200414 Visioning

From time to time visioning has been mentioned in this blog, so it is time to review and add to what we know about this skill. Visioning is imagining the situation, the techniques and tactics, the opponent, the strip, and your and your opponent’s actions. Visioning is commonly used by high level athletes in virtually every sport and has proven effective in improving technique and tactics for individual athletes.

This is a very disciplined effort. To be successful:

(1) Set the scene with as much detail as possible. You are in the venue, people are about, scoring machines are sounding. You are standing on your strip; you can see where you are on the strip; you can feel the strip beneath your feet. You can see your opponent; you know how tall she is. You recognize that he is left handed, you can see her club patch; you can see where he has wiped the soles of his shoes on his stockings to remove grit from the piste. You can sense the opponent’s level of fatigue, of readiness, and of fighting spirit. The richer the visual picture in your head of this moment, the better the training value.

(2) You have used the time between halt and fence to plan what your actions will be. On the command “fence,” you start to execute that plan. Imagine the steps forward or in retreat, the attempts to take or attack the blade, the feints, how the distance changes, the lunge, everything that happens in a bout.

(3) At the same time you imagine how the opponent reacts to your action. How does he move, does she parry and indirect riposte, or does he execute some completely unexpected action? Do not waste your time imagining that the opponent doesn’t do anything and is just simply hit. Run the opponent through the expected, and even unexpected or improbable, actions. Continue the fight until either you or your imaginary opponent is hit. If the opponent can find a hole in what you are doing you are hit; if you can find the hole in what the opponent is doing your score.

(4) Use what you have learned to improve your plan for the next touch.

This is not an easy process. You have to maintain the scene in your mind even through other distracting thoughts. You have to constantly focus on smooth, tight, correctly sequenced actions. You have to be challenged by your opponent. You have to maintain your fighting spirit. In short you have to fight a bout just like you would fence on an actual strip.

There are four visioning scenarios that you can use effectively in your training and in the actual bout. Rach is different in its goals and in how you proceed.

(1) The bout scenario – the process of this is described above. Its value lies in the ability to practice both tactics and techniques against a skilled opponent (the opponent maybe someone in the Salle, someone you have fenced in competition, or someone who you have seen on video).

(2) The deliberate training scenario – in this case the processes is set in a lesson context, with you repeating movements and constantly improving them. It is particularly valuable in improving sequencing of parts of an action.

(3) The rehearsal. In war movies, the hero looks at where he thinks the enemy is and yells “follow me men” as he charges up the hill to victory and glory. In realty that is not what happens. When a small unit gets a combat assignment, the key leaders review that assignment and then rehearse with the soldiers, very often with a crude diagram drawn in the sand or dirt, who does what and when. You can do the same thing in the time between “halt” and “fence” as part of your drill for that period. It is a much less detailed form of vision (because you only have perhaps 2 seconds in which to do it), in that you focus on only creating the opponent, his weapon, and the position in which he will be when you attack. Then you execute your action, and maybe one response you expect by the opponent. To do this well you have to practice it all the time in practice bouts and fully integrate it with what you do between “halt” and “fence.”

(4) The victory scenario – you imagine that the tournament is over and medals are being awarded. Visualize yourself on the podium with the gold medal. This is a proven technique widely used by elite athletes.

Visioning is hard work. It takes time. It requires practice to reach efficient performance. But much like the Ghostbusters character who says to the mayor of New York beset by a supernatural attack “but Lenny, if we are right you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters,” it will save you touches received and increase your touches scored.

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