Over the past several weeks we have worked on core techniques that form the basic of tactical choices in each of the three weapons. It is time to put them in context and think about how to use them in the bout. First some basic definitions:
(1) TECHNIQUE – the actual mechanics of executing an attack, defense, or counteroffense. How you do a one-two, head cut, parry four, indirect riposte, or stop hit is technique.
(2) TACTICS – the combination of technique with timing, distance, whether the opponent is left or right the handed of the opponent, the difference in speed, reach and accuracy, your energy state, the score in the bout, whether a run is in progress or not, the time remaining in the bout, the bout’s importance in the pool, who has priority in a DE bout, and your and your opponent’s psychological states. And I am sure I left something out of this list.
(2A) in between TACTICS and STRATEGY comes an intermediate step, the application of OPERATIONAL ART. This is the management of the bout within the pool and the competition, and includes study of opponents, physical, psychological and equipment readiness for the competition, understanding of the tactical impact of the organization of the competition, and the plan for winning the competition.
(3) STRATEGY – the choice of competitions to enter, the objective of the competition for the fencer, the importance of the competition in the annual plan, the periodization microcycle and mesocycle mix for training, the annual goal of the fencer, the quadrennial goal, the overall career goal.
What this means is that there is a flow. If you do not have a strategy, then any outcome of a competition is acceptable, and there is little reason to care about whether or not you win bouts or whether your tactics and techniques work. If you have a Strategy, but no Operational Art, winning a tournament becomes accidental. All the Strategy and Operational Art in the world will not result in victory if you cannot put together Tactics. And the best tactics in history will not win if your technique is abysmal. The reverse is also true – great Technique cannot overcome no Tactics against a skilled opponent, Technique and Tactics are hard pressed to succeed without Operational Art, and even if all the previous steps in place, no Strategy means you bumble through a fencing career never reaching your possible level of success.
What this means is that, whether you are a competitive fencer aiming for national team selection or a recreational fencer who wants to be a good training partner and successful in Salle competitions, you have to know what you want out of the sport, of your performance in bouts, and of your ability to achieve skillful execution of Technique and Tactics.
So how do we do this? The key is to use the tools we have available to help you:
TECHNIQUE – the more group practices you attend, the more opportunity you have to drill in correct execution of technique. The more group practices you attend, the more opportunity you have to practice execution of technique in practice bouts. At open fencing always take advantage of short lessons with the professional training staff. Build maximum repetitions of technique, concentrating on smooth flow, tightly controlled movement, and high accuracy. Always listen to the advice of the professional training staff and apply it. Otherwise you are just wasting your time, time that you could better spend watching television or playing video games.
TACTICS – practice your tactics in practice bouts. Never “just fence.” Always fence 1, 5, 10, or 15 touches depending on the type of bout you are fencing, and fence every tough tactically. Use your standard drill for the period between halt and fence always. Always means for every single touch. Practice changing tactics to better use your core skills based on the opponent’s actions. Practice your special drills for specific bout situations. Fence ideomotoric bouts against an imaginary opponent.
OPERATIONAL ART – have a bout plan for every bout you fence. Know what you plan to do, revise the plan between halt and fence, and fence your best game every time. Practice studying your opponents in the Salle when you are not fencing to identify what techniques and tactics they are employing. Every time you fence in competition, use your meet log and bring back comments for the scouting database. Review that database with a professional trainer before every competition. Maintain your equipment in excellent condition, and use your equipment checklist to ensure you have everything you need before departing to a competition. Manage diet and hydration to ensure that your energy reserves are optimal for the next competition.
STRATEGY – sit down with your Fencing Master and identify your goals for the mesocycle, season, quadrennium, and your fencing career. Determine which competitions are for training, and which competitions are critical for selection, qualification, and points. Know what you have to do to meet your goals.
As a fencer, you are responsible for your success. If you build a solid structure of Technique, Tactics, Operational Art, and Strategy, you will be successful, whether you are a national competitor or a recreational fencer. If you do not …