Go is the perfect training tool for fencing. I don’t know why more people don’t use it. I was introduced to the game by a high school computer science teacher. He thought it was the perfect method to teach logic to students…being an old-school programmer, his idea of computer science class was mostly lessons in logical thinking. I benefited a lot from local teachers who taught courses outside the generic curriculum. So sad that I only partly realized the benefit of this when I was in school…

Go is a simple game, but incredibly complex once you get past the first few games. You can teach all the rules to someone in a few moments, and be working on a full game right after. For a lot of people, that’s all you ever need. For a lot of people, that’s all you can ever understand. Even the pro’s spend years trying to develop an understanding of some of the concepts. The game has been played for thousands of years, and studied to terrific depth, but it still confounds even the fastest and brightest computers.

The opening game is pure strategy. Each side takes turn placing stones, and claiming symbolic territory that will later be fought over. On a big and expansive board, this can feel like the most intimate phase of the game. Each stone tells you so much about how your opponent thinks, how they plan. Do they place randomly, or with cold calculation? Do they respond with aggression, defensiveness, passivity or calculation? The placement of the stones will always mimic the steps a fencer takes in a bout.

Some people come just outside of measure awkwardly, unsure what to do until you move first. Others charge in towards you, in a desperate attempt to come to the middle game where they are most comfortable. The rare fencer will establish his control as much as he can before taking one step towards you, and do his best to force you to only step where he wants, taking every possible advantage before the blades come to measure.

Of course, the opening game is mostly about laying the foundation for the fights to come. A master of the game will still beat an overwhelming opening game with superlative close play. It’s also true that a strong opening game can finish a game off before the first clash. The study of the opening game should never be neglected, especially for fencers.

And yet, amongst most fencers, it’s an unknown game. Just like Go.