Wednesday, December 14, 2005


There are 3 secrets to being a great sword fighter...

Yes that is correct. People still sword fight. It is called fencing and it is an Olympic sport. It has been an Olympic sport since the first modern Olympics.

I have been fencing since 1991 and have just recently earned my "A" rating in epee. It took me a long time, longer that some, to earn my "A" status. Some people have natural talent that bursts through the ranks of the beginning fencers and they become rated very quickly. That was not the case for me. I went from 1991 to 2002 without being a rated fencer. I was compative for only about five of the years in that time frame.

Some people get rated in their weapon (foil, epee, saber) within their first year of fencing. Not me. I was young and inexperieced. After learning the hard way I found out that experience counts more than speed and technique in fencing.

The three secrets that I have discovered for myself are the following:

1. Training:
You need to train to be good. Fencing requires specialized movements that people don't normally perform on a day to day basis. There are muscles used in fencing that are not used for anything else. You will feel where these muscles are once you start. Training those special muscle groups will help you to be a better sword fighter (fencer).

I would suggest a minimum of training twice per week for 2 hours at a time if you would like to become competitive within your first year of fencing. If you want to step it up, and you have the extra time, go for 4 times per weeks at 2 hours each.

If you are only training 2 times per week you will also need to add some additional short home training exercises that I will review in later articles.

2. Finding the Right Coach:
You need to find a coach with a track record of being competitive. Nothing beats experience. Coaches that remain competitive will know how to keep you up to date on the latest strategies and footwork. You also need to find a coach that helps you to understand the entire sport, including armory (so you can fix your own stuff in a pinch) and etiquette (so you don't act like a newbie).

3. Have Fun!
I've seen plenty of fencers that have fun, and some that don't. If you are not having a blast you shouldn't be fencing. I continue fencing because it is the most fun activity for me. I would rather go to a fencing tournament than go to Disneyland!

Fencing tournaments are full of interesting people, and full of competitive drama! I try to keep it low key, but when I win I can't help having a huge grin.

When I lose, I do my best to learn from my mistakes and understand the sequence of events that led up to my loss. There are so many factors that affect the outcome of the tournament.

I also enjoy seeing my fellow fencers become better! I discuss with my team mates and opponents the strategies that I was using, and ask about what worked for them. On the most part fencers are very open about how they win, because they want to learn how to be better too.

If you want to learn how to sword fight (Olympic Style) go to the USFA website HERE and find a fencing club near you.

Josh Butler has been an epee fencer since 2002, and a foil fencer since 1991. Josh fences at The Desert Fencing Academy in Palm Desert, California with Head Coach Leslie Taft.

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