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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