Fencing Training – What To Expect

The first day arrives and everybody is nervous. The organizers are hoping it will be successful. The pupils are wondering what is in store. it is therefore important that the initial organization is sound. If you start a course with underlying grumbles, it carries on to the end.

First, coaches must be sure to be there to greet everyone. There might be parents or even adult fencers asking questions. Supervise billeting. Instil tidiness from the beginning. Introduce yourself and the team. Get the pupils introduced. Tell them the rules and regulations, the treating of other people’s property. Thoughtfulness to others, at meal times and at night. A programme should be outlined and displayed.

Sessions should not be longer than an hour and a half without refreshments. Sessions should be demanding so there is no time for talking and time wasting.

Evenings should be organized and have various activities. Either team fencing or even an activity not connected with fencing at all. There could be a quiet hour after the evening meal; films or videos could be shown; small games, such as cards, monopoly, chess, draughts can be made available. If the sessions have been hard enough, people will want to turn in early.

Break a week up by having a half-day visit to somewhere not necessarily connected with fencing. It is also useful to have a visitor, as it will be a different face (not the same old one each day). In the evening, there could be a lecture on some aspect of fencing, such as psychology or physiology.

The organizer should know where to obtain a doctor, first aid equipment, fire equipment and he should know the procedure in case of fire. The organizer should also be on hand to answer any queries and if necessary deal with them as soon as it is practical. He must supervise meals and duties. if there are few problems it will make for a happy course.

Fencing Training Sequences

1. Lunging. Throwing the point. Execution. A lunging B with a mask on in front and to the side ready to catch toil.

Points to notice – The foil should go straight as an arrow.

2. Riposting distance. On guard. A disengages, B parry quartes. A should hit B as A has a period of fencing time in hand. This is good for concentration and fingers.

Points to notice – A must not extend arm first; B must not extend arm first, B must not pull back arm in parry of quarte.

3. Lunging. Parry quarte late.

Points to notice – The timing of the parry. Too early it can be deceived; too late you will be hit.

4(a) A Lunges. B counters in sixte. Points to notice The sound of the parry. it should be a sharp bang. not a scrape. (b) Follow iunge with a double. Note: First movement by A must threaten target of B.

Points to notice – The lunge should follow in one line pushing hard on the last movement.

5. Riposting distance. A disengages. B counters in quarte.

Points to notice – As in No. 2

6. Return beats: first with use of thumb and index finger; then with all the fingers on the handle.

Points to notice – The beat should be that of a clock a regular tick-took.

(b) B then deceives blade of A.

(c) A then does counter of quarte of B’s deception. Useful for concentration, feeling of blade and finger play. Try to deceive on eighth counter or not more than twelfth.

7. A has arm extended; 8 parry quarte ripostes high or low.

Points to notice – Pronation when hitting to flank. Supination when hitting to stomach. Have legs lower when riposting low.

8. Successive parries start with one blade movement and work up a sequence.

  • counter-sixte
  • counter-sixte-counter-sixte
  • counter-sixte-counter-sixte-parry quarte
  • counter-sixte-counter-sixte-parry quarte-counter quarte and so on.

9. Present blade for accurate timing; then A presents blade and attacks with B riposting. Spectators observe what has been done, then act as B. For example, A disengages parry quarte on lunge. B parrys in quarte and indirect riposte.

10. Coulé, disengage; lunge keeping contact with the blade until the last moment, then disengage.

11. Scrub fencing. Up to 21

Example:

  • 5 points for simple attack
  • 3 points indirect riposte and counter riposte
  • 2 points compound attack
  • 2 points redoublement

Work On A Beam

If at your fencing club there is a gymnastic beam, one that stands about three feet off the floor and is four inches wide, try these exercises:

  1. Walk along the beam to gain confidence, eyes looking ahead, partner walking on floor in case pupil overbalances.
  2. Walk backwards.
  3. Advance along the beam,then dismount. Keep trying until you can advance as if you were following a line on the floor.
  4. Move backwards.
  5. Advance, with crossing of the feet, forward then backward.
  6. Next lunge. Then bring up rear-foot, and lunge again.
  7. Next do a balestra forward and a balestra backward.
  8. Combine these movements of breaking and gaining ground.
  9. Introduce mobility.

With conscientious practice, balance will vastly improve. One of my pupils can move on a beam as if he were on the floor.

Lessons With Chalk

If you have a class without equipment or with a limited amount, try a few of the following exercises. Work in pairs. Mark the on guard position, then:

  1. Step forward, then step backward. Check position against marks.
  2. Vary the number of steps forward and backward, coming back to the same position.
  3. The lunge. Mark the on guard position, then lunge, then return to guard, checking the position.
  4. Vary the gaining and breaking ground movements with the lungs.

The Lunge

  1. Mark the limit of the lunge.
  2. Do a step with the front foot, and mark.
  3. Do two steps, lunge and mark.
  4. Do a single lunge: you should find that you are lunging further than your initial first mark.

