have an approach and whatever that approach is, it’s okay. Some people are naturally more aggressive while others prefer patience and calculation. Plus, we all have different strengths and weaknesses—with respect to intelligence, interpersonal relationships, athletics, and more. In fencing, every fencer will be better at some techniques and strategies and weaker in others. The combination of a fencers natural disposition and their particular set of fencing skills create a unique fencing strategy that is theirs alone.

We mentioned in our post on fencing journals that one habit of a good fencer is self-awareness. The best fencers are keenly aware of their strengths and their weaknesses and know how to maximize the skills in which they excel. Yes, you can work to improve your weak spots, but when it comes time to compete, you can’t change what you bring to the table in that moment. The best thing you can do is embrace your fencing style and use it to your advantage as best you know how. Good fencers learn to create the opportunity to play on their strengths by strategically guiding their opponent into the desired scenario and then being ready to make their move.

The inspiration behind this post came from one particular conversation that I recently had with a parent. She was concerned that her son spent most of his time within a bout in defensive mode. She felt that he should be attacking more and that his hesitance to be aggressive was something that needed to change. I told her what I’m telling you now—not to worry.

Think about the sport of boxing. Some boxers are smaller and quicker while others are bigger and stronger. The bigger boxer wants to engage immediately and use his strength and large presence to take control. The smaller boxer wants to use movement and quickness to delay engagement and then create an opportunity to take the bigger boxer by surprise. Fencing, even more so than boxing, is a sport that can be won with strategy and creativity regardless of size and stature. You may be short, tall, broad, or slim—none of these are inherently an advantage or disadvantage in fencing. Just like your height, you can’t really change your natural character. The advantage comes from recognizing what you bring to the table and exploiting your natural strengths.

You may have heard the popular Bruce Lee quote, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In other words, when it comes to a battle (and every fencing bout is in some ways a battle), it is best to specialize based on your natural strengths than to focus broadly and work against what comes natural. If you can perfect that one kick, you can take out your opponent.

So parents, resist the urge to worry! Sit back and watch your child use their strengths to do their best. In the beginning, they may not know how to capitalize on their strengths, but that is not reason to change their approach. They will learn strategy over time.