Ready for Nationals ... ?

Hello WFA Fencers & Family,

I’m enjoying the awesomness that is an Alaskan Summer and looking forward to a week of temperatures in the high 70’s. As competitive fencers know, competition and preparation is a year-round endeavor; we often miss the beauty of summer in our quest to excel at our chosen sport. Summer Nationals is the culminating event for many of us, the crowning event of the season. This event has set records in the fencing world year-after-year. We can routinely boast the largest tournament in the world. It’s an exciting event for any fencer who has put in the work to qualify.

Many parents and fencers have asked me over the years, is my kid ready to compete at Summer Nationals or really any larger event? This is a difficult question for any coach to answer here are a few questions to consider as you or your student prepares for the next season: 1) Are you or your fencer passionate about fencing, 2) Do they look forward to fencing at local competitions, 3) Are they willing to put in the time to train.

Passion drives self-motivation. By now, as either a fencer or a parent, you have come to realize how complex this sport is. Fencers have to want it. I don’t mean they have to want to be the next Mariel Zagunis or Cody Mattern, but they do need to show you as the parent and themselves that their excitement for the sport. Any elite fencer has had to face the times when they have lost the fire for fencing, those who figure out why they love the sport, can drive themselves to realizing their potential. Fencing without passion, isn’t fun and it doesn’t lead to success. It leads to burnout. So ask why they LOVE fencing.

When you or your fencer is faced with a competition are the, inevitable, nerves ones of dread or pure joyful excitement? These may be extremes of the proverbial scale, but oddly accurate in description. A fencer who dreads going to a local tournament will likely find the larger events down right terrifying. National or regional events can have as many as 50+ strips with thousands of fencers, coaches, parents, supporters moving from one quad to another. Even a small North American Circuit (NAC) events have a couple thousand registrations. The passion for fencing should be directed into positive energy, the nervous energy that we all face before an event can fuel success at the event, but only coupled with positively directed passion. A fencer who dreads a local tournament is not ready to face the excitement of a larger event.

Finally, the drive/passion has to be focused into the work of preparing for each event. Lack of preparation will create that dread I spoke of earlier. Competition is the test of our skills against a wide range of competitors. Some are better in skills, some in strategy, some are fairly new to the sport and barely can hook up on a strip. Ultimately, though, our preparation is what will drive success.  The fencer must be willing to stay focused during practice, engage fully in lessons, spend time watching videos of fencing. The adage that what you put in you will get out is never truer than when a fencer is tested in competition.

In competition, no matter how large or small, we find ourselves determining our talents and our weaknesses. Many look at each tournament as the final test to a semester of work. This is the wrong way to look at it, it is merely a test to find out how far we have come as a competitor from the last competition. It is also a truth serum of sorts to how much effort we put into our practices. It is a litmus test of our passion for the sport.

Your coach can tell you if your skills are ready for a national or regional competition, but only you can answer these questions. Truly, only you can say if you are ready.

Jacquie Parker

Upcoming Tourneys

As a reminder, the last day of regular registration is on 2 Sept!  This is a Div 1, Div 2, Sr. Team, and Cadet.

Here is the link for Bladefest (Div 2 and Vet) and the RJCC in Portland.  These are on  This is the weekend of 19-21 Sept. (Bladefest) (RJCC)

If you need to register for your US Fencing membership, that is also do. 


Life Lessons Through Fencing

People always ask me what I do.  I try and encapsulate it in a succinct sentence:  I teach life lessons through fencing.  I understand that not every student will be an Olympian, but I do know I can teach them skills that can last a life time.

As an example, the other day I had a simple drill that develops courage and shows you that things are typically bigger in our head then they are in real life.  My student was in a sit up position and then I dropped a light medicine ball (5 lbs) while she are tightening her abs.  Even though the ball was only about a foot above her abs, she had an overcoming moment during that drill.  It was the anticipation and worry in her head that she had to overcome.  For whatever reason she had a stress reaction and stared to get teary eyed which surprised me.  She is usually very happy go lucky and will joke about her abs of steel.  I asked her if she wanted to stop and she just replied, "no, let's finish this." 

After she overcame this obstacle she need a moment.  I asked her if she was alright and if she wanted to stop, but she said, "No."  After she recovered her composure, she actually had her best lesson I've ever given her.  We've been perfecting her fleche attack, but there was always something that held her back.  When we started the fencing portion of the lesson, it was like the regulator was turned off and she just let things happen.  It really took me by surprise!  During a lesson, I will raise the level of an action to make it more challenging as a person gets better in a skill.  I slowly raise it up as a person gets better.  In the course of about a minute, I had to raise the level four times for her!  That was incredible!  She even broke a weapon!  She never does that!

