Fencing in competition is complicated stuff. There’s so much to it, so many things to think about all at once from your stance to the referee to the slew of people watching each match. Add to that the fact that most competitive fencers find themselves traveling significantly during the competition season, because travel in and of itself can be stressful and complicated. The problem is that fencing is best done when the mind is clear and focused, and the body is loose and relaxed.
Just as a fencer must learn techniques like how to thrust and parry in order to win, so too should they learn how to take control of their stress level during competitions and even during the sometimes stressful practice sessions that lead up to competition. Having some simple but effective relaxation techniques in your toolkit will really help!
5 Simple Relaxation Techniques for Fencers
1. Breathe Deep
This is probably the most widely known relaxation technique out there, and there’s a reason – it works! You can try deep breathing for just a few moments or for longer if you have time.
To get the best effects, try breathing like this:
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position
- Place one hand on your belly, let the other one fall relaxed to your side
- Pull the air in through your nose
- Visualize it moving all the way down your body to your belly
- Feel your stomach naturally expand, then your chest rise up to follow it
- At the top of the breath, pause for just a moment
- Slowly push the air back out of your mouth this time, relaxing your shoulders as you go
- Be sure to have an outbreath that’s longer than the inbreath in order to get the full effect
2. Slow Your Pace
We tend to nearly run between events at competition! Even when there’s no reason to. Take your time if you have it, walking at a leisurely pace – running there will only release adrenaline and cause you to feel more out of control than you are.
3. Talk to Yourself
Words have power. Just as what you say to others really matters, so too does it really matter what you say to yourself. Change the words in that running commentary in your mind to be less frantic, so things like “calm” or “relax.” You can also develop what’s called a keyword that cues you into needing to calm down and focus. It could be anything, as long as you teach yourself to associate it with being at ease. Take it a step further and write your keyword on tape that you then stick to your gear, to keep you reminded of ii.
4. Listen to Music
Your favorite tunes can be one your best tools in the fight to stay relaxed. Throw on those earbuds and take a break from the world. Choose things that are uplifting and calming for the best effect.
5. Tense and Release
Another great way to relax is to do a tension and release exercise. This one is simple and can be done literally anywhere! All you do is to tense up your muscles, one section at a time, and then release them. Start with your head and face, pull those muscles in as tight as they’ll hold for a count of three, then release. Now move on to your shoulders, drawing them up as tight as you possibly can. Keep going down your body until you reach your toes. It’s really amazing how much this one helps!
6. Focus on the Process
Rather than focusing on if you’re going to win or not, which is something that is in many ways out of your control, focus on the things that you can control. You can control how much you practice. You can control how attentive you are during practice. You can control whether you work on your moves independently, or if you train at home. Let go of trying to win and get your mind back onto getting your fencing as great as it can be.
You’ll immediately brighten your mood and the mood of those around you! It’s OK for it to be a bit fake at first, but once you start smiling and laughing, it’ll feel completely natural! This even works right as competition is starting, where you can do it under your mask as a marvelous “secret weapon.”
We all want to feel good about ourselves and to go into competition in the best mindset possible. Taking charge of your relaxation is a great way to get there!