Visual clues in epee

I suspect one of the greatest advantages a seasoned fencer has over the novice is the ability to read their opponents intentions.

Its true, advance fencers have more “tools” to draw from, meaning they have both numerically more as well as refined actions to choose from. Yet often the more advanced fencer chooses a more limited selection of fencing actions. It is the ability to use visual clues, that allows for the proper response in a timely manner, that gives the advanced student a distinct advantage.

So what do I mean by the term visual clues? On a basic level we can use fencing actions or invitations offered by our opponent as a guide to their intentions. Your opponent needs what has been termed as “hidden prerequisites” to insure his action is successful. An example could be, a simple beat attack to the arm, our novice fencer may choose to look for an extended blade and proper distance as the needed hidden prerequisites. Our more advanced student will also see the set up, perhaps the opponents hand telegraphing the beat action to come, combined with a closing of distance. Knowing a beat attack is likely our advanced student has several options open, a response with a disengage, with or without opposition, may well seal the novices fate. In the matter of reading our opponents “invitation” we have an even more clear example. The term invitation is used to describe basically a trap. It could be an open target such as the hand, foot or torso, purposely left open, usually for but brief moments in time. The more advance invitation, can be a series of actions, that should lead to the opponent being left open.These openings or invitations are often repeated in some sort of pattern so as to draw our opponent into thinking he has discovered a flaw in our game. A novice will often be all to obvious in these set ups. The more advanced game will require a more subtle approach.

How can we learn to see the visual clues? Well, experience is the great teacher. After enough strip time you will recognize certain patterns. We can accelerate the process however, in our training and in or fencing. In training I feel it is vital, when learning new actions or combination of actions, that we also see what these actions look like when done to us. Your coach or training partner should be able to help with this. With careful observation we can also learn watching others fence. If we observe our opponents as we fence, focusing on what they are doing instead of what we wish to do we will quickly learn to recognize visual clues. I am convinced that it is an advantage to focus on your opponents actions rather then your own. If you know what your opponent is doing, then the answer to what you should do was already answered, by your training.

As we advance we will learn to use visual clues in a different way, we can use them as a tool to lie to our opponents about our intentions, setting up second intentions and developing the bout by teaching our opponents in how we wish them to respond. Oh, such fun it is to play the game. Learning to read your opponent is where all tactics and strategy start. While some fencers use only the reptilian part of the brain to hit targets of opportunity, they will never advance to their full potential.

thanks for your time,

coach Geoff

Surviving to competition day, shake on it?

I was once told that, in addition to all the handwork, dedication and training, all the talent and time devoted, that health and luck still play an important role in getting to that podium.

Somehow you need to be healthy on that day, free from injury. Who among your peers on that fateful day also made it past all the obstacles only to have injury or illness on that competition day? See the luck part? It all is part of a greater passion play I guess, on who finally gets to wear the laurel crown

I recently felt heartbreak when several of my students failed to attend an important qualifying event. Goals shattered, at least for the moment. Thankfully they are young and resilient and will move on. So what happened?
Flu season falls squarely in competition season. Students solely focused on their training, go to classes despite their emerging symptoms, only to spread the malady and soon ……. ugh!

Things happen, it’s true. We can however hedge our bets by precaution and mindfulness …… Oh yeah, and flu shots. Hard training effects the body we all know. Some of us are unaware however, that hard training can also reduce our immune system, at least for a period while our body recovers. This window of infectious opportunity is when we most need to be on guard. In fencing, we are in close proximity to our peers and shake hands constantly, as we must. I suggest that upon entering a bout, we be required to have two working epee, body cords, mask, jacket, plastron and hand sanitizer. Could I add that, proof of flu shot, be required for registration? I’m only half joking. As your date with destiny gets closer, I suggest you avoid sick people when possible, and the public in general, and that you may wish to wash your hands obsessively. Live a healthy lifestyle, eat well, sleep well. Living inside a “closed eco system”, or unused underground bunker may not be unwarranted, if you personally understand the nature of this years flu. Nasty it is!

Injury, in my opinion athletic injuries can and should be avoided. Often these injuries are result of overtraining, or improper technique. This can be a fine line I understand as we choose how far to push ourselves. It is therefore vital that we are fully aware an a daily basis of how our body reacts to our stress load. We must allow for full recovery between training sessions and modify our training schedule accordingly. Massage is very helpful for the athlete in both recovery and in evaluation of our muscular conditions. Tight illiotibial fascia, also known as the IT band, is a hard to stretch area that can, if not addressed, lead to injury and is easily observed by a massage therapist. Stretching is best done when muscles are warm. I suggest two stretching sessions, one after warm up and one at the end of your work out.

I also am surprised by many injures athletes suffer in activities unrelated to their sport. High on this list, I hear of something referred to as
“just fooling around”. Let us refer to this as “JFA”. JFA seems to be the number one cause of stupid injuries. I hope you won’t find me to much of a “downer” to suggest that your JFA, should be reduced in correlation to your ability to recover from such foolishness and your upcoming competition schedule.

So with a bit of planing, and some behavior modification, we can reduce our chances of calamities, such as we see befall
Wile E. Coyote in the the Roadrunner, that safe can fall from the sky at any time. It’s up to us to stand aside.

drive safe,
coach Geoff

How to win at Epee (rant)

a coaches frustrated rant!

How do you win at epee? Hit your opponent first!
Surprising how some folks forget that.

Don’t pull your arm during an attack, especially if your opponent is 6 inches taller then you! (you know who I’m talking too!)

Doing an action that fails over and over again, will generally have bad results and annoy your coach

Read the rule book! Please, I’m asking nicely

Practice observation
in all things

Distance, distance, distance, distance ………..

Be nice to your coach, a fencing coach is a sorry lot ;)

FYI, Contrary to popular belief, epee jackets can be washed!

have a nice day,
coach Geoff