You already know that physical practice is key to becoming a competent fencer. But did you know that you need to develop a strong mental game too?
Each fencer begins their journey to excellence at different points. But no matter where you start, improving your game requires developing physical and mental agility. Developing both not only hones your technique but turns you into a tactically superior fencer, and therefore a much tougher opponent.
Private fencing lessons and classes hone your physical game, but your mental game is a different story. It’s completely on you, but that’s where this article comes in: We’re going to discuss the mental skills you need to develop a masterful fencing game. These tools can help you prepare to fence, become mentally agile as you’re fencing, and learn from all your bouts so you can keep growing.
Let’s get started!
Mental Preparation for Fencing
You should always stretch before fencing — not only for its physical benefits but for its mental ones. Stretching increases oxygen circulation and reduces stress, both of which enhance your mental game by encouraging good decision-making.
While you’re stretching and suiting up, think of a few tangible and specific goals you want to accomplish while fencing. Focusing on specific changes is a much more manageable task than just trying to “fence better.” For example, you can focus on things like:
- Riposting after every parry you make
- Executing smaller disengages
- Hitting with a straight attack at least once
- Taking slow steps before attacking
If you’re still new to fencing, treat this exercise like you would building endurance: begin with modest but challenging goals — both in type and number — before moving onto the big leagues.
Visualize yourself accomplishing these goals; as you’re preparing to fence, imagine making the proper adjustments. Believe it or not, visualizing your intended outcomes actually works, as many pro-athletes can affirm. The more you picture the proper technique, the less effort it will take to execute fencing maneuvers.
Fencing With An Open Mind
Maintaining an adaptive mindset while you fence is imperative to improving in the long run.
Most fencers measure their success based on the number of points scored in a match, or if they won or lost a bout. Although a common goal is to win more often, a wiser goal is to focus on learning.
Success isn’t how many fencing bouts you won. It’s how much you’ve learned.
Having a learning mindset whether you win or lose is a fool-proof way to become a better fencer. This learning mindset involves not getting frustrated or discouraged. Instead, you choose to acknowledge any mistakes you made, figure out how to fix them, and recognize what you did well during the bout.
Win or lose, every bout is a chance to better yourself.
You can take this learning mindset to the next level by proactively identifying your weaknesses. Take the initiative to get constructive criticisms from your opponents, since they’ll often have a more objective view of your fencing technique than you do.
After you’ve finished fencing, reflect on your bouts, recognize your accomplishments, and see if you’ve achieved the goals you had set for yourself before fencing. You can also ask yourself analytical questions like:
- “How did I score my touches?”
- “What did my opponent do to score touches on me?”
- “What could I have done differently to avoid getting hit?”
- “Why didn’t action x work?”
Questioning yourself can help you create goals for your next fencing session.
Lastly, take a moment to see if you’re developing any new habits (good and bad). This could include your posture, the positioning of your en garde stance, or how you hold your blade. If you’re developing good habits, make a plan to solidify them; if bad, figure out how to replace them.
Each day you dedicate yourself to fencing, your mind and body will become sharper, faster, and more cohesive. And as we’ve learned, there are three critical things you can do to get there:
- Set goals and visualize
- Use every bout to grow
- Reflect on your fencing
And while you should certainly practice these habits when you’re fencing with an instructor, you’d be even better off doing it with other fencers, too. So don’t forget to visit Swordplay LA on Monday nights at 7:30 pm for open fencing. See you soon!