View Poll Results: Do your lessons teach

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Thread: Lessons: Fencing vs Skill

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    Lessons: Fencing vs Skill

    There are two thoughts here:

    I.) Lessons teach you how to fence

    II.) Lessons develop the skills you need to fence
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  2. #2
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    how about;

    lessons develop a series of muscle memories that may result in you fencing well.

    A lesson can't cover all the things that might happen on the piste - so you don't really learn how to fence/fight from coaching.

    The best a coach can do is provide a basis for a student to work from, we have all seen (or at some point been) that individual who can take a picture perfect lesson but still get hammered in bouts.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    how about;

    lessons develop a series of muscle memories that may result in you fencing well.

    a lesson can't cover all the things that might happen on the piste - so you don't really learn how to fence from coaching.
    So are you saying "skills", or suggesting another option?
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  4. #4
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    One cannot become a good fencer from lessons alone. Free-fencing is the best way to develop skills, as you can learn different situations that might happen on the Piste, and how to deal with them. That is why I free-frence up to three times a week.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    First, glad that you are freefencing 3 times a week.

    So are you saying lessons teach skills, but bouting teaches fencing?
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  6. #6
    Senior Member D+F+P=Hadouken!'s Avatar
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    Both. Coaching isnt black and white. A coach should teach the skill, and how to apply it. The lesson should also develop your style, molding it into an effective style.
    "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. And from this side only! The flight of a half-man, half-bird. Dinosaurs nuzzling their young in pastures where strip malls should be. Cookies on dowels. All those moment, lost in time. Gone, like eggs off a hooker's stomach. Time to die" -Phil Ken Sebben

  7. #7
    Senior Member cfaustus's Avatar
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    Both are required for 'fencing'. The lessons teach and hone individual actions which are by all acounts unnatural to humans. The drills teach us to reprogram ourselves to use these techniques instead of our natural reactions which would leave us wide open with wide parries or perhaps end in more double touches than we would like. Drilling can also help us to learn distance if you have a good instructor. Drilling can teach you tactics and strategy.

    All of these are essential to fencing.

    However, one crucial element of fencing can only be superficially developed in drills: Tempo.

    One needs the unfettered environment of a bout to truly begin to perceive and utilize tempo. Drill can only teach you how to move your blade in tempo (ie they teach you what to do once you have perceived Tempo). They can not really help you learn to create tempo or even to perceive it all that clearly on bouting and to a lesser degree, watching bouts can do that for you.

    It is possible to teach instructional bouting which is a slightly more confined bouting lesson but it has the semblance of a free bout so fencers are capable of developing tempo.

    Ultimately you need both. Bouting to teach you about tempo, drilling to teach you what to do once you have control of tempo.
    "Si tu no sabes todas las acciones es como si un músico no supiera tocar todas las notas." - Fernando Chiriboga

    "If you do not know all the actions it is like a musician who does not know all the notes."

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Epee
    So are you saying "skills", or suggesting another option?
    well I suppose I want to know what we mean by "skills'.

    At any skill level of fencing there is a group of competitively succesful fencers that would probably be hard to identify from their peers simply on the basis of fencing 'skills'.

    Most elite fencers have the same set of skills in terms of basic methodology but only a tiny subset of those ever make it to an olympic or world championship final. Given the variation in coaches and pedagogy great fencers have been exposed to I find it hard to accept the idea that what you train (in the mechanical sense of skill) makes any longterm difference.

    So perhaps succesful coaches teach a skill beyond those that fall under the simple mechanics of fencing? The fencing equivalent of street smarts perhaps.

  9. #9
    That Guy Craig's Avatar
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    I would say that in general lessons teach skills. The skills may be defined as moves or actions to use within specific tactical situations (at a more advanced level), but the majority of what is learned within the context of a lesson is the technical application of a skill.

    The tactical and strategic functions (how to take the skills and actually "fence") are learned outside of the actual lesson in various forms of bouting: free fencing, controlled/situational bouting, sharp bouts, and competitions.

    Lukovich devotes quite a bit of space to the learning of technical vs. tactical in his book.

    Craig

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    Craig,

    You jumped ahead of me!

    I had in mind specifically the passage where Lukovich mentions that some great fencers became so with only technical lessons, and others couldn't compete with them even though they received technical and tactical lessons. (paraphrased)

    I intentionally didn't define the terms, to see what the responses would be, but I may have left it a little too open.
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Lessons teach a lot of different things for different students at different times in the student’s career. Traditionally, lessons begin by teaching a set of skills. How to parry, how to thrust, how to do footwork – the basic physical actions of the sport. The lesson may include a limited application of these skills (actual “fencing”), but the concentration is on learning and perfecting actions.

