During training, our club has changed the way it conducts bouting practice. Previously, the fencers would square off, with a fellow fencer (or occasionally a coach) directing the bout. Winner stayed up, the director moved in to fence, new director stepped up into the on-deck position.
Now, the club has mandated that all available space be used for self-directed bouts, no directors calling touches. Both fencers generally have to agree on the call for a touch to be awarded. Loser looks around and finds a new bout. A new problem now perceived by many of the fencers: it seems pointless to try risky actions or arsenal-building tactics, since the opponent tends to have contrary views of the action. Without a director to arbitrate, too much time is taken up in arguing the points, so the fencers tend to devolve to simple actions, or just working on faster and faster simple attacks.
Some fencers hardly ever acknowledge touches...others abstain point after point...others blatantly claim points no director would award.
Many of the fencers think that the self directing practice is diluting their tactical growth and reducing their ability to fence in formal competitions. The coaches love it because there's an appearance of higher bout counts during practice, and less time where people are standing in line, waiting to fence. (Yet they tend to miss the frequency of some fencers standing and yakking endlessly while hooking up).
Since the new practice regimen began several months ago, the club has seen a mild drop off in their national and international results. Some of the fencers have discussed bringing a petition to the coaches...but are afraid this may be too radical a step.
Other thoughts and experiences with these two styles of practice bouting?