Afterwards in our debrief of the lesson, I asked her what happened and she said, "I don't know, but I don't want to go through that again."  I explained to her that she should really go home and journal about it that night and really explore what happened so she could learn from it.  I also told her that she needed to keep the broken blade as an anchor so she could remember this life lesson.

She had a break through.  When I saw her the next day, I confirmed that she completed the task.  I didn't need to know what happened or what she leaned; I just want to know that she recorded her life lesson.

A break through happened that night; something grew and blossomed.  She was another student who has a life lesson through fencing and she had a broken blade anchor to prove it. 


I just finished a Cirque du Soleil book call Spark by Lyn Heward.  One of the ideas that came out to me is what gets your creative juices flowing?  What is something that inspires you to push your limits to figure something out? 

When a challenge pops up, what are you doing to creatively solve it?  Steve Jobs created a windows GUI based off of display that he saw at Xerox.  The funny thing was is that Xerox mocked up windows overlapping one other physically and not through computer code, but Jobs didn't know that and that inspired him to revolutionize GUI and helped put Apple on the crowded computer company landscape.

Oz Fox is a guitarist who heard the most outlandish guitar solo that he had ever heard and painstakingly learned to play that solo.  It was only after learning the solo that he found out it was actually two guitars that were overdubbed on top of one another.

in fencing, saberists were told they were too fast and that they couldn't cross their feet; so they came up with the flunge.

In foil, Fabio Dal Zatto (ITA) showed the world what the flick could be done at a high level.  Competitors had to come up with different ways to solve this new attack.

In epee, Johan Haremberg, started bouncing and disrupted the typical timing of epeeists of his time in the late 70's and in 1980 won an Olympic Gold medal.  Competitors had to figure out new ways to combat this unorthodox style.

The spark is about coming up with something different that you think will work and how to make it work in your game.  Each person is different.  Find the spark that gets your creativity flowing.

Constantly Push for Excellence

For those of you who don't know, I read a lot (I have read about 20 books this year).  Sometimes it is actually reading and sometimes it is audio books.  Audio books are a great way to keep taking in information to keep your ideas fresh and not get stale.  If you are not green and growing,  you are ripe and rotting.

To know what type of books to read, I would recommend reading StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  I still consider it one of the top 5 books I have ever read.  The basic idea is that there are 34 different strength themes.  With the included online test, it will help identify your top five strength themes.  The best way to think of these strength themes is this is how you see the world; they are your lens.  Once you understand what your strengths are, you will know what skills you should reinforce.  

The better you can execute your skills that are shown in the book, the more impact that you can have in life.  For those of you who have the book, my personal strength themes are maximizer, futurist, input, ideation, and arranger.  This is how I see life.  What it showed me is what type of books and teaching inspires me.  I read lots of creativity books and things that help me become more efficient.  When you know what you need to strengthen, you will be more inspired and happier in life.

Bill Becker is in town!

Sr. Head Coach Bill Becker will be in town this coming up Fri!  If you are interested in lessons, please email Kevin and he can help set up times.  He is available before 5p and after 7p.

For those of you not as familiar with Bill, he has placed 2-3 people on world teams for the past five years!  I encourage you to come and take a lesson from him.

Framing Your Mindset

What is your mindset when you go into a bout?  Do you have a winning attitude?  There is the old adage, "The person who believes that they can and the person who believes they can't are both correct."  When you go into a bout you have to have to frame your mind in a positive outset.  

Many of you had heard me talk about your frame when you get on the strip.  When you get on the strip, tell yourself, "This is my strip.  I am either going to beat you or this will be the hardest bout you are going to fence all day."  Have the proper mental mindset when you approach your bout and if you do happen to lose, be a gracious loser.

Getting Ready for a Competition

I am often asked what to do before a competition to get ready.  While each person is unique in their warm up routine, here are some things that I suggest to do before a competition.

Get Rest

24-48 hours before a competition, you need to get your sleep.  I frequently hear about people who burn themselves out two nights before a competition and try and catch up the next night.  This is a challenging way to get enough sleep.  

There are enough sleep studies out there that show that we can't "catch up" on our sleep deprivation.  As an example, if you only sleep four hours two nights before a competition and think that you can sleep twelve hours the next, things don't work that way.  It is better to get some OK rest for two nights than try and cram it all into one.  The best is actually getting the amount of sleep that your body requires.


