1.11 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 3.5) 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.