Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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A Fencer’s Guide to Holiday Gifts – Olympic & Star Wars Edition

Fencer Holiday Gifts Guide - A set of Star War Thumb lightsabers

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is thinking towards holiday cheer and, of course, holiday gift giving. Fencers tend to go all in for their sport, and every fencer appreciates thoughtful holidays gifts that come from the heart (but is also related to fencing!). 

This year is a little special because it is an Olympic year. We’ve got Tokyo 2020 to look forward to! We know that we’re extremely excited for the coming games and all that international fencing that’ll be at the heart of the whole thing. That’s why we’ve put together a list of fencing gifts for the holidays that are perfect for the Olympic fencing fan in your life! They range from the very practical to the lots of fun, but they all have one thing in common – Tokyo 2020!

The other thing that we’re celebrating this year is the big new Star Wars movie that’s got everyone excited about picking up those lightsabers again. It’s no secret that lightsaber fights and fencing are tactitly connected, and we love to see the enthusiasm for swordsmanship.

Whatever the answer is, we do know that the holidays and fencing go hand in hand. Check out these holiday gifts that will have everyone in your fencing life ready to shout for joy this season.

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What Makes Sport So Important for All of Us?

What Makes Sport So Important for All of Us?

Why is it that sport is common among so many cultures and all over the world? As we head towards the Olympics, everyone is going to be talking about how sports bring the world together. They do bring us all together, and they are something that we all share more freely than we perhaps share other things. 

We will see our fencers take the center stage during this time. Our sport will be highlighted in ways that it is not usually, giving us a bigger platform than we usually have. People will be connected to and inspired by fencers at the Olympics in a way that they are not at any other time. That’s pretty amazing of course, but why is it?

There are the standard explanations, but from the years that we’ve been watching athletes move through this process and from our time with many individuals from all over the world, we think that there might be something else to it all. 

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Why We’re Thankful for Tough Times in Fencing

Why We’re Thankful for Tough Times in Fencing

Fencing is hard work. Very hard work. There are bruises and sore muscles, long days and sometimes too much to balance it seems. Yet we are still thankful for everything that these tough challenges bring to us, for so many reasons. 

Everyone right now seems to be reflecting on what it means to be thankful, and we are not an exception. It’s nice to pause and reflect, to take stock of what we are getting out of the things that we are doing in life. Fencing is obviously one of the big things that we’re doing! 

Thinking of thanks on this fencing journey

This sport, like lots of sports, can be very hard. We fencers all have a love/hate relationship with that hardness. If we didn’t enjoy the challenge, none of us would be here, but it takes grit and determination to get through it. We have to continue to push through, no matter what, or else leave the sport. That last one isn’t an option for those who are passionate about fencing. 

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How Equipment Checks Can Screw Up Your Fencing Tournament – and What To Do About It

How Equipment Checks Can Screw Up Your Fencing Tournament - and What To Do About It

Speed and accuracy are notoriously tough things to mix. It’s something that we experience with our fencing, and it’s a thing that can push us far behind. No one wants to get caught on the wrong side of making a mistake, but it happens all the time. In particular it can happen with equipment checks at fencing tournaments.

We saw this first hand with many of our fencers at the recent November NAC in Milwaukee and this experience prompted me to write this blog.

Timing is Tough

Many of our fencers arrived late at night before the following day’s competition. They didn’t want to miss an extra day of school, because of course they were concerned with their academic performance as well as their fencing performance. That’s understandable. However, this meant that they could not participate in the equipment check the night before as armorers already left. They had nothing left to do but to come in the morning, just an hour before the event registration was done and the venue was open. 

The line was huge, wrapping around and moving slowly. Some of them waited themselves, and some of them had parents who waited for them. Either way, the whole process took the entire hour. That hour is time without the ability to do anything else that’s really productive, even with parents waiting in line. All of this is just to get the equipment – mask, body cords, and glove, back just a few moments before the pools got started.

The result is that they didn’t get to fence in the warm up bouts before the pools. Some of the fencers were barely even able to warm up and stretch. This means that when they went into the pools, their warm up was literally the first few pool bouts. 

This is a brutal way to go about fencing. Forget about precision or mastery of the actions, forget about timing or distance control. Their fingers were hardly able to follow the target. This left many of the initial bouts just doomed to failure. At best, they were unnecessarily difficult and ineffective. Points that should have been scored were not scored, and many points were scored against these fencers. 

Of course it’s painful to see it go down this way. These fencers got all the way to the NAC, only to perform in this mediocre way. Once you do a poor job in the pools, you then have an unnecessarily difficult time in the Direct Elimination rounds. That seeding follows through the tournament. Not to mention the mental push down that also follows these fencers. It makes things very tough, for no really good reason. 

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How to Watch Your Pool Opponents Fence

How to Watch Your Pool Opponents Fence

There have been many times here at the AFM blog that we’ve written about the importance of tactical thinking in fencing. This sport of ours is not one where the strictly physical qualities of an athlete can determine the outcome of the bout. It is the mental and tactical savviness that is most important for success. 

Extending tactical thinking beyond the scope of just the match allows fencers to make the most of opportunities. When fencers take on this whole-competition mindset for growth, the possibilities are simply huge. The pool rounds are a place particularly where fencers have the chance to grow, in part because this section of fencing competition is often overlooked, especially by beginner fencers. 

Improving through the pools

A typical pool rounds lasts for one and a half to two hours, with six or seven fencers in each pool. Each fencer fences all of the other fencers individually in the pool.

For a pool of seven fencers, there twenty-one bouts that are fenced. These go in an order like this: 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 5, 3 vs. 6, 7 vs. 1, and so on, where each number means the number assigned to a specific fencer who has been selected to be in the pool. That means that in the first bout, fencer  #1 competes against fencer #4, then when they are done the referee calls #2 against #5, then #3 against #6, then #7 against #1, and so on.

This means that you will see all of the fencers fence from the beginning of the pools until your second bout, with the exception of your first bout. And if you are #7, then it’s even better – you will see all 6 fencers fence 1 bout before you step on the strip for the first time.

Moreover, you yourself will fence a total of 6 bouts out of 21, which means that for the 15 bouts that you are not fencing, you’re just waiting. What do fencers typically do during this time? This definitely depends on how advanced they are in fencing. Beginners will do whatever they can to pass the time – playing games, listening to music or audiobooks, chatting with their friends. 

Serious competitors will spend this pool time learning their pool opponents.

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