Right now, we’re seeing a major global outbreak of a virus that’s pushing everything to its limits. From large events to universities, the entire globe is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and the fencing training wasn’t skipped in this neither.
This isn’t something far away either, it’s right here in our backyards. Everyone is taking additional precautions to slow down and prevent the spread. That unfortunately means pulling back from some fencing activities for a lot of people for an unclear duration.
Here we want to be clear – everyone has the right to respect how they respond to this. We respect the choices that some fencers and their families are making, because you should do whatever makes you feel comfortable when it comes to your health. However, because you are quarantining yourself at home doesn’t mean you have to stop your training.
You have to stay home
As we all have come to the conclusion that we need to stay at home and refrain from attending fencing classes, lessons, and competitions for now until the pandemic is subdued, what you should do?
Traditional methods of training are BY FAR the best way to improve your fencing. This is not up for debate. However there are alternatives when you have to make a different choice.
First off all, remember that fencing has several elements that you should continue to maintain, This is of the utmost importance, because while losing a form is easy, gaining it back is difficult. Do not discount this. Just stopping totally is going to be the worst thing, and when you come back you will feel in many ways that you are starting over totally. Maintaining training, in the right way, is essential.
Always, always do these things with the blessing of your coach. Discuss what you are going to do as far as training outside of the club and get their approval and input. Not just during a viral pandemic, but always! Set up frequent intervals to discuss your progress and what you are working on, whether it is by phone or facetime or email if you have to. Because you are not with your coach does not mean they are not still there to guide you! Their input matters.
So what areas of training should you be focusing on? Here are the four places to put your effort when you’re in quarantine.
This is fitness, keeping your body in good condition or ideally improving it. There are innumerable ways to work on conditioning in fencing, from swimming to running to weight training. There are lots and lots of ways to improve your fitness, even at home and without going to the gym.
When you have signed off from going to the fencing club for training, then you shouldn’t be going out to the gym either, even if your area is not in a lockdown regime yet. If the fencing club might be dangerous, then the gym most definitely is!
There are tons of resources out there about this for fencer, including on our blog where you can learn about cross training. We have also written for Fencing University about cross training, which will give you even more ideas. And we will continue putting more material online soon,
Just to give you a few notions right here though, here are some things that you can do at home.
- Yoga, for flexibility and muscle building
- Isometric exercises, like planks, wall pushes, and other still exercises
- Cardio – riding a bike, treadmill, even jumping jacks
- Home workouts – make sure you’re safe, but there are all kinds of at home courses online that you can watch and participate in to build strength and do cardio. Think P90X or Gaia programs, or there are lots of home workouts on YouTube and other platforms. And as I said, we will post additional technical material later on this blog too.
Technical Fencing Training
This is taking the conditioning to the next level. We’re talking about things like footwork and target work, which you can read about here and here. Specific isometric exercises for fencing are also extremely beneficial here, such as fencing position squats or lunges that you stand in for an extended time.
This is the point where your coach can give you specific things to work on at home when you are unable to go to the club. You might go in for virtual private lessons or classes so that your coach can give you the additional tools that you need for this kind of fencing practice. Working with your coach to plan what you’re going to do can be a critical boost to your home technical training.
Keep it simple when it comes to technical practice.
- Beginners should not do technical practice at home without virtual guidance from their coaches, as it can easily embed bad habits that will be hard to break.
- Always check with your coach about your technical practice. You can probably talk to them on the phone if you cannot go in person!
- Be certain that you are doing things right with technical practice, as repeating a mistake is worse than not practicing at all!
With careful technical practice, all of this will help you to keep in decent shape when you cannot work out in the fencing club.
Tactical Fencing Training
There is a tremendous amount of tactical learning that you will suddenly have time for if you are not able to practice at your club!
This is an area that is probably going to benefit from time off, because normally we are too busy to dig deep into it. There are so many places that you can go, but here are a few ideas.
- Read a fencing book. We have a few suggestions, including ours!
- Watch fencing videos online and do an analysis. You can even do a video session with your fencing friends and discuss different bouts.
- Watch interviews with fencers and coaches online.
- Read articles and blogs about fencing techniques. Reddit for fencing has a huge amount of information, and you’ll see lots of discussions that you might overhear in a club.
- Learn about the upcoming Olympics if you don’t. This isn’t so much tactical as inspirational, but you can follow your favorite fencers on social media and learn more about what makes them successful.
- Review videos of your own bouts if you have them. This is invaluable!
Your coach will be able to recommend resources that you can use to improve your tactical fencing. You don’t have to be holding your sword in order to get better at fencing!
Mental Fencing Training
The mental side of fencing is one that we cannot ignore. When there is a lot of downtime, it’s a chance to work on your focus and mental clarity.
Physical fitness and diet are very much tied to mental clarity. Those are two parts that you can improve on during this time in order to up your game. However, there are lots of other focused activities that you can be doing as well.
- Get some sleep – making sure that you’re properly rested will do wonders for your clarity. Get into a good routine when you have the chance.
- Meditate – truly, meditation is magical. You can practice at whatever level you need to practice at, whether it’s zen in the quiet or guided meditations.
- Set goals – making a plan is a huge help, especially during a stressful time. Goal setting is going to free up a lot of headspace and help you to stay with the direction that you want to go.
- Journal – journaling for fencers is game-changing in terms of your mental clarity! With a fencing journal, you can keep track of where you are, where you’ve been, and you can make plans for where you’re going. We cannot say enough about what a good resource this is for focusing your attention and giving yourself the best chance to improve your fencing!
All of these are ways that we can continue to maintain your fencing, even when you are trying not to leave the house. With continued training, you can at least not drop severely in skill and perhaps even keep what you have.
Importantly, remember that this virus is not going to last forever. In six months, this will be in our past like so many other huge things that have come and gone. This one will probably leave a lasting mark, one that will make us think about diseases differently. If anything, we will all certainly wash our hands more often and keep plenty of toilet paper in hand.
Yes, this part might sound a little hokey but hear us out.
Your mindset is everything during this time. Even if you end up having to take a significant amount of time off because of this pandemic, that doesn’t mean that your fencing dreams have to slow down. If anything, fencing can give you a place to focus your attention and push forward. It’s a time right now when things can feel chaotic and strange, but fencing is something that you can hold on to during it all! Let it be your constant, and learn how you have ownership of the fencing inside of you, even without your training at the club. Fencing lives inside of you! You don’t have to have outside forces making you do it, you can have it all on your own. That’s a pretty amazing thing.
The pandemic panic right now is real, and the precautions that we are taking here in the United States as well as all over the world are important. However, we still count ourselves fortunate enough to be a part of a community that is supportive. Things do not have to stop because of this, because fencing is more than competitions and podiums. Fencing is so much more! This is a great time to figure that out.
Remember that while now it all sounds terrible and the situation worsen with each day, additionally amplified by the endless social media hysteria, it will pass. The virus and the pandemic will be contained, and all will return to normal. So use this time to create your goals, to keep your work going, and to maintain a positive attitude. When we set up a goal, nothing should stop us, coronavirus or not.