The world has been turned upside down in the last couple of months. Completely and totally upside down. The world that we all knew just doesn’t exist anymore, and to be honest we all know that it will never be the same again, at least not in the closest future. What comes back after this is all over will be different. We will look at each other differently. We’ll be closer in some ways, further apart in other ways.
The hardest part is not having any real notion of how long this will last. At first, we thought a few weeks. Now it’s clear that it will be a few months. A couple of universities are already publicly floating the idea of keeping kids off campus until 2021. Then there are states that are reopening right now. It’s all just up in the air and impossible to wrap our minds around.
We have written before about how this lockdown does not mean stopping training for a long period of time. If the lockdown was only going to go for a week or two, well that would be one thing. You could just say that you’re taking a short break, like we do at the winter holidays or after Summer Nationals. Now it is clear that the situation is going to be much longer. Here, the California governor has said that public schools will be closed through the end of the school year. That most probably will mean that most businesses will stay closed, and definitely most fencing clubs. That means that the two week break from in-club fencing is stretching out to at least another two months. That is too long.
We can look back to other world crises to know that life will go on. Though a global pandemic is new, world events that touch everyone are not. There have been huge events like this before, and life went back to a different kind of normal after. I had read that even during WWII some universities continued to operate, even in countries so deeply immersed in the war such as Russia. People were working in factories to create defense products during the day, and continued to study at universities during the night shifts so that they could be prepared to pick up where they left off after these enormous conditions.
Life has not stopped
Life has not stopped, even not temporarily. It just changed a bit now in how things are conducted.
We saw this in our recent interview with Michael Aufrichtig, head fencing coach at Columbia University. He told us about how life will continue, how universities will continue. Collegiate athletics, including fencing, will continue. Yes, some processes and procedures might be changed, but the essence will remain.
The non-training for this period will take a huge toll. Usually it takes about two to three times longer to get yourself back to the same shape after the break as you were on the break. So if you are out of training for three months now, away from online classes, count on six to nine months to get back to your previous form when you’re back. It’s possible that this will go on for longer, and you could feasibly end up losing a whole year in your form.
You will be behind. Others are training, even if you think you can stop. The fencers that you were planning to compete against at those big competitions? Many of them are participating in online classes. You can count on that. We have heard from so many fencers who are, and we are absolutely sure that top fencers and regional competitors are hard at work. You will be left behind if you do not step in now.
The key here is that it feels good! It is a feeling that life has not stopped so much when you continue your fencing training online during this time.
Online training at home is different
Some people say that online fencing training is not exactly the same as in the club. Yes! It is not the same. In fact, it’s completely and totally different. This is absolutely true.
It’s not meant to be the same though. We know that we cannot create the same environment when your coach is on a screen looking at you as when you are in the club with lots of other fencers. So there is not an attempt to do that.
Online fencing training is here to give you the best possible alternative to keep you in shape created for you by your professional coaches. The lessons are adapted to get the most out of it. They focus on different things. They place emphasis on what is possible. You cannot run partner drills in an online class. You cannot practice bouts in an online class. You can learn a whole lot about form and focus in an online class. Conditioning gets to be boosted in an online class. Fencing is a varied and wide ranging sport. We have plenty to work on, even without a bouting partner. There is growth happening in online classes!
Self-conditioning is not the same. Yes, you will keep the overall fitness by doing strength training, yoga, or cardio, but that’s not the same as when your coach has the chance to look at you under the microscope, where he or she can correct your smallest movements. The intensity of online training is much more than in real life. Our competitive fencers tell us that online training (classes and private lessons) are much more difficult and intense. You are under a magnifying glass with the coach. It is not the same of course – you will not feel the blade, its contact and its pressure, but you will be working much harder on other elements of your technique and tactics.
Stopping your training is a waste of previous work
You spent so much time, so many resources and money to get yourself this far in fencing. It’s easy to lose sight of that during this crazy time period of quarantine as we are so isolated from everything that came before now. It’s hard to remember what day it is! Let alone to have a real recollection of what life was like before.
Stay grounded in your coaches, and don’t let this temporary inconvenience get you down. If you trust your club coaches with your fencing training in the club, continue to trust them that they will be able to make a good online program. If you are not training online with your club because they are not offering online courses, then find an online program that has high recommendations and that you feel you can trust.
This is hard. There is no way around that. Most everyone who fences, unless they grew up with parents who were fencers, had to get over that initial struggle to get into the sport. There was intimidation, there were nerves about it. Then eventually it became comfortable and a point of passion.
Quitting fencing completely during this time is going to put you far back from the progress you’ve made. If you think that doing online training feels hard and like something that you can’t imagine getting over, then multiply that feeling by a hundred and you’ll get an idea of how tough it will be to go in cold after months of nothing. Even if you’ve not trained since isolation started, you should start again now! This will give you time to work your way into the training slowly and while you are still at home.
Behave like your next competition is not canceled but only postponed for a bit. Whether it is Summer Nationals that might be just moved to a later, or some other big competition like an ROC, and NAC, an SYC, or an RJCC that will come back around next fall. Keep in the mindset that there will be another competition, because you can bet there will be. This virus is affecting everything and everyone, and we are already seeing the push to reopen. When that happens, you want to be ready.
Is turning away from fencing training now really worth it after so many hard years? You do not want to find yourself thrown backwards. All of this great form and shape that you have built year after year, it is a lot to try to recover. It’s a road to nowhere. Recovering from this lost time would be difficult, and there is no need to do that to yourself. If you are a competitive fencer, you need to embrace the reality of this new training form and maximize your training and the benefits of it.
Times are not easy
We know that these times are not easy, not for a lot of people. Talk to your coach or club about classes and private lessons online if you can afford it financially in these times. If you can sustain it financially (and there might be a case when you wouldn’t), then it is an absolute must to continue. Don’t be afraid to try this new format – you will discover a lot of new things.
These times are tough. We know that. We feel that. There is so much confusion and fear, so many big feelings that kids and adults are all grappling with. We encourage you to allow fencing to be your shelter from the storm. The physical activity of fencing will help to push you forward, help you to get your mind out of COVID-19 and into the real world where you can have some effect. It has proven to be remarkable for many people that we know.
Of course if you have a financial hardship now due to the situation, talk to your club, your coach, see whether they will come with means to accommodate your training now. Everyone is in the same boat here, and we have found people to be extraordinarily accommodating during this time. It has been extraordinary to see how people try their best to lift each other in this fencing community. We can do it together!
If you show your passion and continue training like you did before, with the same passion and even pushing that passion to make it bigger, you will reap so many benefits! It is not even just about fencing. You have the chance to prove to yourself that despite the challenges you are facing, you are capable of pursuing your dream.
This is the biggest obstacle that many of us have ever faced, and now is our time to show that nothing can get us down. That’s the character that you will continue to forge in yourself. It’s this character that you will feel on the strip and off, now and years from now when you look back on this intense time in your life.