How's my fencing? (FOIL video)

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Quinn, May 29, 2018.

  1. Quinn

    Quinn Made the Cut

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    Dear fellow fencers. In looking to improve my fencing I got my last tournament recorded, so that I could recognize what's most in need of fixing. I would greatly appreciate it if you could take a look at one or more of the linked videos and give me your thoughts on what I'm doing wrong and how to do it better. In particular, I would point out the pool bout 3, and both number 2 DE's, as the most challenging bouts and so perhaps most telling of my poor habits. (I am the left-handed fencer with the yellow mask :) )



    My own observations:
    -I miss lots of attacks because of a poor extension. Though I get some touches on angulated attacks, it more often causes me to miss: I need to fix my extension to be straighter, and the hand position centered
    -Attacking from out of distance. Though it felt like the distance was good when fencing, upon reviewing video it's obvious I keep falling short
    -Often lazy, bouncing footwork, especially when going forward

    Feel free to roast my fencing, and thanks for your time :)
     
  2. tbryan

    tbryan Podium

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    I see that you already got some, you'll feedback in your post on Reddit.

    While it's largely semantic, I try to avoid thinking about improving as just fixing some specific action or problem. Sometimes, I've found that improvement in my fencing requires approaching the game differently, rethinking how I set up touches, and/or learning completely new skills.

    Answering that question directly probably won't be very useful to you: :)
    • You never make an early extension in your attack, and your hand finishes quite late.
    • You rarely finish your attacks on your own time. You wait for your opponent's mistake to give you the distance.
    • Your counterattacks seem effective, but they often have very little set up, relying on your opponent to make a mistake instead of forcing that mistake from them.
    • Your on guard is quite high for foil, and you don't change direction well.
    • After your attack, when you're looking for the counterattack/remise or a counter-riposte, you look stuck and unable to move back. You generally lean and in out of the action, without moving your feet as you parry and riposte.
    • You (and most of your opponents in those videos) are relying almost entirely on closed-eyes actions.
    I'm not sure where you're fencing, but based on just that video, you remind me of some D-rated fencers I know in the U.S. who have been fencing for a few years and have some good competitive success but who don't have the tools necessary to win a bout against a strong C+ rated fencer. If any of your opponents could make a strong compound attack or an open-eyes second intention attack, I think that you'd be in trouble. Given some of your parry patterns and your "stuck" position in your counter-riposte battles, I'd guess that you'd be vulnerable to a closed-eyes indirect riposte from your opponent.

    Phrasing this in a more useful way...
    • You make good use of the fact that you're tall and left handed.
    • You rotate tactics on strip to pressure your opponents and keep them a bit off-balance, and your tactics seem to support each other well. For example, sometimes after the attack, you make a big parry and counter-riposte and other times you make a counterattack. If your opponent tries to riposte fast and immediately, he's vulnerable to your counter-riposte. If he starts a slower, more cautious attack after his parry, he's vulnerable to your counterattack.
    • You have some combinations, such as your parry-riposte after a failed attack, which are fast, immediate, and effective. Of course, that probably means that they're closed eyes actions and vulnerable to a more skilled opponent.
    • Your pressure on the attack is generally good. I like the small steps with your blade "hidden" to avoid early parries.
    • You basically never deceive a parry, but you work around that deficiency by getting close and using angulated attacks and ripostes to get around the parry.

    I don't completely agree with that assessment.
    • Your extension is late, starting well after your body commits to the attack. That makes it easy for your opponents to see the start of the attack and parry early. To avoid the parry, you mostly attempt to angulate around the parry. The core problem is really the late extension.
    • Disagree about the distance. You're not finishing the attack on your own initiative, and your hand is very late in the attack. Because of those problems, even when you're at the "right" distance, you're not able to hit. In fact, you're often too close before you start. Getting closer is not the best solution.
    • I like the small, little steps on the attack. Much of the other maneuvering footwork needs work.
    Recommendations,

