What is it that gives fencers such an amazing edge? What’s the special thing that creates that transformation in the attitudes and ability to succeed, not only on the strip but outside in life?
The answer is self-regulation.
What is self-regulation?
The ability to control your actions is the heart of self-regulation. It’s getting out of bed on time, cleaning your house, finishing that homework assignment, etc. These are all skills that parents know are essential to creating a good life. You want your child to learn to initiate positive things in their life, and then to have the focus and discipline to keep going with those activities once they’ve gotten started.
We’ve all struggled with our children as we tried to get them to clean their room, to get their schoolwork done, or to get up in the morning. While joining a fencing club isn’t going to magically get your child to start doing all of those things, what it will do is to teach your child that they do have more control over themselves than they realized. Most children have to learn to control themselves, they have to be taught to do it. This isn’t just a skill that you’re born with – it’s one that most people have to work at.
Fencing is a fantastic way to learn it.
Learning to control our impulses is no small thing. Why get up and do something when it’s easier to sit on your couch and play a video game? If children are never exposed to things that challenge them and push them to see the rewards of doing the right thing, then they’re never going to have any reason to try. Fencing offers a beautiful way to teach children how to push out of their comfort zone and do more than they realized they could.
Wholly unlike most of what your child has likely experienced before, fencing challenges them to get far outside of their comfort zone. In order to be successful in fencing, there’s a great deal of self-regulation that you must learn in order to simply master the basics. In fencing we stand differently, walk differently, hold our hands differently, and think differently. Basic skills take practice to learn, and that practice requires a self-discipline that’s genuinely formative.
Self-regulation is a skill that transfers
Signing your child up for fencing lessons has nothing to do with their ability to win an Olympic gold medal. It has nothing to do with their winning a match, or filling out their extra-curricular section on that college application. Fencing teaches kids how to force themselves to practice for an hour. It forces them to learn how to stand in a stance when they’re too tired to. They have to wear equipment that doesn’t always feel comfortable. They learn that life doesn’t always have to be easy, and that when you push yourself outside of that easiness, you grow and it feels pretty fantastic.
A ten-year-old who can practice for and compete in a fencing tournament grows into a eighteen year old who can study consistently for the SAT.
The bigger picture of fencing has everything to do with life when you aren’t holding a sword. We cannot say it enough – this is a process that has very, very little to do with holding a sword. Fencers must learn to control their bodies, their thoughts, and their emotions. Once a fencer learns to regulate those three things through the structured world of the fencing club, they can then take those skills far out into the world. Literally every place that you can imagine, the lessons learned on the fencing strip can apply. Whether it’s pursuing a new job, improving interpersonal relationships, or going after an academic pursuit, self-regulation is an integral piece of the puzzle.
Talk to anyone who has become a serious about fencing and they’ll tell you that what made the most difference in their lives from fencing has something to do with self-regulation. The might have learned to regulate their fear in challenging situations, or to push themselves further physically than they knew was possible. Whatever the lesson, you can bet that it will have something to do with their ability to control their bodies or minds.
Children need to learn self-regulation
There’s no way to get around the importance of kids learning to self-regulate! This is just a critical thing for children to master. Unfortunately, it’s one that seems to be little emphasized for kids. That’s probably got something to do with how difficult it can be to teach. How do you even approach the whole thing? The answer is with an activity like fencing.
One issue that seems to be everywhere today is a problem with kids and attention. It seems like kid can’t stay focused as well as we’d like them to! That lack of focus has a great deal to do with kids not being able to self-regulate. The more that a child is able to harness their own attention and control it, the less they’ll have attention problems in school and at home.
What’s unique about fencing, even apart from other sports that promote self-regulation, is that it engages the body and mind so completely. We say it over and over, fencing is like a physical chess match. That means that when kids practice fencing, they’re learning to regulate their own body and their own mind. It’s a revelation for them to learn to be in control of what they’re thinking. It’s empowering! Self-regulation is a skill that helps kids to feel good about how they can handle their own lives. It fosters an independence that’s marvelous for kids to experience.
Parents know that kids need to have the chance to strike out on their own and to take care of themselves. Learning to self-regulate through fencing is a powerful way to give them an essential tool to help them succeed in all aspects of their lives.