Target Practice

Foils Only

Chalk an eye-level mark on the wall, then draw a target or a face, and award points for various positions. Allow so many attempts, for instance, five or ten, then add the total. Do it first at riposting distance, then advance at riposting distance, then lunging distance, then step forward and lunge, then balestra lunge, and any other combinations for the experienced. it in pairs, make it competitive.

Circular Parry

When doing a circular parry, the blade should describe a full circle. Get pupils to draw a circle on the wall or floor with the point in the chalk.

Amazing results will show that rarely is there a complete circle. Show and explain the faults that they draw, for instance:

  • Point finishes too low.
  • Point finishes too high.
  • Point goes round too far.
  • Point does not go round far enough.

Loose Play

When I first started fencing, I learnt for six months before being allowed to fence. On a visit to Germany in the 19603, the pupils told me that it was their first fight after two years’ training and we beat them. It has now gone the other way: let them fight first; then try and train them afterwards. Pupils who are allowed to ‘bash’ around without prior training soon get bored, quite apart from getting poked and rapped across the knuckles. My lessons usually end in supervised pools and they also get the practice in presiding, judging and fencing etiquette. How the system works depends on time.

First, have seven fencers in a group of eight or nine; the extra ones are stand-bys. Two fencers first salute the president, who acknowledges by bowing the head; then the opposite judges, who also acknowledge; then the opponent. (In olden days they kissed the blade for good luck.) At the end of the fight, the president goes on to the piste and all the judges move round clockwise and the loser goes into the left-hand corner. The winner stays on until defeated.

Fencers will have two thoughts in mind. First, all they have been taught seems to fly out of the window as they face an opponent who wants to hit them, and they go all out to beat him. Second, they fence an experienced fencer and all they want to do is beat him. There are ways to improve this if you are not giving individual lessons. It can be used as a time for presiding and judging, and for learning the rules and regulations regarding the fight and the piste. It can also be used as a period for stopping and making pupils think of the most advantageous way of attacking or defending. Fora change, sometimes you can deduct hits in timed bouts. For example, hits can be deducted for not saluting correctly, not returning on guard correctly, lunging with a bent arm and so on.

If you do fence in pairs, salute each other first and then try to put into practice either the work you have done in groups or in individual lessons. in this period, results do not count so if you are hit, acknowledge by raising your hand. Off-targets annul any further good hits. If in doubt scrub it out. in practice sessions, people do wonderful lunges, but when in free play, they forget. Remember, lunging can be very successful and can keep you further away from your opponent. Use the length of the piste; many fencers only use half of it. Get your feet ‘twinkling’ using cadence. Probe out your Opponent, making false attacks, or reactions on your preparations.

Some fencers attack at the outset before their opponents have time to settle down. When you have had some practice, have five hits, then change opponents. One common fault amongst experienced fencers is that they fight only experienced fencers, but they should remember that they were beginners once; also it is very useful to watch how a beginner attacks and how they defend. So analyse, then make the appropriate movement.

You must realize early on that fencing is not like that portrayed in films. For a start, there are no castle walls, only a gymnasium, and you must learn control and have patience, and this must be emphasized as much as the skills of movement. Do not rush.

Although successful at first, when you get to the second round, you will find it of no use against experienced fencers. Try and move your feet and use the entire length of the piste. Make false attacks to see their reactions. Fencers usually come in two types: ones that like to attack and those that like to defend. Therefore, attack the attacker and provoke the defender to attack. The elite fencer does both.

You should have been taught fencing from an engaged position or from an absence of blade position. If you find a fencer who wants to knock ‘seven bells’ out of your blade, keeping the arm in the same position, lower your blade. It is very disconcerting when there is no blade to attack. Make sure he does not get to judge your distance. If you find you are being hit, take a step back in order to have time to get in your parry. You will also notice that many attacks fail, which can be used to your advantage. Use a renewal. After being parried, disengage and hit, or if he ripostes lunge short, draw the riposte and counter riposte. Try and start off all your movements in offence with a straight arm, and practise using your fingers.

Finally, realize that practice makes perfect, then loose play will make for enjoyable fencing.

Competition

There are four types of competition, a local or junior competition, and a minor open competition, or high-class one. When a coach wishes to advise a pupil which sort of competition to enter he must first consider how the pupil has been coached technically and psychologically. Personally, i prefer to enter a pupil in a high-class field so that my pupil, although likely to lose, will meet fencers doing movements he has been taught. Not only will he be faced with the awe and atmosphere of the meeting, he will meet people of high quality. My pupils have recognized the dignified atmosphere, the sportsmanship and chiefly been able to recognize a proper parry and riposte and correct lunging.

By fencing in a high-quality competition, you can learn a great deal and if you do well you will find older fencers ready to give you advice and encouragement. The coach must prepare his pupil for losing though.

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