The Fencers Impression of Fencing Coach Bjarne Höglund

Adam Gazalet 2016

Glasgow Scotland

An eye opening year

I started training at Braveheart fencing club about a year ago (January 2016). In this very year, I’ve seen more progress in my technique and understanding of fencing than in the past 4 years (9 years of fencing before coming to Glasgow).

This can be explained not only by the fact that the club is open every day of the week, but also by the quality of the coaching I received from Epeemaster Bjarne Hoglund. The lessons while being very challenging, are tailored to the fencer to improve his strongpoints while minimizing his weaknesses. As a 1.64m male (on the shorter end of the spectrum), this was very beneficial to me as more often than not, fencing coaches try and teach each of their fencers to fight like them. That doesn’t really work when there’s a big physical difference such as height in this case. This was definitely not the scenario we are looking at with Bjarne. Since I started training at Braveheart I’ve learnt of ways to deal with the disadvantages of being short and have changed the way I fence to cope with it.

If you happen to do anything wrong during the lesson (trust me, you will) Bjarne will not hesitate to point it out and provide you with a very precise explanation of what you didn’t quite get and how to fix it. This ease to pass on knowledge is something I never truly got to experience from previous coaches that I’ve had.

His ability to analyse a fencer was made very clear to me after I received some piste side coaching during one of my matches at my first Scottish competition, advice which drastically changed the outcome of the bout. This was actually what got me to start training at his club. I’m sure that if I had received the same quality of coaching for the past 9 years I would be on a much higher level than what I am today.

Another thing that was new to me when joining this club was the concept of group blade work, where two students are given an exercise and must perform it, one of them taking on the role of the coach and the other of the student. Not only is this very effective way to manage time when running a very crowded class, but it also allows the pupil who is “coaching” to understand the importance of his presentation of target and how to set up the conditions to trigger the reaction he wants.

As I’ve said previously it’s only been a year and I’ve seen a huge spike in my performance. A clear indicator of that are my recent results. My ranking in the UK has gone from 336th to 54th only within a year. In addition to that I’ve managed to reach third place in the Scottish open whereas a year before I did not pass the top 16 and last but not least, I was able to win the Merseyside open when I only managed the top 8 the previous year. I’m very eager to see what I will achieve in the remaining three years I have in Glasgow.

Giuliano Punzo 2015

Glasgow Scotland

Every little helps

I have enjoyed Master Hoeglunds lessons since 2012 although with little continuity due to a number of events. I can say Bjarne has a well defined coaching register, that reflects in an extremely effective fencing style. The movements I have added to my repertoire improved a number of actions and unlocked new ones. As a very experienced coach, Bjarne has his preferences in terms of fencing style but, as only the good coaches do, he can teach particular actions for which the students have their own preference or strengths. I have surely received several benefits from Master Hoeglunds lessons and it is my regret having missed some continuity to gain full advantage from his teaching.

 

Helga Marie Løvenskiold Kveseth 2013

Bergen Norway

The why of fencing.

I had been fencing for a couple of years in the student fencing club in Bergen when Bjarne first came there. Being in a student club with limited resources didn’t give me or anyone else any good options for coaches and I had only had a couple of lessons during my time there. When Bjarne started, this number increased drastically, along with my skills.

The thing I appreciate the most about having Bjarne as a coach, is that he approaches each fencer as an individual. He looks at everyone individually, understands their “fencing personality” and works from there. Every other coach I have had has tried to change me into one specific type of fencer, even if that doesn’t go along with my fencing style.

Another thing that really helped me become a better fencer, is that Bjarne explained why. Why I should keep my legs like this, why I should bend my arm in that situation, why. It makes it so much easier to do the right thing when I know why I’m doing it, why it is helping. No other coach has ever told me this, they just say: do it because that’s how it is.

I guess I got a bit spoiled having Bjarne as my coach; he could give me lessons that lasted over two hours, he was helping me out in competitions and giving me tips during practise. That is one of the great things about him; if you want to learn and want to get better, he will help you every step of the way. He really gets involved with his students and want to see them succeed.

