Study On The Mental Game Of Fencing

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Fencing is one of the oldest sports existing, being one of the five sports that was part of the first Olympic Games. Around 1458, fencing wasn’t a sport, but an army training, but Domenico Angelo established in 1763 the first rules and made a sport of the aristocracy.

Throughout the years it changed a lot, but the main difference is the way people look at this sport. If at the begging everything was about the fight, and defence, now is a sport where the mind games and strategies are very strong. When I started going to competitions, I saw the importance of the mindset and how it can change the output of a game, so I decided to research this process, through the next articles.

Firstly, in “Attention, Visual Perception and their Relationship to Sport Performance in Fencing” (2013), published in Journal of Human Kinetics Mona Mohamed Kamal Hijazi analyse the importance and the relationship between visual perception and attention level in a fencing bout. Perception is considered to be the first condition of attention, a mental process that is an important part in a sportive motor behaviour, but also in controlling one’s emotions during competition and practice. The study participants were 16 fencers, 8 females and 8 males, all being enrolled in Egypt Fencing. The research consisted in testing 59 statements that 7 dimensions through a descriptive method.

The results revealed that the attention test outcomes were similar between women and men, while the ones for vision perception were very different. For example, the Broad External Attentional Focus (BET) provided very good scores, which means that the fencers were able to “integrate several external variables at a time”. Another 2 test that provided high scores are NAR (Narrow Attentional Focus) and INFP (Information Processing). The INFP shows that fencers were able to process a lot of various types of information at the same time, while NAR illustrates their ability to narrow their attention when needed.

Both, the instinctive reactions, presented in Hijazi article and the emotional reactions are very important tools for a sportive. In “A Point-by-Point Analysis of Performance in a Fencing Match: Psychological Processes Associated with Winning and Losing Streaks”, published in 2014 in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Doron, J., & Gaudreau tried to revisit the serial dependency of performance during a match, the probability of winning a series of points by researching if the psychological processes are correlated with it.

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The participants of the study were 16 women elite saber fencers, the entire national team of saber of one country participating at qualification of the Beijing Olympic Games. The study noted the sequential dependency of performance by examining whether winning a point influences the likelihood of winning the subsequent point, or adjacent time points are more strongly associated with each other compared with distal time points. The researchers examined whether the sequential dependency of performance fluctuates with the passage of time during a match. Apparently, athletes are more prone to coasting after winning a point earlier in a match. As a match progresses, coasting tendencies might slowly dissipate.

Therefore, each point would be more intensively battled as the outcome of the match become more proximal. The results demonstrate the associations between psychological processes and performance. Task-oriented coping, subsequent perceived control and negative affect experienced between points were predicted by the prior performance. But, none of the three predicted performance in the next point of a match. Also, the study illustrates that consecutive wins are distinct performance episodes during which optimal psychological processes are heightened compared with other episodes during which the athletes successively alternate winning and losing points.

While in the previous stated study Doron and Martinent focused only on the analytical data, this time they used the fencers’ memories and experiences, in order to improve understanding of the overall experience of athletes during competitive events. “Appraisal, coping, emotion, and performance during elite fencing matches” (2016), published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports focused specifically on threat appraisals (i.e., the possibility of losses or harms in the future) and challenge appraisals (i.e., evaluation of future gains). The participants were 9 elite foil fencers (8 male and 1 female), aged between 21 and 33, representing different national foil teams in the qualification phase of the Rio Olympic Game. The method was to retrospectively ask participants to recall their psychological states after each point during a fencing match in that competition.

Mainly, the study aimed to determine the relationship between cognitive appraisal, coping, emotion and objective performance within a match, during real high-level competition. Firstly, the results provide a positive relationship between challenge appraisal, task-oriented coping, positive emotions, and performance, as well as for threat appraisal, disengagement-oriented coping and negative emotions. Instead, challenge appraisal, disengagement-oriented coping and negative emotions were negatively correlated, as were threat appraisal, task-oriented coping, and performance. This study also aimed to establish whether the relationship between appraisal and objective performance was mediated by emotion and coping.

The results showed that disengagement-oriented managing mediates the link between threat and performance, whereas task-oriented coping and positive emotions mediated the relationship between challenge and performance. These results provided a deeper understanding of the overall sequence of the constructs central to the CMRT (cognitive-motivational-relational theory) of emotion and their links with performance over the course of an international fencing match.

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