Academy of Fencing Masters Blog

Art of Fencing, Art of Life

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Rick Mayer, a Veteran Fencer and Referee Talks Discipline, Training, and Persistence

Rick Mayer reffing at nationals

Not all insight in fencing comes from the big names in the sport. Sometimes it’s the people that you haven’t heard of who can offer the most potent and relatable understanding of the sport. Rick Mayer has been fencing for decades, from his teenage years all the way to nearly his late sixties today, and we expect to see him still going.

With over fifty years in the sport, he’s fenced all over the world and in almost every age division. Through his service in the United States military, Rick brings rigor and discipline to his training and to his refereeing. He’s a longtime referee at the USA Fencing Tournaments, both national, regional, and local levels, as well as being a mainstay of the fencing community for many years in New Jersey. He competes today as a veteran fencer, and he offers some grounded perspective on where fencing has been and as such where it is going. What can we do to be better, and why are we pursuing those goals?

In this interview, you’ll learn that a love of fencing is driven by the simple joy in the sport. Competition is a driving force, but it is far more than winning medals. The motivation comes from the continuous challenge of oneself and others to be better every single day. It’s easy to be inspired by Olympic Champions, but most of us will never be there. However, the everyday heroes, like our veteran fencers who commit to the sport just out of pure love and joy of it, these people are often unsung heroes of the sport and they often provide a great insight into the sport and their passion for it. Hopefully, you’ll find that same inspiration from this interview!

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A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 3: Modern Fencing

Fencing Match at the First Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece
Fencing Match at the First Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece

Modern fencing, for the purposes of our exploration of the history of fencing, starts with the modern Olympics in 1896, which were founded by Pierre de Coubertin. We have already explored fencing in the Ancient World in Part 1 and moved through the development of fencing as a distinct discipline in Part 2. You don’t have to read those two pieces in order to understand this next step in fencing history, but it’s highly encouraged!

It’s in this period that fencing looks like what we know of fencing today. We see the onset of modern fencing equipment and scoring. There is also the solidification of the three weapons and all of the differences that go along with each of those. The tournament system that is such a driving force behind our current view of fencing rises during this time. We’ll talk a little bit about what fencing is today in the modern world here, and we’ll give some insight into American fencing and how it came to be what we know of. 

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A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 2: Old World European Fencing

A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 2: Old World European Fencing

Fencing takes its style, substance, and sensibilities from the European schools of fencing that arose in the Renaissance and then grew over the next several centuries. 

We learned about Fencing in the Ancient World in Part 1 of our not-so-brief history of fencing, and we’ll dig through the era of the modern Olympics in Part 3, but for now we are right in the middle. This is where fencing begins to take the shape that we know it to have now, and it’s where we can start to see the distinctive nature of our sport as different from other forms of military combat

What is very similar to what comes before is that fencing is not a sport yet, it is still a skill that is largely centered around keeping the individual alive during a real fight. Over the course of five hundred years or so, from the end of the Middle Ages in the sixteenth century to the modern Olympic era that begins at the dawn of the twentieth century, fencing moves from a test of mettle that can end in death to a test of mettle that can end on a podium. This happens through the development of fencing schools and the move of fencing from military combat to the nobility. 

This section is focused on how fencing came to be in Europe, because that’s where our sport has its origins. There was sword fighting that developed in other parts of the world through this time period, like kendo in Japan, but it’s not related to sport fencing today. We are a diverse sport in the modern era, but the origins of fencing are fundamentally European. We also cannot help but point out that, though there were women fencing throughout its history, it is a history that is predominantly made up of men. The transition to total inclusion of women in fencing wouldn’t be complete until the 2004 Olympics with adding women’s sabre competition, by that having all 3 weapons represented in women’s fencing! 

The part of fencing history that we’re exploring now could be thought of as the adolescence of the sport. This is where we’re figuring out who we are, and a lot of things are changing along the way. It’s a big transition, and it wasn’t always easy. 

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A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 1: Fencing in the Ancient World

A Not-So-Brief History of Fencing, Part 1: Fencing in the Ancient World

The history of fencing might surprise you – even if you’ve got a long history in the sport yourself. 

We are an unusual sport because of our origins – conflict. Just about as far back as you go with human history you’re going to find conflict, and in order to be great on the battlefield, you had to practice. It’s baked into who we are, which is part of why fencing feels so compelling. Kids naturally pickup backyard sticks and start swordfights, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t training for real battles. It’s like we can’t help ourselves, we want to challenge one another. 

That’s all fine and good, but we want to know more. Fencing as a sport has some surprising roots, and our sport was an actual sport much further back than most of us realize. 

To understand the scope of fencing history, from as far back as we can trace it, we’ve broken this down into three parts. The first is what you’re reading – Part I: Fencing in the Ancient World, where we delve into the earliest history. We then move onto Part II: Old World European Fencing, which follows through the time when fencing developed into something more like we know it to be today and the rise of high fencing styles. Finally,  in Part III: Modern Fencing, we trace back through the last couple of centuries, including the Olympic Era. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get going!

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7 Things that Fencing Parents do that Drive Kids Nuts

7 Things that Fencing Parents do that Drive Kids Nuts

There’s a push and pull between every child and parent, it’s a natural part of the relationship. For fencing parents, there is an added layer of push and pull because of the balance of training, and because of the pressures of competition, and unintentionally parents can drive kids nuts.

Just about everyone has seen a parent lose it at a sporting event. It’s unfortunately not uncommon to see parents pressuring young athletes in a wide variety of ways, from the sidelines or after practice. Fencing is not immune to this reality, and it’s important for parents to think about what their actions are so that they can strike the right chord. 

We’ve all been guilty of pushing things a little too hard with our kids, and that’s ok. What we want to do is to keep growing and to find the ways that we can improve. That starts with understanding the potential pitfalls.

Here are seven things that fencing parents do that drive their kids crazy. 

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