I have now moved to Milan and I’m fencing in one of the best clubs in Italy. Even if the club is full of coaches with amazing results, they just cannot give me the same that Bjarne did. They lack the personal interest, the urge to see you succeed, the involvement in each fencer. And yet again they are trying to turn me into a fencer that I am not.

Thank you Bjarne, for everything, you are one of a kind.

Elena Rainero 2012

Glasgow, Scotland

Bjarne the end of my coach quest.

I started fencing in Italy when I was nine, and never stopped. I had a few coaches there and I was able to join the junior Italian team first (winning the team silver medal at the world championship) and then I remain in the Italian team until I decided to move to Scotland.

I was used to train everyday and when I first arrived in Glasgow it was a bit of a shock. The fencing club only opened twice a week, and no coach available for lessons…. Almost a nightmare for me, since taking good lessons is probably what I enjoy the most about fencing.

I then started looking for good coach in the region, and I’d been told that coach Bjarne was coming to Aberdeen (145 miles away). I thought it was a good opportunity and, even if it could seem a bit crazy, I bought a train ticket and travelled there. It was definitely worth it.

I’ve worked with quite a few different coaches before, and generally it took a while in order to adjust to a different coaching method and to start having good lessons.

With Bjarne it wasn’t like that at all. After the first few minutes, I had the impression I’ve been working with him since years. He made me start from actions that I generally do, in order to work on them, correct my mistakes and suggest a variety of new solutions (which, in all these years of fencing, I’ve never thought of before). It was a great lesson, and since then I decided I wanted to have more of them (implying a little with of travelling around Scotland). And I enjoyed every single one! As I’m sure I’ll like all the ones we’re going to have in the future.

Thanks Bjarne!

Scott McMenemy 2011

Aberdeen, Scotland

Passing on the torch of success

My meeting with Bjarne was quite by chance after nearly missing an email from him announcing his presence in Aberdeen (Scotland) and his keen interest in spending time fencing whilst he was contracted to the oil industry in the city. I had for some time been battling on as a Level 2 British Academy of Fencing Epee coach at the University of Aberdeen, with modest success. Not only was I coaching but was and still am a competitive fencer. However when meeting Bjarne in the Easter of 2011 I was ranked 369th on the UK senior ranking list and very rarely achieving any result of note at competitions. My time both as a fencer and a fledgling coach were often frustrating, something was missing and sadly this was “holding me and my fencers back”. Bjarne explained that he was an Epee master with the BAF (Diploma) and immediately on meeting him and chatting with him, I could see we would be spending many hours working together. I took my first lesson with Bjarne soon after meeting and I am sure my rusty skills appeared as somewhat of a challenge however there was a strong working relationship from the first crossing of blades. I immediately knew from Bjarne’s calm concise and clear explanations of the concepts of fencing that I had much to learn from my new master.

Before long the lessons developed beyond understanding the essential and basic skills of fencing, growing to build the technical, tactical, mental and physical aspects of fencing. After less than a year of training I was ranked 54th in the UK, and taking consistently good results at British Open competitions most notably a 15th place from a field of 133 men at the Birmingham International Open by far my best result since my early days on the Great Britain cadet team.

Not only has Bjarne made me a far better competitive fencer but I am now a Level 3 BAF Epee coach, and my fencers are flourishing. In the year I have been working with Bjarne my fencers taking lessons with me have achieved fantastic results.

Scottish Student Womens’ Epee Champion

Two senior fencers ranked in the top 100 of their weapons (WF and WE)

Two fencers fencing for Scotland at the Student 5 Nations Team Championship

Several successful under 17 fencers (both taking bronze in the Scottish Youth Championships 2012)

Not to mention a host of excellent placings at British Opens.   

As well as my fencers achieving great things, I too have had great competitive results but my work developing my skills as a coach with Bjarne, has lead to me being selected as Scottish Regional Epee coach for the British Fencing, National Fencing Academy, training the future Scottish elite fencers.

A fencing master and a dear friend. Bjarne has taught me more than just fencing. His friendship, and advice have taught me a great deal about a great many things and for this I am most grateful. Bjarne is as has been said before, brutally honest but genuinely kind, my dear friend and respected mentor.