    This may be different for a student that the coach feels has a knack for fencing. That student will get tactical/mental training (“fencing”) in parallel with technical training earlier than another student that has a hard time just learning the basic skills.

    Students – some sooner, some later – come to a fork in the road: do they continue receiving “skill-based” lessons, or do branch out into “fencing-based” lessons? Usually, the coach makes that decision without consulting with the student, based on any number of criteria, most of it probably subjective. The student that has shown a knack for picking up physical skills, and also shows a willingness to fight will probably move to a "fencing-based" lesson very early. The student with a skill-based lesson continues to learn fencing actions (sometimes of more complexity), but essentially the coach is giving them different arrangements of the same music to play.

    The fencing-based lesson, on the other hand, starts to evolve into attempting to “replicate the bout”, still adding new strokes as appropriate, but also taking actions comfortable to the fencer and putting those into different contexts, usually involving changes of tempo/distance, making the fencer perform under various conditions, and so forth.

    All of this doesn’t mean that the student getting the skill-based lesson doesn’t know how to “fence”. In fact, the skill-based lesson seems pretty capable (in foil and epee at least, in saber, it seems to be much harder) of turning out some pretty solid “D” and “C” level fencers. But without going beyond a skill-based lesson, it seems unlikely that the fencer gets much better than that. Of course, there are exceptions to this – I know a few fencers who have done very well with only “skill-based” lessons. But I think that they bring a lot of outside skills to the table.

    Coaches who raise champions consistently seem to have an ability to teach a high level of skills, AND teach the ability to use those skills in real situations -fencing. These coaches seem to “replicate” the bout better in their training. This gives their students the ability not only to perform at a higher level than their peers at the start of their fencing careers, but also (it seems to me) to learn lessons from bouting faster.

    What’s the secret of this mix of “skill” and “fencing” training? I’m still working on that.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Epee
    I had in mind specifically the passage where Lukovich mentions that some great fencers became so with only technical lessons, and others couldn't compete with them even though they received technical and tactical lessons. (paraphrased)
    so should we consider a sculpting analogy, the form is buried in the block and the sculptor merely reveals it?

    (with some forms being just dog ugly of course)

  13. #13
    Din Älskling esskreemr's Avatar
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    It's actually both.

    At the beginning level, the lessons obviously teach you how to fence. You develop the basic skills applicable to fencing. Parry, riposte, advance, retreat, lunge. These are not neccessarily skills you will pick up correctly while free fencing. You may acquire them through observation, but since you can't watch yourself performing them, you're likely to develop bad habits.

    After a certain period, mastery of the skills of fencing is acquired (some people develop a better mastery than others). The lessons must naturally switch to a high-intermediate/advanced mode where the lessons start developing the skills to the point that they are beyond the sum of the skill set. Remember that "retreat-parry you worked on diligently in the beginning phase? Well, you now know that sometimes it's best to take a half-retreat, or to just move the rear foot back and wait for your opponent's reaction.

    Where does bouting fit into the picture? Well, training and lessons focus on your development, bouting requires you to use that development in a non-scripted fashion. In addition to your own talents and limitations, you now have to learn someone else's. Part of this can be taught, the majority of it must be experienced. Lessons are about the individual, bouting is about two individuals; guess who's going to have the best likelihood of winning (the one who is best prepared)?

    Learning fencing is just like learning a language. If you don't know "Big Red Ball" from "Big Blue Ball", then you'd better learn. Mastery of the basic components of speech will allow you to understand that "How are you?" doesn't mean you should go into a 4 hour speeach about how your day has went. It's the same in fencing, most of the time an invitation in 8 doesn't necessarily mean you want to attack in 4.
    "Since when does being a patriot in America mean shutting your mouth?"
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    zz,zz,zz,zz,zz,zz!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    so should we consider a sculpting analogy, the form is buried in the block and the sculptor merely reveals it?

    (with some forms being just dog ugly of course)
    This is a good comparison!

    Many of the top fencer production programs rely on a surprisingly numbers based development program. You start with 100 kids and in a few years you only have 5 left, and they are the next group of champions.

    It is a little different in the rest of the world where coaches work furiously to maximize the performance of sub-par participants.
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  15. #15
    Member Tiwaz's Avatar
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    I agree its both.

    I think it's probably important to make a distinction between coaching and teaching.
    The skills you need to fence should be taught during lessons at the initial stages of your training. The skills that you have now learnt should then be refined through coaching lessons.

    so
    teaching is introducing a new subject/topic/stroke

    and

    coaching is refining and improving it.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Mr Epee's Avatar
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    Allen,

    Thank you for your input.

