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Some consider fencing an outdated sport that has become nothing more than a simple game of electric tag. Others are not as belittling and see it as a modern interpretation of an ancient sport. To me, however, fencing is much more than just a pastime; it is my model for life.
The fencing match always begins off the fencing strip. Before the match, I go over tactics and review any pertinent previous matches. My coach usually comes over and gives me some advice, but sometimes I’m on my own. By the time I get on the strip and hook up to the scoring apparatus, I have sized up my competition and noted his significant attributes, such as his height, his reputation, and his national rank. The latter information, no matter how intimidating, does not dictate what I’ll do, as such data can be quite misleading. When the director yells “Fence!”, I already know what my first actions will be.
This analytical approach to a fencing match is the same one I use when confronting a challenge outside of the strip. Before tackling it, I mentally prepare myself and plan what I’ll do. Sometimes I’ll get help and advice; other times, I’m on my own. Once I have a clear agenda and goal, I step up and take on the challenge.
The match begins, and my opponent and I immediately advance down the strip with our foils poised to strike. We both vie for control as one attacks and the other retreats and parries. Of course, fencing is not that simple; there are the complex counter-attacks and attacks-in-prep as well. Throughout the entire match I am constantly considering possible ways to control my opponent and score a touch. Even if he scores a touch, I stay focused no matter what the score is.
Likewise, I am rarely discouraged when facing obstacles. Sometimes they get the best of me, but at other times I have an edge over them. Either way, I maintain my sangfroid and never back down.
After scoring the winning touch, I remove my mask, shake hands with my opponent, and walk away victorious. Immediately, I begin reviewing the match, noting what worked, and what didn’t. If, on the other hand, I lose, I still shake hands with my adversary, thank him, and walk away. I note what tactics and strategies don’t work and change them accordingly.
In life, I do the same. An accomplishment calls for a celebration, but not arrogance; failure should be met with contemplation, but not discouragement. Thus, when faced with a similar challenge later on, I am better prepared.
Fencing is my paradigm for life. Whether I am solving a challenging math problem or applying to colleges, I am always planning, executing, and learning. My actions become more refined with each new experience, and the final step to an accomplishment is like the winning touch of a bout: not only a victory in itself, but also the first step in preparation for the next victory.
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