1.12 How can I improve my technique without the help of a coach?

     It is very easy to acquire bad habits and poor technique if you do 
     not have the guidance of a knowledgable fencing master, coach, or 
     fellow fencer.  If you are serious about improving your fencing, 
     quality coaching is always your best investment.  However, a 
     disciplined fencer still has options if decent instruction is not 
     available on a regular basis.
     Firstly, a solid knowledge of fencing theory and regulations is a 
     must.  The freelance fencer should study the FIE Rules of 
     Competition and a good fencing manual (see Section 3.3).  The 
     fencer should test and apply this knowledge by presiding whenever 
     possible.  An appreciation of good fencing style is also 
     essential, so that the fencer can readily identify weaknesses in 
     his own and other fencers' techniques.  Observation and comparison 
     of skilled or accomplished fencers will develop this ability.  
     Training videotapes and videotapes of high-level competitions (see 
     Section 3.6) are also helpful in this regard.
     The freelance fencer must be open-minded and critical of his own 
     technique, so that he can recognize problems before they develop 
     into habits.  Discussion of his weaknesses with training opponents 
     will help him clarify the areas that need work.  If possible, he 
     should videotape his bouts and review them to spot defects in his 
     tactics and technique.
     The fencer should seek out opponents who will strenuously test 
     his weaknesses.  More experienced fencers, left-handers, those 
     whose tactics are particularly effective, and even those with 
     annoying (ie. difficult) styles should be courted on the practice 
     strip.  When fencing less skilled opponents, the fencer should 
     restrict his tactics to a small set that require practice, and 
     resist the temptation to open up if he should start losing.
     The opportunity to participate in footwork and line drills should 
     never be passed up.  When he can find an agreeable partner, the 
     fencer can do more personalized drills to exercise his weak areas.  
     (Of course it is courteous to indulge the needs of one's partner 
     when he in turn works on his own training.)
     Lastly, the fencer should remain aware of his bout psychology and 
     mental state when fencing, and try to cultivate the mindset that 
     in his experience produces good fencing.

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