NYU has taught me a lot and one of those things were, sports needn’t be concussion-inducing, ego inflating, and have a retirement age of 45 to be considered legit. Sometimes we overlook things such as fighting hard mano y mano, mental toughness and strategy, graceful technique, and longevity.
Fencing originated in the 14th century by both the Italians and the Germans. Marxburder of Frankfurt being the first guild opened in 1478. It was introduced to the Olympics in 1896. Since then the Olympics fell in love with the speed, grace, and display of power these athletes brought to the stage. To an observer unfamiliar it may look like nothing but stickfighting occurs but it’s a constant challenge of wit, focus, and adaptation. With three weapon types to choose from why not join the fray?
Fencing is for both the old and the young. I’ve fenced against those in their seventies at Brooklyn Bridge Fencing club and the Fencers Club in Manhattan and fought bravely against those as young as eight years of age (chuckles).
Like weightlifting, the incidence of injury for fencing is very low, such that some begin either sport from the age of 6. This sport has taught me patience, quick thinking, and how to practice like Mozart.
Fencing, like bodybuilding, requires thousands of hours of practice—whether it’s attacking a target, doing drills, time spent in the gym going over sport specific exercises such as jump squats, split deadlifts, multi-directional lunges, cable pull aparts, one arm cable rows, and explosive HIIT based cardio.
Fencing, the New and Improved HIIT
Most people do not have time to spend two hours a day on a treadmill or Stairmaster. Some find the treadmill absolutely horrid and the Stairmaster daunting or reserved for Instagram models.
Fencing provides the greatest HIIT cardio that I’ve ever experienced. Bouts are either 3 minutes or 15 minutes long, and after about two 15 minute bouts most are ready to call it quits. Whether you’re looking to break the sound barrier or take great leaps and bounds: foil, saber, or épée, you’re bound to break a sweat but look like a knight in shining armor while doing it.
Olympic Silver Medalist, Jason Rogers, says this about fencing and fitness, “Fencing is an excellent sport to improve lower body strength and speed, as well as hand-eye coordination. Fencing also develops agility and flexibility and is probably most similar to many of the martial arts in terms of the collection of skills it requires.”
Fencing and Coaching
I was taught under the guidance of Lauren Wunderlich and Kornel Udvarheyli of NYU Fencing and Fencers Club. My sports trainer in the rx room was Nikki Webb. Ever since being teased as the “fencing teams trainer” during a competition, I never thought that coaching such a sport was as difficult for the athlete as it was for the coach.
Learning to become a coach myself with my clients my respect for Conscious Coaching by Brett Bartholomew and my teachers goes beyond the realm of sport and has taught me to shape my mind to be physically active for the remainder of my life—and for that, I’m ever grateful.
As I began bodybuilding the same teachings of pre-hab, rehab, strengthening, and technique came back over and over during every session or every competition. Funny enough, my posing coach IFBB Pro Marie Allegro fenced for St. John’s University and it’s what inspired me to write this article. I hope this has piqued your interest in one of the greatest sports to grace the world stage.
It’s Your Move, Allez!
As the Olympics draws near in 2020 Tokyo, take a gander at the fencing bouts. There may be fencing clinics and instruction open to all ages in your area.
Unlike spending hours in the gym, talking and wasting time, talking to your opponent after a bout in order to improve things such as technique, tempo, targeting, and footwork make a difference for the better. Show me your fancy footwork as you light it up this summer!
Physical benefits of fencing:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
Mental benefits of fencing:
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Problem Solving