Today I returned from Jordan after spending ten days there fencing and competing in the Asian Championship Qualifier as a member of the Australian Fencing Team. I was eliminated after the second round of eliminations which placed me in the top 50% of competitors. This did allow me to qualify for the World Championships in Poland later this year, April 6 - 10th. However, I was rather unhappy with my result. I believed that I definitely should have made it one round further, which would have placed me in the top 25% of competitors.
I reflected on this and decided that in the month leading up to the Cadet (under 17) World Championships I want to improve and correct as many mechanical errors in my fencing as possible. Subsequently, I have adopted an IB mentality in approach to my training. I currently fence as a member of the Australian and New South Wales team 4 – 5 times a week at the New South Wales Fencing Centre. While it is an individual sport I still train and work with a myriad of people. These being: my fitness coach, my technical coach, and my mental coach, and my teammates. It’s a sport that I have done for the last three years and wish to continue to strive in both during and after high school.
In preparation for the upcoming competition, I want to rank in the top 32. This means that out of the top 120 athletes attending, the best 3 fencers from each country, I will have to make it out of the preliminary poule rankings and past the first three rounds. This is one of my short-term goals.
I have chosen this goal as achieving it will enable me to travel to more international competitions. This is because by doing my well I will obtain a higher ranking and qualify as a member of the Australian Junior and Cadet team. I believe that this is crucial to my development as an athlete and a fencer as participating in international tournaments will provide me with a wealth of insight into how I am developing in relation to my peers and opponents on the international stage. IIt is for this reason that I want to make it to at least the top 32, preferably further, as it would be an amazing result, but also because it will allow me to fence additional competitions.
At the Asian qualifier, there was a constant live stream of the matches. This is the first time I have competed with this feature. As such, I was able to, after the tournament, watch the footage and analyze my fencing. Upon doing this I noticed a number of things about my fencing that I previously wasn’t aware of. Having done this, I have identified three glaring issues in my fencing:
1. My proprioceptor movement is weak and untrained. This manifested itself mainly in my inability to quickly recover or change direction in response to my opponent's change in speed which cost my 5 of the 15 points I lost.
2. My technical and tactical awareness has some flaws. Too often I would be too active while defending and too passive when attacking which would leave me to make rash decisions or hesitate in my fencing. This also cost me 4 points.
3. My ability to adapt to what my opponent was doing suffered because I was flustered. This what lost me the remaining 6 points.
Having identified these as areas of concern. I now intend to modify my training schedule and routine. Each issue relates to a different aspect of my sport. Issue 1 relates to my physical ability, issue 2 relates to my tactical and technical ability, and issue 3 relates to my mental stamina and discipline. This means I can designate each issue to one of my three coaches and draw on their experience and expertise to help me improve.
Since arriving back, I have contacted my fitness coach Hugh Cotman. Who has spoken with me about ways in which to not only improve my proprioceptor strength but also my agility and speed. To begin with, he has given me a series of footwork drills that I can incorporate into my warm-up that will strengthen this area of physicality.
In relation to the second issue, I have spoken with my technical coach, Antonio Signorello, who has suggested that I begin to video my bouts so that he and I can refer to them as visual aids. We believe that this will make me more aware of my problems, helping me to consciously improve my fencing, and it will provide him with a reference point as to how I am improving so he can modify the lessons we have to better address my technical issues. Following this, I contacted a photographer I know asking if I could borrow as spare iPhone tripod of his to use in the coming weeks to film my bouts. He was kind enough to lend me one. Now I will store the tripod at the training hall and continue to film me fencing my team and club mates for further analysis.
Finally, in reference to the third issue, I have spoken with my mental coach, Paul Glasson, who has provided me with a number of breathing and strategy techniques to employ at training to trial. He believes that these will help me better control and regulate my emotions and allow me to remain calmer and more focused. Initially, he wants me to:
Take 5 – 8 seconds to calm myself down between each point. In this time, he wants me to take three deep breaths to lower my heart rate and calm myself. Following this, he wants me to change the way I come into engarde, position. He believes that purposefully assuming the position using positive body language will have a positive mental impact as it will make more ready and help me move on from the last point. Finally, he believes by maintaining positive body language will hide my frustration from my opponent and prevent them from realizing I’m flustered.
I will implement these strategies for this week’s training the 5th - 9th. Following this, I will watch the videos and analyze how these strategies are impacting my fencing this weekend, the 9-10th. I believe there are very few factors that are holding me back from implementing the strategies outlined. However, time nutrition could be two factors. The additional time required to incorporate a 15-minute agility program into my warm-up could take away time from my bouting. Furthermore, after doing an agility session, there’s the risk I will be tired and hungry going into my training session. I predict this would detract from the overall productivity of the session and defeat the purpose of doing an agility session. To account for both of these, I plan to show up 30 minutes earlier to training, which will provide me with adequate time to do a 20-minute warm-up and then eat for ten minutes. My mother has kindly agreed to pick me up and make food prior to doing so which will ensure I consistently arrive early and always have food.
In this opening reflection I have focused around the catalyst that has caused me to reflect on what I am currently doing, the goal I wish to achieve, and the processes I intend to implement to achieve this goal. I believe in doing this I have covered the investigative and preparatory stages of my reflection in addition to the following learning outcomes:
LO1. - Throughout this reflection, I believe that, through video analysis, I have identified my own areas for development and growth in order to improve my and build upon my pre-existing technical and physical strengths.