Laura Jamieson 2011

Aberdeen, Scotland

I found fencing in a hopeless place

I have been fencing now for roughly five years but I can honestly say that I have only considered myself a fencer for just over a year. Last year everything changed for me because for the first time I had a real coach. That is not to say that I had not been coached in the previous three or four years; various people had tried to teach me and I had taken many lessons in all three weapons but it seemed that the only advice I got was to be more aggressive and attack more often. Aggression did not come naturally to me and I was not confident enough to initiate attacks so I began to wonder if perhaps I had chosen the wrong sport. I became very frustrated as I was not winning any fights and used to deliberate before every session I attended whether I would actually turn up or not.

Eventually I made a deal with myself. I decided that I would really give fencing a go for a year. I would turn up to every University and City Club training session and at the end of the year if there was still no improvement I could give up without feeling that I had not tried my best. It was during this last attempt that I met Bjarne. Now they say that first impressions are important but I came to realise that it is more important not to judge a book by its cover because my first impression of Bjarne was not a good one. One year or so on from that meeting I find it hard to believe just how much I hated him when I left fencing that night.

At the City Club I was asked to join in with a class lesson being run by one of the members who was preparing for his coaching exam. There were an uneven number of students taking part in the lesson meaning that I did not have a partner and Bjarne, who was helping the coach, used me for the demonstrations. I was very embarrassed and extremely uncomfortable being in the spotlight and I hated being told what I was doing wrong in front of everyone. I could feel the fury building up inside me for being put in this situation and I felt like I was being wound up and picked on. If I had been pushed any further I think I would have hit Bjarne or burst into tears.

Later on that night Bjarne asked me how long I had been fencing for. When I responded that it had been almost four years he said that I should be much better than I was. This did not help my impression of him at the time as I was really offended, but his brutal honesty is now something that I value and appreciate.

I cannot remember exactly what prompted me to take my first individual epee lesson with Bjarne but it was a little while before I could gather enough courage to approach him because he terrified me. I was really nervous before my first lesson but it was real turning point for me. Bjarne had been watching me fence at the club and so he had already recognised that I was a defensive fencer. He took my personality and my strengths and built my skills repertoire around it. He never once tried to make me change my fencing style meaning that I did not have to be aggressive or attack. Everything that Bjarne said to me during that lesson made so much sense to me and he explained the reason for every action that he had me do. I genuinely felt like I suddenly understood how fencing worked and it was such an eye opener for me. Even better than the fact that I enjoyed the lesson was that I instantly saw results, I started to get more hits and win fights.

Bjarne has improved my fencing and my confidence and even my diet. I am now a coach myself and fencing is my life. I can never thank Bjarne enough for all his help and support. The only bad thing is that I do not see him enough.

Rory Patrick High 2011

Aberdeen, Scotland

Aberdeen made me a fencer

I first met Bjarne when I moved to Aberdeen for university. I had been fencing for 7 years before I moved to Aberdeen. I fenced one night a week, taking occasional lessons. I was average at best. 

At my first training session with University of Aberdeen Fencing Club, as I was an experienced fencer, I was told I could have a 45 minute lesson with Bjarne. In that 45 minutes, I felt as if my eyes had been opened. I had been forewarned that he would be harsh. He was indeed harsh, he told me when what I was doing was terrible, but he also complimented me on what I did well (which wasn't much). His geometrical analysis of fencing was a breath of fresh air. It was just the kick I needed to get my act together and work towards improving.

Unfortunately, situations changed and Bjarne was no longer with the university club. I followed him to Aberdeen City Fencing Club (where he was a guest coach) so I could take more lessons. At this stage, I was taking 2 lessons a week. He started expanding my repertoire of fencing movements and tactics. He taught me how to think on the piste and how to set traps for my opponents. The lessons were tailor-made to my style of fencing, and each lesson built upon the previous one.

I found myself showing immediate improvements in training. When I journeyed back to my old club during the Christmas holiday, my old coach remarked that 'Aberdeen has been the making of you as a fencer.' That was after only 3 months of coaching. In January, when I returned to Aberdeen, I started competing at opens. In my first open, I returned a healthy 19th place.

