The Fencing Lesson’s Place In Strategy

If we accept that strategy in fencing is the selection of objectives, the determination of priorities, and the allocation of resources to achieve overall goals for fencing activity beyond the bout it becomes important to understand where the fencing lesson fits in the overall plan for preparation for a tournament, the development of a season, and the fencer’s fencing career. A wide variety of activities contribute to success as a competitive fencer. Of these the lesson may be the most technically and tactically influential, but it does not stand alone.

In a season a fencer will complete some combination of several types of fencing activity. These activities can be characterized as falling in several different categories based on their contribution to the fencer’s development.

… attend regular group practice sessions in the club or sale. Technical development, training, conditioning.

… take between 300 or more (an elite level fencer who takes a lesson or more every day) and 20 (a club fencer who sporadically enters tournaments) individual lessons a year. Technical development, tactical development.

… participate in conditioning, technical training, knowledge development, and mental training activities on his or her own time, either as coach directed solo practice or as self-initiated activity. Technical development, training, conditioning, mental game development.

… fence with other members of the club in an open fencing format. Training, tactical development, mental game development.

… attend a summer training camp. Outcomes are highly variable depending on the activities conducted at the camp.

… fence in intramural competitions in the club, essentially as practice for regular competition. Training, tactical development, mental game development.

… fence in competitions purely for practice or to gain experience against stronger opponents. Tactical development, mental game development.

… fence in competitions that are critical to the season: events in which the fencer has a reasonable chance of achieving a higher classification or points, qualifiers for national events, and national tournaments. The successful application of all elements.

In this view of the various types of activity, technical development reflects the acquisition and perfection of skills and technique. Training is the automation of skills for application in the bout. Tactical development is the development of assessment and judgment skills leading to the correct choice of techniques under the right conditions to score. Conditioning is either general fitness or sport specific fitness development. And mental game development is the development of the goals, focus, and morale needed for competitive success.

In this model coaches have three clear opportunities to directly influence the preparation for competition: (1) in the design and conduct of group practice sessions, (2) in the individual lesson, and (3) in the design of solo training activities for the fencers. Everything following these first three lesson based activities depends on the coach’s ability to communicate with the fencer, whether that communication is on the teaching plastron, in supervising conditioning, or in worksheets to track solo training.