Tag Archives: form

Why We Start with Foil

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Among the many questions that I get asked as a fencer and a now a fencing instructor, inevitably a student will ask, “Why do I have to start with foil?” The short answer is not “Because I said so,” but rather, “It’s the starting point for all training in competitive fencing.” I still get the blank look with that statement, so perhaps I should elaborate.

My choice and method are not random or arbitrary. My guide and inspiration for this methodology is one of the masters of our sport, Nick Evangelista. Master Evangelista has written several authoritative books on the art and sport of fencing in addition to being an accomplished swordsman in his own right. He has over thirty years’ experience in fencing and teaching fencing. His thoughts on this subject are quite clear and uncomplicated:

The approach I take is to teach fencing so that it is both efficient and effective. I teach form so that it establishes economy of motion, point control, timing, judgment –the foundational elements of fencing from its earliest days. I also teach my students the ‘language of fencing,’ so that they learn to think fencing. I would be stealing from those who come to me if I taught them anything else.

When asked about why he teaches foil first to his students, he responds:

I teach fencing in a very traditional fashion. Everyone begins with foil. No exceptions. Foil instills the fundamentals of fighting with a sword in a fencing student. The conventions of the foil are, in fact, a valuable template for changing our behavior from everyday people reactions to controlled fencer responses. This basic training is essential for everything that follows. Those who begin their fencing careers with either epee or saber are missing an opportunity to bring added depth to their weapon of choice.

So nothing is accidental or mere busywork when teaching the skills and fundamentals of fencing. Each basic form or movement is a building block for the next skill, and then the next skill, and so on.

The best summation for all of this is an article that Master Evangelista wrote himself. I truly could not state it any better than he has, so for the sake of efficiency, the link to his article, Starting With Foil, is included here for your information. I would encourage every student (and parents, too!)  to read it and understand it. You’re starting with foil not because the coach says so, but because it is the BEST approach to mastery of the sport.

Starting with Foil by Nick Evangelista

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Why is footwork important?

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A question came up from a new student trying fencing and footwork for the first time–why is form so important? No one is going to check and see if my knees are bent, are they? It’s a fair question, especially from a newbie. And, it deserves a good answer.

The short answer to this is that mastering the fundamentals of fencing (or any sport) takes one from being a casual participant to a skilled athlete. Once the basics are mastered, the possibilities are endless. At first glance, good footwork and proper form may seem like an overstressed point, but there is more going on besides shuffling one’s feet up and down the strip. A fencer’s movement must always be fluid, making it possible to move in any direction at any given moment. Your opponent will be assessing your from the moment that you step anywhere near the strip, and every detail will be a clue to your strengths and weaknesses. A fencer with good footwork and form gives the impression of capability and one who should not be taken for granted.

The long answer can be found an in post at a fellow fencer’s blog. Rather than reinvent the wheel, or in this case, rewrite the post, instead I am including a link to his post here: Footwork: Movement in Fencing. Enjoy!