Over the years, I have been lucky enough to counsel some of the top fencers in the world.
I knew very little about the sport when they first came to see me, but these athletes have educated me about the world of fencing.
One fencer who was quite aware of the mental aspects of the sport described it as “chess with swords.”
I view fencing as being very much like boxing and the martial arts. To succeed as a fencer you need a number of physical and mental skills:
1. Fencers need a great sense of balance.
2. Good reflexes are essential for this sport.
3. They need a great understanding of spacing between themselves and their opponent.
4. They need to be able to recognize when they are on the offense and when they are on the defense. This can change very quickly in this game.
5. I usually encourage fencers to not pay too much attention to the draw. Many fencers get distracted by knowing that they may face a highly ranked competitor. Rather, I encourage them to go out and fence their way no matter who they face.
6. Good fencers have a variety of ways of attacking their adversaries. They need to be flexible and creative in the way they defend and attack. Being predictable can be a problem in this game.
7. Like a boxer or martial artist, fencers need to anticipate what their adversary is about to do on the strip.
8. Fencers need to know how to mentally mange the down time between matches.
9. There are some close and tough calls in this sport and sometimes the officials make mistakes. Good fencers know how to tune out the distraction of a bad call.
10. Like most individual sports, fencing requires great coaching and the relationships between the fencer, the coach and the parents in the case of the young athlete are key.
11. Fencers need to identify their brand or style of fencing. Some fencers do best when they are very aggressive. Others are more comfortable and effective as what I call counter fencers.
12. Great fencers are resilient, they know how to bounce back in a match, in a tournament, of after a loss to a fencer they feel they should beat.
13. After a match, most fencers need a little time to unwind and relax. Once they settle down, coaches and parents may want to ask these two questions: Did you enjoy it? What did you learn?
14. Many of the fencers I have worked with utilize a combination of hypnosis, self-hypnosis and meditation prior to competing, in between matches, in between points and in practice. These techniques help fencers with confidence, focus,
relaxation and resilience.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist, Author And The Founder Of StayInTheZone.com. He has appeared in many major media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America. He has developed a number of mental toughness and peak performance programs. To get them go to: http://stayinthezone.com/product-category/cd-and-dvd-programs/
Dr. Granat is available for coaching and for seminars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 888 580-ZONE.