The importance of basic skills

Fencing Club HC Meet 2013-9172
An interesting observation recently, made at a local “C” event reenforced a long held opinion of mine. This is not unusual as I’m always looking for justification for my long held opinions. That is how us opinionated old guys work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of bold new ideas. It’s just nice when they line up with my opinionated world view. Makes me feel important, well at least until my wife reminds me that I’m just an opinionated old fart (yep, she said that, even when we were dating some decades ago).

I watched each epeeist, to see what skills, tactics and ideas they brought to the table. I correlated that with their results. Mid tier is were all those guys and gals with the fashionable new moves lay. They made some impressive touches, yet what won the day was basic, clean fencing. Distance, point control and tactical awareness overcame fashion. Now this is just one mid level competition, not much to be basing an opinion on (I trust you have observed that it does not take much for me to form an opinion) so I did some research, talking to fellow coaches and watching Youtube videos of worlds and even thinking and such. Certainly I saw a few moves “du jour” yet what is apparent is that such are used sparingly and over a solid foundation of skills and understanding.
I often see less experienced fencers mimicking such flashy gyrations, seemingly at random, and often repetitively. Of further consideration, is that to much reliance on such unorthodox tactics, can lead down the road to poor distance, infighting, wayward point control and the loss of the social safety net that binds the fabric of the universe. Oh, sometimes they even fall down (note the hole in the wall of the above photo, yes he did!).

My suggestion is that time spent on perfecting basic skills is time well spent. Often it is also the solution for slumps and plateaus as well.

So why do these flamboyant actions seem to work? Well, most of us don’t practice against stupid. Sometimes it’s the unexpected (stupid) move that works. Stupid moves are not restricted to less then elite fencers, I’ve witnessed some gold medal touches that were downright insane. It is the time and place, and the skills to know when to break the conventions that’s vital.

Build your skills on a solid foundation with full understanding and never give up
have a nice day,
coach Geoff

New FIE rule changes

Well, this may stir the pot!
New rule changes that may be on a fencing strip near you soon!


The prospect of 75 rule changes blows my mind. I hope this is filtered way down.

Just because you can does not mean you should

Welcome is the change to the non combative rule, a much needed correction of the rule removes the requirement to have blade contact every 15 seconds. This was being abused tactically and frankly was disregarding the essence of epee.

Beats to the forte (bottom third of blade) will count as the opponents parry in foil and sabre. In my opinion a parry is a parry and a beat a beat, however, few foilist really parry in the classic sense anymore, as no attempt is made to divert the opponents blade from target area. I predict that we will chase this issue around for some time. Another reason to fence epee!

This is from the Fencing Officials Commission

This past weekend, the 100th Congress of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) took place in Paris, France. The agenda of each Congress is determined partially by the current year of the Olympic Quadrennial; last year’s agenda focused on electing a new group of commission members. This year’s agenda focused on the rules of fencing. In total there were 75 proposed rules changes, some with wide ranging implications.
Although the FIE has not released the official decisions of the proposals yet — hopefully that will happen in the next few weeks — we are fortunate that the chair of the FOC, Sam Cheris, was present at the Congress. Based on his notes, the unofficial results of the proposals can be found below. The text of the proposals can be found
The most important thing to remember is that at the present time, these are decisions that only affect international fencing, mostly as of January 1, 2014. No rules changes have yet taken effect for USA Fencing competitions. The process for changing USA Fencing rules first starts once FIE makes public the English translation of their rules. After this, the FOC will review the international rules changes and make recommendations to the Board of Directors about whether or not the US should adopt them, including recommended implementation dates. The Board will then consider them at its Board meeting.
Some highlights of rules changes at the international level:
  • In foil, beats on the lower third of the blade will now be considered parries by the opponent.
  • Absence of blade contact will no longer be a criteria for non-combativity.
  • There will be no penalty for simple corps a corps for foil and saber, but the referee still calls Halt.
  • Visor masks will be forbidden in all weapons (Effective March 1, 2014).
  • Insulting a referee will be an immediate Group 4 offense (Black card).
  • Foils and epees must be made of maraging steel for FIE competitions based on SEMI Commission safety concerns.
We will post more information as it becomes available, and will post updates as USA Fencing considers adopting these rules for domestic competitions.

The long and short of epee attacks

“All men are created equal.” OK, let’s ignore for the moment that this statement dismisses fifty percent of the population. What it does not say is: all men (women too) are created the same. This is all to evident in our sport of epee. Some general observations here, and some generalizations that I’m sure will get me in trouble. This discussion is addressed to the general fencing population, not so much our elite athletes; this is more your basic stuff. Anyway, we have fencers that are tall and some that are...not so much. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the taller fencer can outreach their opponent. My casual observation is that these tall fencers are well suited to stop hits and, once up to speed, can cover considerable ground with surprising rapidity. What is sometimes lacking is explosive speed, at least in relation to their shorter brethren. Those longer limbs have their particular momentum considerations as well.

If a shorter fencer wishes to negate these issues, several obstacles await. Mostly, the opponents point being aimed at them! Quick changes in direction most often benefit the shorter fencer, allowing those shorter limbs to quickly close the distance. Still, the issue of the opponents point looming at you must be addressed. Actions to the blade are an important option, binds and oppositions can be very effective; beats to a more limited degree. Second intention actions can draw the opponent into a vulnerable position ready for a counter attack. This is all well-known; still I spend far too much time seeing shorter fencers getting picked off as they attack the torso with inadequate preparation.

Now I’d be remiss if I fail to note common shortcomings of taller fencers. At least as they often fence shorter opponents. Somehow their footwork becomes lazy as they lumber towards their prey, forcing an attack, and hoping for a stop hit. I also have observed tall fencers over-lunging. By this I’m referring to those that lunge to greater distance then they can recover from quickly, or greater then the circumstance calls for. This allows the shorter fencer a golden opportunity, and let me assure you, they will exploit it. Distance and control are just as important for the tall fencer as the shorter fencer.

Considerations of distance and how responsive our opponent is to changes in direction and tempo are vital to all fencers. We should always be aware of our opponents ability to deliver a direct attack in relation to our own. The greater reach of tall fencers allows for angulation (stop hits from a wider angle). The shorter fencer often will have some advantage in infighting. Some adjustment to your en guard position may be advised as well. Observe and you will learn.

Like I said, not rocket science, but when in the middle of a bout, few of us are rocket scientists, are we?

coach Geoff