Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Perpetual Goal

Perpetual Goal

I’ve spent countless hours pondering the concept of setting and achieving goals, both in fencing and life in general. I’ve had conversations with fencers, parents, coaches, and enthusiasts about their aspirations. I’ve written about goal setting quite a lot on this blog. Yet, I’ve often found myself less than content with the goals people set. Some are too short-term, others overly ambitious, and some seem driven by the wrong motives.

In one memorable discussion with a young fencer I recently had, he shared an experience that stuck with me. He had set a specific goal for a competition – achieving a new rating. He meticulously calculated his chances, ensuring the competition met all the criteria for the coveted rating when he won a couple of DE’s and got to the round that would upgrade his rating should he win. The result? He felt less relaxed, more obsessed with winning, and, ironically, he lost a match to an opponent he had always beaten before.

This incident raised several questions and concerns, and I will get to some of them in one of the future blogs. But now I want to focus only on one aspect – should winning a rating or achieving a particular ranking be the primary focus for a fencer? Is it the most effective way to guide one’s journey in the sport? After much contemplation, I arrived at a simple yet profound realization: the true goal should be to win the next bout.

This goal transcends the complexities of points, ratings, rankings, placements, and qualifications. It directs your focus solely on the immediate challenge at hand, on something that you have the most control over. Your objective becomes crystal clear – win the next bout. This singular focus eliminates the weight of past performance or future expectations. It’s about the here and now.

When you adopt this goal, your training takes on a new dimension. Every practice, every drill, every bout becomes a stepping stone to achieving this goal. The effort you invest becomes directed towards immediate improvement. You’re preparing not just for the next competition but for the next bout, always striving for victory.

What’s incredible about this perpetual goal is its unique blend of being both short-term and long-term, ambitious yet achievable. You can’t fail in trying to win the next bout, and you can never say, “I’m done; I’ve fully reached my goal.” There’s always another bout to win, another challenge to conquer, another opportunity to prove yourself.

Even if you secure the coveted first place in a national competition, there’s no resting on laurels. It’s time to celebrate with a well-deserved ice cream, but then your focus shifts to the next bout, the next tournament, the next test. How will you prepare? How will you recharge from this competition to the next one?

The beauty of this perpetual goal lies in its simplicity. It’s a philosophy that transcends the boundaries of fencing and offers a valuable lesson for life itself. Win the next bout, and you’ll find yourself in a continuous journey of self-improvement, growth, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Image Attribution: Alpha Stock Images


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  1. R

    I tell fencers “Worry about the classification when the medal is around your neck.”

  2. Alan Buchwald

    One touch at a time (preferably with one light). AB

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