I recommend eating a healthy meal the night before and the day of competition.  Again, what is healthy depends a bit on a person's body.  A steak for one person the night before may be perfect and another it would give them indigestion.  You have to know how to fuel your body.  

Students will often ask me about carbo loading the night before (e.g. lots of pasta the night before.)  That can help some people, but with some people, they will feel heavy the next day because of carbs inherent nature of retaining water.  There are enough people though who have found this to help in their sports performance.

If I had to say what I do, I typically have a healthy meal that has about 55% carbs, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% poly or mono saturated fat.  An good choice would be a pasta dish with chicken and a salad.  A plate full of super spicy chicken wings and an extra large milkshake is not a good choice...

The day of the competition, I try and time my meals so it is about 1.5-2 hours after I finish my meal before I would be competing.  I also have snacks and water to drink while I am competing.  I am constantly grazing all day long so my energy level is roughly constant.  Competitions day can be a long time!

Warm Up

I try and get to the venue so I have about 1-1.5 hours before a tourney to get myself sufficiently ready.  This gives me enough time to go through armory and do a weapons check and get some bouting in.  

I would do whatever warm up you do, but I would do something that eventually gets your whole body moving.  A great warm up routine would be the warm ups that are done in the fitness and footwork sections on T & Th.  

While I am warming up, I am just looking at warming my body up and get my body moving and getting my point on target.  I am not looking at showing an opponent everything that I can do.  It is about getting mentally ready.  Is my movement good?  Is my point on target?  Are my fleches fluid?  These are the things that you should be working on, not beating my opponent.  That is for the strip.  You don't want to show your other competitors your whole game while you are warming up.

Also while you are warming up, only the first bout should be with a teammate if you can at all help it.  Use this warm up time like a controlled open fencing time.  Use your observation skills and take out your notes to get an idea of how a person fences.  Most competitors ignore this valuable time of gathering intel about their opponents.  

For me, when I am doing bouting, I will find a person and do two "five" touch bouts with them.  I want to get a five touch bout in my mindset.    I do two "fives" at a time because it takes time to hook up and find a person to fence on the strip.  My goal is to do a pool before I head to my competition pool.

You should also have different durations of warm up time.  You want to have your optimal time of 1-1.5 hours, but what if you only have 45 min, 30 min, or heaven forbid, 15 min?  You should have a plan of what you will do so that way you don't expend extra mental anguish figuring out what you need to do.  Know what you need to get mentally ready.

Weapons and body cords

You need to have a routine of ensuring that your weapons are ready and will pass inspection. When you come to fence at a strip, you must have at least one extra regulation weapon and extra body cord.  You can have more than that.  These extra weapon and body cord must have the appropriate inspection marks also.  Each body cord must have their inspection mark and if you are using french grips, they will be individually checked also.  Some other things to remember:

  • Make sure that the barrel is tight in epee and foil
  • Make sure that your wires are glued down in epee and foil
  • Bell guards must be smooth and no dents or holes that could catch a point
  • Spaghetti wires must be affixed to the back side of the socket
  • Spaghetti wires must go all the way to the nut where it is affixed.  No bare wire showing
  • Both screws in epee
  • Tape around the barrel and covering the tip of the blade roughly a dollars length down. (Make sure that the tip can still depress so you can score a touch!)
  • In saber, if you have a metal nut at the end of your blade where your bottom bell guard screws together, make sure that it is sufficiently covered.
  • Before you hook up your weapon on the strip, make sure that your wires are glued down, barrel is tight, and in epee, make sure that both screws are there.  If you do this before you hook up, you will save yourself a card and mopping the floor...  (check out WFA newsletter #1, coaches' corner).

Mental Preparation

I can't emphasize this enough, you have to be mentally ready.  This should start weeks before the tourney actually starts.  What actions are you working on?  What is your training schedule?  What are going to be your hard days and light days?  How are you going to stay mentally strong during a competition?  These are things you have to foresee as best as you can.

I recommend having music that you listen do when you are doing your individual warm up.  When you are away in a different city or even different country and doing your warm up, you can have this constant to help relax and get mentally prepared.  

Final thoughts

This isn't the whole list, but it is something to get you started.  These are things that you can control.  The more things that you control and you apply, the more enjoyable your tournament experience will be!  Remember the first rule of a tournament:  Have fun!