We continued to work together as the term progressed. Eventually, I started to arrange lessons outside of club time, in whatever space I could find. It is now coming to the end of June. I have been competing for half a season and I am sitting in the top 180 in the UK, with realistic hopes of cracking the top 100 in my first full season.

Besides my development as a fencer, Bjarne introduced me to the British Academy of Fencing. He trained me to become a competent Epee and Foil coach. At the start of June, I was assessed by two BAF professors and I'm now a qualified coach in both weapons.

I owe this all to my training from Bjarne. He pushes me to be the best that I can and he has a flawless knowledge of the sport.

Susanne Stephan 2009

Hallstahammar, Sweden

Fencer from Potsdam on the search for a coach in Sweden

I first met Bjarne at his old fencing club in Köping, where I became a member a couple of years ago. I fence since I was a child, went to the sports college in Potsdam and participated almost every weekend at a fencing competition. When I moved from Germany to Sweden I found it difficult to find a good fencing club, where people were fencing regularly and on the level I was used to. But it seemed to be even more difficult to find a good coach, a coach who helps you to get better, to improve your strong points in fencing and with whom you can analyze your weaknesses.

Working with Bjarne included all that. During a one year period I got private lessons almost every day, which really helped me to develop my fencing style. The tasks where not mechanical, instead I had to think on my own and find the right solution. After the lessons we often fenced together so I could try and practice the things I just learned. I also started filming my own fencing at competitions so I could analyze it together with Bjarne and think about new tactics later. As a result of our work I won some competitions in Sweden and introduced myself to the international fencing scene.

I was really satisfied with our training and of course quite disappointed when I got to know that Bjarne and his family was moving to Germany. Bjarne is not only a great coach, who has big knowledge and interest in fencing but also a person I really like to have around me. He and his family got a place in my heart, because they were always kind and helpful. Bjarne spent lots of time with me in the fencing hall without getting any financial compensation, which I am really thankful for. It shows that it is the passion for fencing which is the main reason for him being a coach and not the interest in earning loads of money.

Bjarne is not a person who butter somebody up and who is constantly telling you that you are a great fencer. He is honest, direct and has an explanation for everything (which really can drive you crazy sometimes!). But if you can handle that and put his advices into practice you sure can amount to much!

Fredrik Arvidsson 2004
Kalmar, Sweden

Engineer became fencer.

My first contact with Mr. Bjarne Hoeglund was about 10 years ago, a short meeting that will last the rest of our life´s! He worked then as examinator for ABB automation system in Västerås and held a course which I was engaged in as a student.

At this time in my life I was rather inactive! Working as a consultant with lots of time on my chair and that led to very poor physics. Bjarne invited me to the fencing world and a much healthier lifestyle. As a very experienced fencing coach he opened the door to the fascinating world of fencing for me. A door that will remain open as long I will be able to stand up and grip an epee!

Since this meeting occurred my fencing skills has been improved as well my fitness, thanks to Bjarne and Kirsten.

As a result of my interest in fencing I was enrolled with my local fencing club Kalmar Fäktklubb. Both as chairman of the board and as an active fencer for the club.

Bjarne and his family are today one of my closest friends. We share the passion for fencing and of course the passion for collecting and handling old arms. Nowadays when we meet, we never miss the opportunity to have some real good fencing times.

Thank´s Bjarne and Kirsten!

Best regards! And see you in the Salle d´ Armes!

Kirsten Höglund 1999
Born Weissbrod
Hamburg, Germany
Västerås, Sweden

Hamburg top fencer caught careerlong coach

My first contact with Bjarne was the summer of 1999, he had invited 6 fencers from Northern Germany to a fencing camp in Sweden. At this time I had been fencing successfully for 14 years, including a number of tournament medals. So noone was surpriced when I thought, I knew most worth knowing about fencing, at this point in time.

Well I was soon to learn better and that was not so easy to accept. Through the explanations I got, and there was really a good explanation to every single one of my faults, I soon realized I could learn a lot here.