    When you say:
    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans
    This may be different for a student that the coach feels has a knack for fencing. That student will get tactical/mental training (“fencing”) in parallel with technical training earlier than another student that has a hard time just learning the basic skills.
    When you say "has a knack for fencing" - do you mean that they are quickly mastering the actions, or are managing their practice bouts well.

    Or let me rephrase, do you mean a physical knack, or a sporting knack?

    And if you mean they have a natural understanding of the game, then you would try to further hone that trait with the addition of tactical/mental training?
    Take your time. Read carefully.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans
    Lessons teach a lot of different things for different students at different times in the student’s career. Traditionally, lessons begin by teaching a set of skills. How to parry, how to thrust, how to do footwork – the basic physical actions of the sport. The lesson may include a limited application of these skills (actual “fencing”), but the concentration is on learning and perfecting actions.
    But there is no reason that coaching shouldn't start immediately with fencing based lessons - for all students. Focus on the appropriate timing of the hit and then worry about developing the correct technique for delivering the point to target. After all sticking your arm out and hitting someone is quite a natural action.

    Isn't one danger of providing a mainly technical lesson that the student confuses the technical proficiency required for a lesson with what is required to win a bout (for some reason CF springs to mind, no idea why)? This is something that always bothers me when I give a technical lesson; even though I am working hard to get the cues correct they often have to be compromised in order to allow the student to perform the action correctly. So I tend to break more on the side of keeping the cues correct on the basis that there is seldom an oppurtunity for a technically perfect action in a bout - although any failings that telegraph the action do need to be eliminated.

    So the coach worries almost solely about providing tactically correct cues and cares only that the student hits only when they can score (and not even that the pupil understands why they are performing the correct action). Any gradual correction of the students form is secondary to developing the appropriate reactions for a given tactical situation.

    but on to a more important question; just how long is a piece of string?
    Last edited by keith; 06-14-2005 at 02:03 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member rvergara's Avatar
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    my coach often compares fencing to music. At first you learn to play single notes, then chords, then when you have enough skill you can memorize a song and play it. With practice you can eventually play a song by ear, and when you understand the concepts (rythm, and such... (i actually know very little about music :d)) you start composing.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Epee
    Or let me rephrase, do you mean a physical knack, or a sporting knack?

    And if you mean they have a natural understanding of the game, then you would try to further hone that trait with the addition of tactical/mental training?
    When I give a lesson to a new student....like BRAND new. I'll start with a simple action and immediately try to put it into a bouting context after they have a rough understanding of the movement.

    Let's take thrust and lunge. The student does a few thrusts and lunges standing still and hits. I move them up and down and let them thrust and lunge and hit. Then I let THEM control the advancing and retreating and see if they pick appropriate times to execute a straight attack. Do they figure out right away that it's easier to hit me after their retreat (and my advance) then by chasing me down the strip? Do they keep reasonable form when they try to hit me? Do they do something that totally surprises me? Do they stay in the fight and try different things to make it work better, even if I deny them the hit a few times?

    If they can keep a reasonable approximation of the physical action AND find a way to make it work better for them - then they have an ability I probably want to pay attention to. When I find that ability, I usually try to push actions into a "fencing" context sooner rather than later.

    If the student can't execute the thrust and lunge very well, even after practice with the skill, and completely falls apart when THEY control the action, I won't push the "fencing" part of the lesson upon them too quickly. I prefer tactical actions over technical ones, but you can't let one get too far ahead of the other.

    This is a very simple example (and probably not a true to life one), but it does illustrate the concept. We all know a lot of fencers with great form that can't hit. We know a lot of fencers that hit with not so perfect form. As coaches/teachers we're always chasing after the student with both. We rarely find them. So as a teacher, you have to play to both sides of the equation.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    But there is no reason that coaching shouldn't start immediately with fencing based lessons - for all students. Focus on the appropriate timing of the hit and then worry about developing the correct technique for delivering the point to target. After all sticking your arm out and hitting someone is quite a natural action. (snip) but on to a more important question; just how long is a piece of string?
    I agree. Completely. I think I posted in another thread a few months ago that all my lessons are a mix of technical skills and tactical actions ("skills" and "fencing"). In some students, that mix is weighted one way or the other, but tactical considerations are always present.

    Sticking the arm out and hitting is pretty simple (I would argue that it's NOT natural - the next time you shake hands with someone see if you stick your arm out and walk up to him or reach for his hand and step at the same time). At some point, however, to progress tactically, your technical skills have to be strong. I think that this is especially true of footwork.

    I was at a presentation given by Buckie Leach in which he told me that Tactical Actions always lead Technical Actions, but at some point, he would get frustrated with the technical ability of his student and "backfill" technique. I find that to often be the case.

    How long is a piece of string? Why, just as long as you cut it.

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