I often reflect on how my fencing development might have been different. Usually the bulk of this attention has been devoted to my fencing in high school: I wonder what might have been if I had been thrust into a competitive environment as a cadet or junior, how much better I would have been when I reached University. In a sense, I like to imagine that I would have been considerably better had I had that opportunity.
Following the Leon Paul Cup the other week, I was again reflecting on my development as a fencer. But this time, it came out in a different light.
My competitive focus this season is focused on two tournaments — both of which are satellite world cups. They are, quite simply, the two best competitions I have access to given my skill level and geographic location. Better competition would require me to meet a standard or to spend money I do not have.
My focus, in other words, is on the highest standard available to me. Other events I might enter — British domestic tournaments, for the most part — are not part of the equation. They are just another training opportunity, at most. Those results don’t really matter to me, so long as they lead to better ones at the events I do consider to be important.
It occurs to me that it was not always this way. Most of my fencing development occurred during university. I did not train to be competitive beforehand — I just fenced for fun, at practice, and would compete once or twice a year. During university, my focus was not the best events I could attend. I did not attend the CSC events or nationals until the end of university. I did not attend a real open for several years.
Instead, I concentrated on the university-level events: The Ontario Challenge Circuit and Ontario University championships. The only time I would step outside of that comfort zone was for the provincial championships.
This served to limit me as a fencer — moreso than the fact that as one of two teenage fencers in Kingston, there was nothing to push me towards appropriate competitive activities. After my first year of university (in which adapting to the level there was more than enough challenge), I was perfectly capable of not embarrassing myself at a national level had I pushed myself to fence there.
After graduation, I started to attend tournaments at that level but stopped training — time at practice was spent coaching, not fencing. Little bouting, fewer lessons, and even less footwork. One’s fencing cannot improve without practice, and my only practice — competition — happened far too infrequently.
So this marks the first time that my competitive focus is aimed high while I practice at the same time. Though I am certainly past the peak of my potential, I am quite curious as to how this focus on a higher level of competition will impact my fencing — hopefully the results will be positive. In the past, when training, I have been able to fence to the level I would expect of myself.
Hopefully this will hold true when expecting more.