Turning Hubris & Doubt into Confidence & Humility: Balancing the Paradox in Fencing


Fencing requires you to be confident in that you have to believe you can succeed at everything you try to do.

If you don’t believe you will win, you won’t.

When you let doubt into your mind when you are trying to fence, it creates hesitation. Hesitation gives your opponent openings and keeps you from being able to take advantage of your opponent’s missteps.

You have to be confident in the preparation you have put into your fencing. You have to believe that you will be ready to respond to whatever your opponent is trying to do. You have to believe that you will be able to change your strategy when it needs to be changed. You have to believe that when you explode with your flesch attack, you will hit the target.

This can be a dangerous road to start traveling down. You don’t want to end up being that cocky kid at your club that thinks he is God’s fencing gift to humanity. First of all everyone hates that kid. Secondly, being over confident can blind you to your faults and make it that much harder to actually improve. Letting yourself become arrogant makes it harder to focus on the important details in the fencing and harder to make yourself put the necessary effort into bouts with people you think you are better than. As a result you will frequently lose to those same people.

Trying to balance the necessary amount of confidence and humility can be incredibly challenging. Having both would require you to look at yourself from two very different perspectives at the same time right?

Internalizing this basic truth in the sport has been working for me so far:

Anyone can beat anyone else in this sport.

Again, anyone can beat anyone else in this sport.

It’s part of what makes our sport and any sport so exciting. You can never be certain who will win in any given matchup on any given day. There have been some pretty crazy upsets in the history of sports. It’s this principle that made the Miracle on Ice possible and allowed a Hobbit to destroy the One Ring of Power and obliterate the manifestation of absolute evil in Middle Earth…. (alas I digress)

There are just so many variables that determine the outcome of each touch in a fencing bout and each of those touches influence each other according to more variables, affecting the outcome of the bout. How often do the best in our sport actually go all the way in a tournament? Former Olympic champions frequently lose early in the competition. In fact this tends to happen more often than the times when they win the whole thing.

Understand that the 50 year old lady at your club actually can beat you. It is definitively in the realm of possibility and you are deceiving yourself if you think otherwise. If you are not careful, you can and often will lose to fencers you are “better” than. Come to terms with this fact and internalize it. This should help you realize the humility necessary to counter-balance confidence.

But the inverse is also true. You can beat any fencer you come up against, no matter what name is on the back of the jacket. It is definitively in the realm of possibility. Remember that no matter how small it is, you always have a chance to come away with the W. But you also need to recognize that it is just that, a chance. You have to pour everything you have in terms of effort and focus to be ready to take advantage of that chance when it arises. Internalizing the notion that there is always a chance to come away with the victory can help you build the confidence you need to take advantage of that chance.

Click here to like Jonathan’s Facebook Page , Jonathan Yergler (athlete), and here to follow his Twitter handle @yerglerj.


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