2016 BETTER FENCER WRAP UP
by Jason Rogers
Despite the...ahem...ups and downs of this year, 2016 will always be special in my book. It was the year I founded betterfencer.com and decided to channel my love of fencing into the somewhat daunting project of writing my forthcoming book, Light It Up.
HOW AND WHY WAS BETTERFENCER.COM CREATED?
After retiring from fencing in 2009, I took a total break from the sport that I had poured my heart and soul into for more than half of my life. Those who know me will tell you that I don’t do much at half speed, and so, rather than continuing to fence non-competitively, I decided to shift one hundred percent of my focus into figuring out what would come next in my life. For those who are curious, I chronicled some of the challenges that I faced during this transition in the article, "The Closing Ceremonies: Life after Fencing in the Olympics," on Fencing.net.
Looking back I can see that, while both difficult and confusing, this complete break was very good for me. After 17 years of international travel and stressful competition, I needed time to repair myself physically and emotionally. My left knee required a respite from constant pounding on gym floors around the world. My mind needed a new shiny object to obsess over after focussing almost exclusively on fencing for nearly two decades.
Eventually, I found that new focus in the form of a work fellowship with WPP and set off to immerse myself in the world of marketing and advertising. Over the last 5 years, that journey has traversed two continents and 5 different jobs, each adding another arrow to my proverbial quiver of skills. Throughout that journey, fencing felt like a faraway dream that I had to struggle to remember clearly. Of course, there were many times when I was asked and would talk about my fencing career and the Olympics, but those experiences felt compartmentalized somewhere in my distant past. My brain said, “That was then. This is now.”
Last Christmas, my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I spent several weeks in my hometown (Los Angeles) visiting friends and family and taking a much needed break from the bleak London winter. I really wanted her to meet my longtime coach and mentor, Daniel Costin, and to see the salle, Avant Garde Fencing, where I had spent so much of my time. Something inexplicable happened during that visit. I wanted to fence again. It was like a magnet pulling me back to the sport. Daniel encouraged me to follow that instinct, found some old equipment, and before I knew it, I was running up and down the strip with a phalanx of teenagers!
Fencing for the first time after almost six years was a little like getting on the proverbial bike after a long absence. It was immediately clear, however, that my bicycle was no longer a sparkling Schwinn. I would say that it was more like a rusty, yet serviceable, piece of junk from the backyard woodshed. My body had also changed. Since retiring, I lost nearly 30 pounds of muscle (from 192 lbs to 165 lbs), so, as you might imagine, my once explosive speed felt more like a fizzling firecracker. I was delighted to have the opportunity to fence Michael Costin, Daniel’s son, a “youngster” whose birth I clearly remember. He now stands two inches taller than I and is a fencing force to be reckoned with.
But the most important thing was that it felt fun, and I returned to London with a spring in my step and with an excitement that I hadn’t felt in some time. Perhaps it was also because of the buzz of the 2016 Olympics in the air, but it didn’t feel like this reconnection was a passing thing. I decided that I wanted to fence again and got in touch with an old fencing acquaintance, Ian Williams, who now runs Camden Fencing Club in London. I started fencing about once a week and soon found myself thinking about fencing often. I remembered how much I loved being completely inside the game and how satisfying it was to achieve even a tiny marginal gain to improve my performance.
Simultaneously, I had also been looking for an outlet to improve my writing skills, and one day at practice the blindingly obvious hit me, “Why don’t I write about fencing?” It’s reductive to say “And Betterfencer.com was born,” however that’s more or less the genesis of this project.
HOW ARE WE DOING?
Betterfencer.com published its first article on August 12, 2016, just in time for an Olympics that riveted US Fencing spectators. That article about staying focused in matches remains one of our top performing articles. One of our contributors, Geoffrey Loss, followed that up with a great analysis of Daryl Homer’s unbelievable final touch to reach the Men’s Sabre Individual Olympic Final and secure a Silver Medal.
To date, the most read article is our in-depth piece on the ever-important topic of injury prevention in fencing which is especially poignant for me, as I am currently recovering from surgery on an old fencing injury to my toe. We have also created exclusive content for newsletter subscribers such as an Injury Prevention Workbook (available below), which is based on extensive interviews with Jeremy Summers, Director of Sports Medicine for USA Fencing.
Some of our other well received articles include:
- WHY FENCING FOOTWORK IS LIKE A CAR CHASE WITH MIKE TYSON
- WHY RANDOMNESS ROCKS IN FENCING LESSONS
- TURNING LAZINESS INTO FOCUS: FIND THE ONE THING THAT MATTERS TO YOUR FENCING PRACTICE
- THE SMART WAY TO BALANCE FENCING AND LIFE
- GUT INSTINCT - SADA JACOBSON ON INTUITION AND FENCING
I’m proud to report that, in only 5 months, our newsletter has grown to over 1,000 subscribers from around the world. We also published a free ebook, The Top 10 Mistakes Every Fencer Should Avoid, which has been downloaded over 750 times.
We also introduced our resources page where we capture some of our favorite books for the curious fencing mind.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
While I’m am very pleased with how the project has taken off, my team and I are ravenous for your feedback. We hope what we write about is interesting and useful, but want to make sure that it is relevant and helpful to all of you. We would love to hear from you about what you liked, didn’t like and, most importantly, what you want to see more of from us.
Please drop me a line or use the contact form below
The big focus of next year is Light It Up, my book, which we are aiming to publish in first half of 2017. Based on extensive interviews with Olympic and National champions, coaches, parents and even fencing novices, this book will be packed full with actionable advice and thoughtful insights which also translate into everyday life.
We will also be looking into diversifying our content through other media such as video and (hopefully) audio. Do you have an opinion about what you’d like to see? Like I said, we’d love to hear from you!
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and looking forward to a phenomenal 2017!
*Photo by Jamie Drew