The Nature of Fencing Tournaments
By Nick Evangelista
Whenever I stage a fencing tournament for my students, I always hope that they will see these events, not as a proving ground, but as a learning ground. To me, there is no reason for such events beyond expanding our understanding of fencing, of ourselves, and of others. You fence to dominate others? You fence for glory? Winning medals and trophies is transitory, simply marking moments in time. Learning, however, takes us through our days, and hopefully enriches our lives. Having fenced for almost fifty years, I can say that I have fenced, not to be a champion—although I have had champion moments—but to be the best fencer I could be. This has made me, I hope, a better fencer, a better teacher, and, just maybe, a better me. It is no wonder fencing has been described, quite rightly, as a life skill. Just the same, this concept of enrichment doesn’t always come to pass among fencers. I have met a number of fencing champions and fencing masters over the years who were, simply put, at best, egos with arms and legs, at worst, assholes. They obviously opted for another destination than the one I chose for myself. As for medals, I display mine at the farthest end of my fencing room, away from the action. They aren’t meant to impress anyone. I feel sorry for those who get fixated on winning and losing and the artifacts of said results, because this makes them blind to the real value of fencing. I’m not saying that winning is in any way bad. I do believe we should always strive to do our best in any situation; but, if winning is sometimes not an option, not winning can teach us lessons for improvement that winning obscures. Truly, it is how we handle these moments that defines us as individuals. But, beyond this, underscoring all else, it is the simple act of doing that counts most. In a world teeming with fantasy and inertia, doing, having done, becomes the true testament of our being. This is what my tournaments are all about. This is what fencing should be all about. And this is what life really is all about.