The end of the year is the time that we step back and take stock of what we’re thankful for. No matter whether you celebrate with a big meal of special New Year’s delicacies, curled up on the couch with your loved ones watching sports, heading out to run a 5K, or maybe even doing some easygoing stick fencing fun in the backyard, the theme is always the same – we look back on the year and think about what we have accomplished and who we are. For us, that means thinking about how fencing has helped us.
There are lots of reasons that we find gratitude to be essential, but chief among them is the way that gratitude helps us to be happier ourselves as well as making the people around us happier too. The end of the year puts a welcome laser focus on gratitude, encouraging us to stop and think about what makes life wonderful.
Fencing gives us lots of things to be thankful for, and this year we wanted to go deeper into how we’re grateful for the spirit of fencing. It’s more than just competition or physical activity.
Ethics in fencing
There is a wonderfully strict code of ethics in fencing, and for that we are incredibly grateful. Sportsmanship pushes us to be better as people, holding us accountable so that we can grow to our best potential.
There is no real potential for danger in fencing despite the weapons and the combat nature of the sport, and combat injuries are extremely rare. This is because of protective gear, safety rules, and the ethical heart of our sport, and that ethical heart is bolstered by our compassion for the humanity behind our opponent. Yes, we are constantly looking for new ways to attack the other person on the fencing strip, but it is never with the intent to harm them. It’s this juxtaposition that is so distinct and valuable in fencing.
The transferable nature of that ethical core is something else we appreciate deeply. When you learn to control your emotion to serve the best interest of the sport, holding back your physical reactions so as not to get called down by the fencing referee, you can more easily hold back your reaction when someone bumps into you on the subway or when your sibling frustrates you (we see this all the time in kids!).
Building a backbone of ethics in sports are things like fairness, integrity, responsibility, and respect. Fencing fosters all of these qualities, and the niche nature of our sport means that there’s a high degree of cohesion and accountability. When something of questionable ethics happens within fencing, we see it ripple across our world. Often, we find actions being taken to remedy these problems. The black card in fencing is dreaded, but it’s also a formative boundary for ethical development. The strictness of the referee system and the firm adherence to the rules is all about keeping fencers safe, but by extension it allows fencers to grow within those boundaries.
It’s difficult to move the needle, both within ourselves and in the wider world. Fencing gives us a concrete way to develop our ethical compass.
Resilience through fencing
You never know what the world is going to throw at you, something that we’ve definitely learned through the tumultuous last couple of years. There were so many times that we thought that we wouldn’t be able to make it through the hard days of lockdowns and full hospitals, but we are now privileged to stand tall in the face of it all.
Now that we have returned to regular competition, we see how resilient this sport is. As we have trudged forward through the transition back to in-person sporting events, we so often forget how truly challenging it was in those difficult few months. The Olympics played out this summer, with epic fencing battles that saw new champions crowned and old guard fencers return to the strip for victory, but the reality is that the 2020 Olympics were very close to being canceled.
Part of our survival depends on our ability to think in the moment and not to become overwhelmed with the challenges of the past. However, it’s good for us to stop and reflect on the difficulties that we faced.
Some fencing clubs around the United States closed permanently due to the pandemic. None of us could have imagined the way that fencing would shrink so drastically so quickly, and the losses are real. We’re thankful for the way that fencing rebounded in the last six months. It’s a new start, and we are getting there slowly, but one thing is certain – the fencing community is highly resilient.
Joy as the core of fencing
The bright center of the fencing universe is the joy that we get from the sport. It’s undeniable, and it’s infectious.
Walk into any fencing club and watch the youngest fencers as they work out on the strip. Those Y8 and Y10 young people are bouncing out of their shoes to get the chance to go against their opponent. Even the humble act of picking up a fencing sword feels magical. There’s an empowerment and excitement that comes from fencing, and it’s the combination of those two that drives the sheer delight we experience.
It’s not only the little kids who have this wild happiness when fencing, but it’s adults too. Veteran fencers are just as happy to get the chance to fence an opponent as those Y8 fencers are!
On a related note, we’re thankful that fencing is a sport with a long lifespan. Did you know that there are fencing categories at Fencing Summer Nationals that go all the way to 80+?!?! That’s a huge span of time that fencers can compete at the highest level. What doesn’t change from the littlest fencers to those with the most years under the mask is the palpable sense of joy that we all get from fencing.
It’s not just during fencing lessons or competitions that we see this joy either. Practicing at home to perfect our skills or watching international fencing competitions as we revel in the accomplishment and resilience of our fencing heroes are both enriching ways that this sport makes us happy. Pride as a fencer is an aspect of this sport that we hold onto as well, and we see that beautifully displayed on social media and in community demonstrations.
We are constantly seeing the tremendous glee that we feel in fencing grow in the world. Fencing is part of the public consciousness, and just about everyone gets excited when they see a character on screen pick up a fencing sword. I know that it makes me happy to see someone don a fencing mask and holding a weapon! That’s the thing about the joy of fencing.
There is an undeniable joy within this wonderful sport of ours!
Taking it all into 2022
All of these things come together to make the spirit of fencing something really unique and marvelous. The ethics, the resilience, and the joy in fencing are all part of the heart of sport, and it’s why we all keep coming back to the club and to the competitions.
We encourage you to make goals, to talk to your coach about how to reach them, and to stay grounded in the happiness that you feel when you fence. Think about how fencing affects different parts of your life, and reflect on how this sport has shaped you, especially in the last few years. Though no one could have predicted the last two years, we most definitely know that we were all stronger and more adaptable than we ever realized we could be. Those qualities will help you to reach the goals that you want to achieve.
As always, we are incredibly grateful for the fencing community. It’s been written about often on this blog, and that’s because it is that important. The people in fencing are what make it worthwhile, and all of those highly prized qualities that we mentioned above grow out of the people in this sport. From the referees to the coaches, the club owners to the athletes, our sport is made up of a community of people who are supportive and constantly striving to lift us higher.
2020 was a doozy. 2021 was about rebuilding. Our hope is that 2022 will be the year that we take all of the strength that we’ve learned we have to grow and become better. May this year be less about reacting and more about acting, less about chasing and more about growing. We know that wherever we decide to go with our year, fencing is going to help us get there.