Learning fundimentals

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It has often been my observation, that beginning students often mimic the actions of more experienced fencers.

This may create issues further on if the student neglects fundamentals of distance and timing, fails to understand the proper context of these actions, of does so with less then correct form. It is a sad commentary that some coaches fail to correct these faults in the pressure to get immediate results.

In my opinion the teaching of fundamentals is the neglected step child of coaching hierarchy. I have observed over the years, some beginning students that end up with a “elite coach” that is known for “producing” great results, are in fact sometimes neglected. Passed on to student coaches that may have good fencing skills but little understanding of student development. Please don’t misunderstand me, elite coaches are great at polishing a students ability and many do in fact have out standing programs for introducing basic skills. Still, I fear this is not always the case.

It should come as no surprise, that 95% of a students learning and success is from that first coach that spends countless hours instilling the fundamentals, as well as instilling the love of the sport. It should be observed that any elite coach will be grateful for the student with proper fundamentals, relearning bad habits requires lots of time and effort, and is not always successful. This task of “finishing” a student, is only made more difficult by parents and students that look for quick results, short cuts and tricks rather then learning point control, distance, good form and learning the visual cues that are needed in our sport.

How can a parent or student find a good fundamentals coach? My suggestion is to look at his or her students. Do they show good form, are they clean fencers? Does the club give proper attention to all students or only focus on the elite fencers? Who really teaches the younger kids? There are many smaller clubs that offer a better program of instruction for young students then even well known clubs. Not that this is always the case, but it is worthwhile to look beyond the veneer of “clubs of reputation” and consider your specific needs for your current level of development. There are many opinions on teaching beginners, so I will refrain from infecting my personal opinions, but regardless a coach must be a good communicator.

One last but important suggestion, go to a competition that the prospective coaches students will attend, note how the students compare to others at the event, how they conduct themselves and how the coach behaves toward his students under the pressure of competition. Remember that fencing kids teaches life lessons. Good luck my friends

Thanks for your time,

coach Geoff