LO2 - Having reflected on the challenges or possible problem that could arise in trying to implement these solutions, and developing solutions in advance, I have demonstrated the ideals behind LO2.
LO5. - In recognizing the strength in working with a variety of coaches and people, placing specific importance on resorting to working with others to best utilize their areas of expertise, I believe I have demonstrated the ideals behind LO5.
It has been two weeks and three days since my last activity reflection. In that time, I have incorporated all the planned strategies into my fencing routine. The agility sessions have made me notably faster. As such, to enhance their effect, I am adding a second tier to the level of difficulty. This includes three additional exercises and two modifications to existing exercises. The three additional exercises are shown below in a diagram my fitness instructor made. They are the exercises on the bottom level. For reference, the exercises on the top level are the ones I have been doing for the past two weeks. Furthermore, the modifications both add a sprint to the end of my current speed drills to work on explosive power over a short distance. I have conducted two video analysis sessions with my coach on Monday night at training. We have both identified that when I am fencing well I am in a lower position, this is because it enables a greater range of motion. In addition, my back is straight, which provides greater balance, and my hand is positioned forward rather than to the side, this prevents me from getting stuck when I parry (block the opponent's blade). Knowing this I am now able to “reset” if I am fencing badly as I know that these are reoccurring issues. Finally, taking time between each point as well as breathing has been working. However, I am still finding it difficult to stay completely calm and not rush when I am angry or frustrated. In the coming weeks, this is where I wish to direct my attention as I believe it is still my greatest weakness.
I've recently returned from the 2019 cadet fencing world championships. Despite my preparation, I wasn't able to achieve the result I wanted. I didn't fence well, mainly due to the stress I placed upon myself and the fact that I became ill prior to the competition, and finally ranking 65th. This was very disheartening as it was my last opportunity to enter this event as I will age out in the following year. While I can always work on refining my mental game I will have to do my best to accept that being incredibly sick inhibited my performance and was a very unlikely and unfavorable circumstance out of my control. As such, while I will continue to work, I have t be positive and accept what happened; being ready to move on and grow. The following months now mark the early preparation stages for myself as a junior. In these months the quantity of school work will progressively increase. My aim is to do my best to continue to training at least three sessions a week to ensure I am still semi-competitive. Below is a link to the Australian Fencing Federation website that confirms my participation in the competition.
Recently I was fortunate enough to represent Australian as a member of the open age men's foil squad at the 2019 Prince Takamodo Work Cup. The competition was positive with many positives. I was able to secure one out of 6 possible win in the preliminary pools. This doesn't sound like an exceptional result, and it isn't. However, placing things in perspective helps better evaluate the events that transpired. It was my first world cup. In addition to this, I am a first year junior who has only been fencing for 4 years. This greatly contrasts with my competitors who are on average aged between 22 - 26 and have been fencing for, normally, upwards of 10 years. Furthermore, despite only winning one bout I was competitive in all of my losses. I lost three bouts 5 3 and lost two 5 2, with only losing one 5 1. Recognising this I am confident in my ability to improve significantly and aim for better results in the future. Next time I enter a world cup I aim to maintain my baseline of one win and ideally win two or three bouts. This is a realistic goal if I am fencing well as I was in the pools. Hopefully, if I were able to accomplish this, I would qualify for the second part of the competition, the direct eliminations, and be able to test my skills there.
Baring these aspirations in mind, there are several things I need to consistently work on. This tournament has taught me that I need to actively work on being patient. The longevity of a fencing point means that less experienced fencers or fencers may too easily give and make mistakes that allow their opponents to score off them. To be more competitive I need to focus on working harder for each point and having the physical as well as mental strength to wait for the right opportunity. Furthermore, when the right opportunity presents itself I need to work on being confident enough to take it. It's important to make a distinction between this and rushing. It doesn't mean taking every opportunity possible, as many of these will be poor chances to attack. Alternatively, it means using my tactics to create or respond to good opportunities and taking them without hesitation. Currently, I am too cautious in a bout and often miss the timing by waiting too long for an opportunity. This is mainly able to be progressively worked on at training by practicing it in each bout and reflecting on each hit; critically evaluating whether what I did was at the right time or executed properly. Beyond this, I will also be starting physical sessions with one of the fitness coaches at the state center over the January break. While I would normally still be competing in Europe, my school requirements prevent me from doing so, necessitating that I instead study and prepare for my final year of schooling. This aims to ensure I have the physical means to perform better in bouts, possessing the stamina to be patient and the explosiveness to be decisive, as well as ensure I am able to return to training without being rusty.
I have, after this tournament, set myself a long-term goal that I wish to achieve. At the end of 2020 and the start of 2021, there are a seven tournaments, both junior and senior, that I wish to compete in. I want to work on the aforementioned areas for improvement so that I can enter these tournaments. At the junior level, I want to make a top 64 and the senior a top 96. This will depend on how I am able to train. While I would like to, ideally, be training five times a week, with my IB final exams on at the same time I will most likely only be training twice. As such, I will most likely do these tournaments in the 2021 - 2022 season instead, a year later. This is because I can spend the additional year training harder and more consistently. However, until my IB exams, while I am liberty to do so, I wish to train as intensely as possible, most likely doing three sessions a week plus physical work, to ensure that my development goes as planned.