Fencing During COVID

I wanted to get back to my habit of writing about fencing events, but with the COVID pandemic, all travel and sports competition was thrown into a gigantic snarl. Now much of the fencing world has resumed modified practices and competitions, so I wanted to put down my thoughts about how things have changed.

Lunging fencer. (c) Sylvain Sechet, reposted under Creative Commons license

Get Vaccinated

First off – now that there is a vaccine available to protect you against COVID-19, everyone that doesn’t have a MEDICAL contraindication should go and get vaccinated. The sooner the majority of the population has some immunity to this virus, the sooner we can get back to “normal.” I had some not insignificant side effects from the vaccine, but I’d much rather go through that again than have COVID and risk passing it to my friends and family. The only valid excuse for not getting the vaccine at this point is if your doctor has advised you not to.

Challenges of Practice

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Once facilities were allowed to open and conduct athletic activities, I was back in the club. The number of people at practice went down, as many had decided to continue to isolate. That is fine and I figured that as an essential worker, I was more likely to be exposed to COVID at work than I was in a gym with two or three other people, all masked.

It did take some time to figure out how to workout with a mask on. Mainly I had to find one that didn’t suck into my nose and mouth when I breathed more heavily. This is one style I have been using successfully. The other challenge was that I had been so busy at work that I was dreadfully out of shape with my cardio and fencing muscles. Even once I had returned to practice, I often didn’t make it every week, so I’m afraid the practice that I did get wasn’t terribly effective.

Competitions

I don’t remember exactly when the first competitions returned in the fencing world. These weren’t on my radar as I was terribly busy with work and hadn’t been practicing consistently. At least a few local/regional events were held this spring though, while the FIE tried to hold international competitions to finish Olympic qualification.

The first event I competed in was in July in Philadelphia and was one of US Fencing’s North American Cup events. The July event has traditionally been called Summer Nationals, so this event both was and wasn’t that. I competed in individual Vet-40 and Team Women’s Sabre events. But the “National Championship” only applied to the team event and not the individual one. That has been set for August in Atlanta.

What Have We Learned?

As the pandemic continues and measures to prevent spread of the virus are still changing, what have we learned?

  • I’m happier when I can fence regularly.
  • Sometimes we need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances.
  • It’s really hard to plan a national event that will make everyone happy.
  • You should get vaccinated.
  • Go get vaccinated now.
  • You don’t want COVID – get the vaccine!

What have your experiences been in fencing as the pandemic has progressed? How have you adapted? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my fencing posts here.

A Newbie Guide to Fencing (Part 3 – Practicing on Your Own)

I decided to change up this series of posts a bit since no one is having any fencing tournaments now with the coronavirus outbreak. There are a lot of coaches and clubs providing online fencing classes. If you aren’t up for a full class, read on for my thoughts on what else you can be doing to work on your fencing, even when you can’t attend a normal practice.

You can find Part 1 and Part 2 of this guide here:

One problem with trying to do a class at home is that not everyone has a good place for this. Challenges include unsuitable flooring, obstacles (furniture, pets, ceilings, etc.), unreliable internet, or noise concerns with neighbors. Other factors that may be keeping you from practice could include schedule constraints, low motivation, or illness (wash your hands, everyone!).

Many people are constructing creative fencing dummies to practice attack skills. You can also purchase targets from vendors online. However, if there is any single thing that will be most important to maintaining or improving your fencing during this inadvertent off-season, it will be to practice your footwork. Even if you can’t do anything else, keep those leg muscles active.

Here are some further thoughts on how to do some basic footwork practice and stay in fencing shape while stuck at home:

  • Use the best flooring you have. If you’re worried about a lack of cushioning or a slippery surface, go more slowly with your footwork to avoid injury.
  • Put your fencing socks and shoes on for this practice. I tried without once, and it made my plantar fascia hurt.
  • Even if you only have a small space available, that will be enough to stand on guard, take a couple advances and retreats, and hold a lunge.
  • Start simple. Stand on guard. Bend your knees.
  • Use a mirror if you have one around. Check your form.
  • Do a simple drill of two advances, one retreat. Repeat. Do the opposite – two retreats, one advance. Adjust as necessary to stay in your floor space. Set a timer. Go for 30 seconds and then stand up and relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this 30/30 routine several times. The exact number of times will depend on your current fitness.
  • Now do that same drill but vary the speed of the steps. One slow advance, one fast advance, one quick retreat. Or you could do one fast advance, one longer slow advance, and then a quick retreat. You can vary both the speed and the length of each part.
  • If you want to work on lunges, start by just holding a lunge. Time yourself. See how long it takes until your legs fatigue.
  • Add lunges to the simple footwork drills. Two advances, then lunge, then two retreats. Or one advance, lunge, two retreats, then lunge again! Whatever fits in your space. Don’t work on speed if your flooring isn’t great or you are feeling out of shape. Work on keeping your knees bent, staying balanced, and moving smoothly.
  • You can make any of these exercises a set of 20 or 30 seconds with rest intervals in between.
  • Don’t do too much on your first day or two if you haven’t been doing anything.
  • Stretch afterwards. One of my friends offers some stretching videos on her You Tube channel here.
  • Stay active in general. Go for a walk or a run outside. Do you live in an apartment building with stairs that are rarely used? Go run up and down them.
  • Try some yoga. There are plenty of online videos. I have heard good things about this one.

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. And follow my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

Read more of my posts on fencing here.

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