It’s that time of year again. January. The moment to set out goals for the 365 days ahead… and as every year, fail miserably? For our start into 2019 we’ve decided to look at the popular sport of making new year resolutions (and almost immediately breaking them) from a fencer’s point of view. We won’t convert this into a self-help blog (promise!), but here are some thoughts about good intentions (and how they may or may not pave the way to hell).  

New year, new me? Raise your hand if, overwhelmed by the “fresh-start” frenzy that usually comes with the fateful date of January 1st, you’ve never formulated a new year resolution that you happily threw over-board just a few hours after it was made. The first month of every year does indeed seem to be an (un)welcome reminder about the truthfulness of two very contradictory assertions. First, that hope springs eternal, and second, that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. The statistics are here to prove it: More than 50% of UK or US citizens plan to take new resolutions every year (talk about an unquenchable ambition to self-improve), but not more than a meagre 10% of these resolutions will be kept throughout the year. At this alarmingly low success rate, especially considered that most new year resolutions die within the first days of their fleeting existence, it’s probably safe to say that the devil could pave not just a road, but a highway to his dwelling place with our unkept new year resolutions alone.

If we assume that most fencers are not super humans, (we’ll make exceptions for our world class athletes posting pics on Instagram of their gym routine right after Christmas, while the rest of us are still trying to recover from food coma) but instead represent a fair reflection of the population, then the rule that “new years resolutions are like eggs: meant to be broken” should also apply to the community of the sword-fighting-aficionados. An informal study among club mates (read: chats in between training matches) seem to reveal that the most common resolutions of the average recreational fencer coincide with the default hit list of good intentions for the new year: Start a diet to burn those post-Christmas pounds. Cut down on alcohol. Don't be late. Don’t procrastinate. Buy less shoes (the last one might come from me, who is known to have a sweet spot for footwear). There might be some community-specific adaptions (“don’t skip exercise” for a fencer is more likely to become “don’t skip footwork”) as well as some weapon-specific variance (“Don’t counterattack” appears to be way more popular among Foilists than among Epeeists…), but generally speaking, when it comes to new year resolutions, fencers don’t seem to be that much different from any other individual. So they should be just as likely to fail in keeping their self-made promises… but is that really something to be upset about?

The standard new year resolutions are usually based on limits and restrictions on things you are supposed to take out of your lives (food and drink) or that you shouldn’t do (defer tasks or spend money). Knowing just how tempting the forbidden things can be (just ask Romeo and Juliet!), one would be inclined to say that considered their generally restrictive setup, it’s no wonder that most new year resolutions fail. And in all honesty (and unless you’re not having serious issues due to bad habits), would we really want a new year under the sign of cuts and don’ts? Wouldn’t it be more fitting to invest the magical feeling that comes with the idea of a fresh start into something that feels a tad more positive? Something that we add to our life instead of cutting something out? After all, most things change appearance according to how we look at them.

So I have decided that in 2019 I won’t count calories (or drinks for that matter), but only the moments spent in good company while indulging in food and the occasional glass of wine after a busy tournament. I’ll endeavour to be a bit more aware of time and deadlines. I'll try to make the maximum out of my existing shoe collection (and will cave for new babies only occasionally).  And yes, keeping up that positive mind-set I might add more footwork to my warm up routine ;) .

Will that mean that I will be able to convert these goals into reality each and every day? Probably not. But it’ll give me motivation and make me (and everybody I share my food, drinks or training sessions with) feel better while aiming to become a step closer to the person (and fencer) I’d like to be. After all, that’s what new year’s resolutions are all about, aren’t they: to become a slightly enhanced version of your self.

So, cheers to 365 364 new days to fulfil that dream by setting the bar just a tad higher than you’d think is possible… whilst keeping in mind one last essential: if you really want to change your life because you feel it’s necessary, you don’t need a specific date to do it.