So, after an intensive week of training, lots of muscle agony and many butterflies in my tummy, I decided that I wanted this man. We became a couple and got married 2005.

The following time was characterized of many flights, fencing, fencing and more fencing. I have to mention, I had a medical diagnose, that told I had to stop fencing due to permanent pain in my knees. These knee injuries were the result of many years offensive fencing. I was always on my way forward, with my knees in damaging positions. Through intensive footwork with Bjarne, he managed to get my knees in healthy positions. After months of daily work, my knees stopped hurting. Nowadays I have no pain in my knees and have not had since 2000. Thank you!

We worked together almost daily, which gave my fencing career a real push forward. Bjarne turned me into a thinking fencer, something noone of my former coaches had ever tried. I learned to analyze my opponents and develop different tactics to different types of fencers. This gave a silver medal at the tournament Alte Salzstrasse in Ratzeburg 2001. The previous years I was never better than last 16. In the following years I bested all the fencers in the swedish national team.

Nowadays I am both an offensive and defensive fencer. When the situation demands I can change tactics during the fight. I can “almost” give myself lessons. I know exactly why something does not work and can improve on my own. I am not a fencing marionette, who needs the coach at the pisteside in order to win.

2005 I got my first child, 2007 came the second and 2010 the third child, so my own fencing have drawn the shorter straw for the last years. I have only been fencing once a week for some years. However this will change soon and I will start swinging the epee more seriously again.

What could I say about Bjarne?

He is a coach who looks on each fencer, analyses them and puts together an individual education plan. His knowledge of fencing is vast, which is deepened by the continous coaching courses he attends. He brings thinking fencers to the piste, who can stand on their own. Bjarne has an explanation to every detail, whether you want to hear it or not. He always have an open ear to his fencers, may it be fencing related or privat matters. He is brutally honest and genuinely kind.

Update: 2012 she stopped fencing. She decided she did not need a fencing coach or husband any longer and planned how to get the most out of a divorce. The plan "How to get the coach out of her life while keeping the money of the engineer" was executed early 2014. Since then she has effectively prevented me from spending time with my kids.

Jåke Andersson 1991

Örebro, Sweden

The journey from novice to Master

I have known Bjarne since 1991, when I started fencing at Wadköpings fencing club (WFF). It was a small club with equally small resources. Foil was the first weapon I got in contact with, simply because that was the only weapon the club fenced. The club did not have a proper coach and the same person was the committee, even though he had no time for fencing.

After a few months Bjarne and I started to discuss how we could improve faster. We were given the club, since the “old coach” wanted to retire. When we took over, the club had large debts and was about to be kicked out from the venue we trained in. The big challenges was to get more money and to develop ourselves as coaches faster than our new fencers learned to fence.

To get money for the club we started to sell lottery tickets for a state lottery. During 5 years, week after week, after our ordinary jobs, we went out and sold lottery tickets for the club. Soon we could pay off the debts and turn the economy back into plus. We bought electrical pistes and fencing equipment for all weapons and the club grew fast.

Bjarne contacted the club in Västerås to arrange a training exchange, we visited them weekly for over a year. On our quest for good coaches and knowledge about fencing we travelled the kingdome and participated in many training camps. When the Swedish fencing federation started to arrange coach education at the national team training camps, we could not stay away! On Bjarnes initiative we did the fencing teachers exam at the Swedish fencing federation and became real coaches. The club had grown a lot and the need for more coaches was big. We looked among the members of the club and found some more that was willing to share the coach responsibility with us. We now started to educate our own club coaches. At this point Bjarne said he wanted to become a fencing master.

Bjarne has a great commitment, when he want something, he makes it happen. He is now an Epeemaster and continues to learn and develop his coaching. I have taken many lessons from him over the years and I like his pedagogical way of coaching. You learn fast. He analyses fencers / opponents and adjusts the lessons based on the fencers style and needs, which not that many coaches do.

Bjarne is and remains one of my best friends. He was a dear guest at my wedding and I was invited to his wedding as well. I now live on Gotland and Bjarne lives in Germany, but we still stay in contact despite the distance. / Jåke