    This isn't a complete recipe, but it's probably where I'd start if I were a coach, and you were my student.
    • Discover that your hips, knees, and ankles can all bend a lot more. Some of Littell's exercises are good for this: https://www.youtube.com/user/davidlittell/videos
    • After that, force yourself to get another few inches lower in all footwork and drills you do for the next year. As you get used to being lower, work on change-of-direction drills.
    • Work on how to hit a lunge with an early extension. There are some drills to help with this, but it'll be easier if you have a good coach to help you.
    • As you try to incorporate an early extension into your game, you're going to get parried a lot. The timing and the execution of an attack with an early hand is challenging, and when you screw it up, you'll often end up in a lunge with the opponent's riposte already starting. I find it useful to pair early extension work with second intention work (especially, attack with a possible parry-riposte in the lunge). That way, when you fail with "attack with an early extension," you won't be as panicked.
    • If I were your coach, I'd also want to work with you on aiming the tip with your fingers. It feels like your attacks and ripostes are all with the whole arm with a very "dead" tip. I don't have a good way to explain drills for this skill succinctly on a forum.
    There are some other things about the use of distance that I'd also want to work on, but that's a much broader issue, and it's difficult to give you simple drills to work on.

    Good News / Bad News

    You have enough of a foundation and good tactical experience to build on. I can already see the core of a good "tall lefty" foil game in your fencing. You're at a point in your fencing where a lot of people get "stuck" and end up doing the same sorts of things over and over. (Like someone on this forum once said, some fencers think that they've been fencing for 10 years, but they've really been fencing for 1 year 10 times.) If you're actively seeking advice and are focused in your training, you can hopefully avoid that trap.

    Unfortunately, many of the things that you need to work on next if you want to get to the next level in your fencing are somewhat detailed and technical. Most of what you need to work on is more subtle than "my hand position needs to be more centered." It's going to be difficult to build those skills unless you're taking private lessons from a good foil coach or you have a very good group of experienced teammates who are willing to work on specific drills with you.

    Based on the video, you have some decent local referees. On the other hand, most of the fencers in your videos have some of the same tendencies. For example, almost everyone finishes attacks with a late hand, and almost everyone steps back and opens the distance when making a parry. Perhaps you're all just around the same experience level. Or maybe you're all from the same one or two fencing clubs, and that's just how your local coaches teach foil. Unfortunately, that could make it more difficult to improve because it's possible that your coaches don't see these problems or don't know how to fix them.

    Good luck!
     
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  3. Mihail

    Mihail Podium

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    @Quinn would you be interested in an online service where you can upload a video of a bout and hire a coach to review and critique it for you? I know as a competitive fencer, if I was interested in getting a second opinion, it would've been useful for me.
     
  4. Quinn

    Quinn Made the Cut

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    @tbryan First of all let me give you most sincere thanks for taking the time and writing up an insightful and also very helpful reply. I don't receive much couching where I fence, so most of my feedback -> correction loop is based entirely on advice given by more experienced fencers, and self-analysis. I find that getting a new perspective on one's fencing, especially from someone much more experienced, is immensely valuable both because it's a bit of a wake-up call, and also because it enables me to work on a system of training/fencing without being so stuck in my own ideas. I've read through your post a few times now and it's interesting to see, looking back at the video, how obvious some of my mistakes seem now.

    I have tried implementing some of your suggestions, and have already noticed positive effects. Namely working on a lower en garde combined with extending early I notice it is possible to make touches from much farther away. The wider distance also enables smaller disengage-work as the opponent's hand is not in the way. I am however struggling with the execution of an "eyes-open" feint-disengage attack. To me, the time between the start of an attempted parry by and it connecting feels too short to react with a disengage even if I know in which line to expect it. Hence I do it "eyes-closed" relying on the opponent to be consistent with his previous timing/line of parrying. I suppose this inability is a symptom of my not taking lessons, but I'll try to learn eyes-open attacking nonetheless, perhaps with a drilling partner.

    Thank you again for your feedback, I believe it will make a difference.
     
  5. Quinn

    Quinn Made the Cut

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    @Mihail That seems like a great idea! I'm sure many improvement-minded fencers who don't have access to coaching in their area would find it extremely useful, those who can't afford coaching probably couldn't afford the service either though.
     

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