When I am coaching, I from time to time give the students some competely new drill, in order to mix up things, and get students out of their comfort zone. Many of those drills are thought out on a whim, I let them unfold and if they seem to work well, I retain them for later use, and if not, I simply dump them. Most are dumped, but some turn out to be worthwhile. On balance, I think that the cost connected to dumped drills is a little wasted piste time, and the upsides with the useful drills can be quite big. In either case, there is also the upside that students do not get stuck in rote actions, but are forced to think things through - the point of that is that students, when they are faced with a difficult problem at a competition, should be in the habit of thinking things through and not be stuck with trying to do whatever that they currently are doing without success again, but just harder and faster this time.
Yesterday, I saw that one student was winning epee bout after bout against another, so I decided to try something else. I decided that they would fence, but with another target area than they were used to. This time, they would only be awarded points if they scored hits on the parts of the epee target that are not foil target.
It sure did change things, there was more infighting, and decidedly more attempts at leg hits. The shorter fencer, who previously had lost every bout, this time came very close to winning that one bout. The longer fencer, who tends to rely a lot on distance, had noticeable problems with adjusting.
I am not sure what to make of this exercise. Do you think that it can cause students to learn the wrong lessons? Any comments in general?
Have a nice time!