Premise 7: Learning to fence and further development into a successful competitor has been grounded in the lesson. And not just any old group lesson – if you are serious you have to be taking individual lessons from the hotest fencer from some other country that you can find (no American coach actually knows anything about the sport). Any old fencing master just won’t do – it has to be an Olympian.
This, of course, is horsehockey. At best it is laziness. At worst it is individual intellectual incompetence in sport.
If you want to fence successfully, you have to use the full range of learning tools available to you. These include (this is not an exhaustive list – there may well be other ways to improve performance):
Group lessons – group lessons allow you to work with a variety of opponents with differing physical and tactical characteristics. Even a frustrating opponent well below your skill level can help develop your ability to deal with frustrating opponents.
Practice with fencers with disabilities – wheelchair fencers fence a fast game that will raise your speed (and at the same time give them more opponents to work with). Blind fencers (with you using a sleep mask) fence a game based on search, find, and determine what is happening by sentiment de fer. Both games help refine your able-bodied performance.
Solo practice – every fencer can profit from solo practice to refine movement patterns, synchronization of movement, timing, speed, acceleration, and accuracy. (pandemic)
Visioning and other forms of mental practice – visioning has been proven to be a successful training method in every modern sport (well, I can’t verify its value in cornhole, but …). A program of disciplined visioning will lead to improved performance in both technique and tactics. (pandemic)
Deliberate practice – slow, painful, disciplined execution of skills in chunks, and assembling those chunks, until those skills are absolutely perfect. This requires that you develop the ability to sense where your body and its parts are, what they are doing, and whether that performance is in keeping with the standard you need. (pandemic)
Video review – You Tube and other sites have a wide range of video available. Some of it is absolute garbage. But a lot of it is high quality fencing and good instruction. Watching and analyzing the performance of international elite fencers is a skill that will help you analyze your opponents when you watch them in a local tournament. (pandemic)
Zoom practices and classes – the Salle offers 5 Zoom sessions a week, working on footwork, bladework, and tactical applications. We expect that we will continue these even after the pandemic is over because they allow us to provide instruction that we cannot necessarily fit into a regular class format. Zoom instruction is available from a number of sources and even includes coaching training and certification. (pandemic)
Reading – most fencers do not own a book about fencing, and I would venture a guess that many coaches do not either. There is no excuse for this. There is a very rich technical and tactical literature addressing modern fencing. Fencing books tend to be dry and less than inspiring writing. So what? They contain a tremendous amount of information about how to fence, successfully. There is no reason to be a fencing illiterate. (pandemic)
Fencing games – we have successfully run a fencing game series online that provides training in distance management, risk assessment, and the search for the right moment to attack. (pandemic)
Development of mental skills – there are a number of excellent programs that help you analyze and improve your mental and psychological skills for sport. Considering the high mental load imposed by fencing, training with these is an important way to improve your performance. (pandemic)
Physical conditioning – strength, agility, and stability is important in fencing to provide the speed and control needed for the sport. There are a wide range of body weight exercises that do not require equipment, as well as footwork and running exercises that build anaerobic capacity. A good physical conditioning program is worth touches in a bout. (pandemic)
Individual lesssons with a professionally certified trainer – anyone can teach fencing. There are no title or practice laws that require that you even know anything about the sport to teach it. However, professional certification in our sport has been the marker of instructional ability since at least the 1400s, the longest continual tradition of coach training of any modern sport. Certified coaches have had to demonstrate both their knowledge and their teaching ability before a panel of experienced professionals. And that is a very different skill set than being a successful competitor …
Bouting – fencers fence bouts – it is how we win tournaments and how we measure ourselves against other fencers. The more bouts you fence the better you will be at the core activity of our sport. And the more you practice bout planning and the drill for between “halt” and “fence,” the better you will be at successfully applying tactics on the strip.
And if you can’t fence bouts, you can always fence visioning bouts. (pandemic)
So what do we have here? We have listed 14 different ways to train as a fencer. You should be doing all of them if you wish to be a successful competitor. And if you are interested in a long and rewarding career as a recreational fencer in a lifetime sport, doing as many of them as possible will help you achieve that goal.
A note – all of the items ending with (pandemic) can be done today in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic without any significant risk. The more you do, the better you will be prepared to return to fencing when, and if, we beat this disease next year.
So the basic Premise is that to get to be good, you have to use a full range of training methods, effectively and constantly, in a planned program of self-development,