Patience in Fencing

When I was mulling over what I was going to write this week, unfortunately I haven’t had enough time to do my post on footwork, I came across an article by thefencingcoach which is well worth a read. It discussed fencing slowly and how to coach others to do so. You can find a link to the article here. With that in mind I thought I’d discuss a similar topic, patience and more importantly how to implement patience in your game.

Let’s be honest we’d love to get on the piste, hear the reff mutter the words fence, dispatch five of the best trick shots imaginable and get the bout done in the same time it takes to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Unfortunately fencing doesn’t work like that as it completely ignores the dynamic of a fencing bout. It’s a trap that many people fall into and if I’m brutally honest it did hit me when I started fencing again. Impatience is a human characteristic and like every other aspect of the sport you need to train yourself to overcome it.

1) Keep assessing what your opponent is doing – Ideally you need to make split second decisions, if your opponent is advancing look at your options. Assess the distance, where the blade is etc. Keep your options open and work out what course of action will work best. To use an old analogy think of fencing like chess, yes you can move your pieces recklessly although the chances are you’ll get beaten by someone who has out thought you. So don’t forget to think and never fence by going through the motions.

2) Build muscle memory – Muscle memory is a form of motor learning; in essence it’s about overriding the body’s natural reactions and replacing it with something that’s more suitable and efficient for the task at hand. It’s especially important in fencing where the most obvious example is parrying. If you can get your parry riposte to feel like a natural reaction you’ve saved yourself some time. It’ll allow you to become more patient as your reaction time will be shorter.

3) Regulate your breathing – If you inhale quick, short bursts the chances are you’ll increase your heart rate and make yourself susceptible to mistakes and rushed decisions. If you slow it down you relax more while time will feel like it’s moving slower even if it’s not. Take enough air to fuel your mind and like the mantra of my rugby team, “iach gorff, iach feddwl” or in English “healthy body, healthy mind”

4) Keep your cards close to your chest – You don’t need to make incredibly large arm movements, keep everything nice and neat which will hopefully get you thinking about precision.

5) And finally DON’T PANIC! Which I think speaks for itself.

And there we have it, a couple of words which will hopefully be beneficial.


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