I hope that you all have a great summer or great new beginning after graduation! For those of you interested in starting a personal training program in the off-season, I’ll continue to post information over the summer to help keep you going. The following is a video done by Damien Lehfeldt, a competitive fencer and an assistant volunteer coach at DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Maryland. Damien was the coach of a London 2012 Olympic Athlete in Modern Pentathlon (Suzanne Stettinius). He is an A-rated epeeist and foilist and a national champion who is a mutt of multiple awesome fencing coaches (Janusz Smolenski, Mario Jelev, Robert Suchorski, Boyko Krastevitch, Alek Gromov).
Lately we’ve been working on a series of offensive moves, prise de fer or transfers, seizing the opponent’s blade and progressively controlling it until completion (arriving at the target). To reinforce all of this, here is a very instructive video that covers:
opposition – lateral transfer straight to target
liement – diagonal bind
croisé – semi-circular bind staying on the same vertical side of the body
envelopment – circular transfer
This does not cover all of the types of movements that “take the blade” but rather gives you a foundation from which to work. One could argue that these type of offensive maneuvers are more applicable to épée than the other two weapons. Maybe so, but my job as your coach and instructor is to arm you with as many “weapons” and tools so that you have a deep and powerful arsenal from which you can draw.
We will continue to work on these types of attacks over the next few practices. As always, if you have any questions just let me know.
When it came time for a tournament, I always got a little more anxious than normal anticipating the bouts ahead. Here are some tips (gathered from personal experiences) for preparing for a fencing tournament.
Prior to the tournament
Pack healthy snacks to bring to the tournament. There will be little time between rounds to snack, so come prepared. Bananas are great for preventing muscle cramps, and sports drinks help you replace fluids and electrolytes (just mind the sugar!).
If your weapons or gear need any repairs, fix them beforehand, NOT the morning of the tournament.
Eat a light breakfast at least 90 minutes before fencing starts. You should never start your day nor a tournament on an empty stomach.
Report on time and get suited up quickly. Even better, come already dressed to fence. At check-in you will learn which strip to report to first for your first round of bouts.
While checking in have your mask inspected (this is a requirement). Fencing with a mask that has not been inspected will cost you a red card. Masks are tested with a 12K punch and examined for safety–no holes in bib, rust on mask or dents permitted. If you see gaps in the mesh, use an awl or small screwdriver to re-position the mesh. If you have a dent, tap it out from the inside with the back end of a large screwdriver and hammer.
A proper warm-up is critical to good fencing. Give yourself enough time to go through your normal routine of warm-up, stretching and drilling.
Experienced fencers and captains – help your teammates with advice and encouragement when you aren’t fencing. I will also be going around to as many of you as I can to give as much advice as I can.
Before your bout
Before your first bout, the Director or Referee will check your weapon to see that the handle and barrel of the tip are not loose, that the tip has two screws, the blade is not rusty, and that the wires of your weapon are glued down properly. Inside the guard the two wires must be covered with spaghetti insulation all the way up to the nut.
Before each bout, the Director will test your foil or epee to see that it supports the 750-gram weight. This is to insure that your tip is functioning correctly.
The Director will then have you and your opponents test your weapons on each other’s lames. Holding your mask in front of your face, touch your opponent’s lame with your weapon to ensure that all scoring equipment and weapons are functioning correctly.
Salute your opponent, salute your Director, and put on your mask. Have fun!
During your bout
If you disagree with a director’s or referee’s judgement, you may not protest it, even if it is poor judgement. However, if a rule is misapplied, you may politely lodge a protest. Do not continue to fence until the protest has been dealt with completely. If you continue to fence, you will lose your right to the protest. Have a teammate call me to the strip immediately if there is a rules question.
After your bout
Do not wander too far from your strip until all of your bouts for that round have been completed.
After the round has been completed, you will await the results to find out who will be advancing and what the strip assignments will be. Between bouts, observe some of the other bouts since everyone is a potential opponent. Take stock of strengths and weaknesses so that you are better prepared when you face that opponent.
This week in practice we are learning about feints and preparation. Let’s start with defining the terminology.
Feints, along with tempo, are the basis for modern competitive foil. They are actions which resemble an attack so closely that the opponent reacts as if they were. However, your feint is not followed immediately by a lunge. By dictating your opponents reaction, you gain the upper hand in what move will be played next (hopefully resulting in a touch for you). However, do not waste feints, and always wait for the opponent to attempt a parry before you attack.
We’ve briefly touch upon different types of feints–hand and body. In each case they are actions that not only deceive your opponent, but also actions that help you assess your opponents strengths and weaknesses. You can use your feints in a “probing” way to determine where your opponent’s soft spots are.
Included here is a video by Master Charles Selberg. Even in his retirement years, he demonstrated a fluidity of movement, making his transitions seamless and efficient. I strongly encourage you to view the video and pay close attention to everything. I could expound more on our chosen topic here, but Master Selberg’s talk on feints and preparation are filled with tons of knowledge and presented in an easy fashion. Enjoy!