Self Directing at Practice

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by Capt. Slo-mo, Feb 2, 2004.

  1. Capt. Slo-mo

    Capt. Slo-mo Podium

    Oct 28, 2002
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    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?
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2004
  2. Inquartata

    Inquartata Podium

    Jul 12, 2001
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    We've always used the first method, or a variant, when there's anyone to be had to direct. I don't think I'd much care for the second in a really competitive atmosphere, where there's not an effort made to be honest. Practice is a place to learn and hone skills and try new stuff, not to just to "win"....
  3. Mo

    Mo Rookie

    Sep 28, 2001
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    Having just read a post on directing, the change in the directed to self directed bouts seems to rob the fencers of a good opportunity.
    You cannot do what you cannot see in your head. If you have a mental picture of certain fencing moves, you can start to be able to execute the moves.
    Refereeing bouts puts good pictures in fencer's heads. I would think it would increase the rate learning in a club. Having to name an action also promotes the understanding of fencing. Seems like a giant missed opportunity.:rolleyes:
  4. Peach

    Peach Podium

    Feb 10, 2001
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    Depends on the atmosphere of the club.

    Our sabre group self-directs all the time, but we all consider ourselves members of the same team and are punctilious about awarding touches because we're trying to improve and help one another improve. Those of us who are better fencers and those of us who are not as good work on our skills in bouts and don't worry about whether or not we get the touch. When fencers want to ramp up the intensity or get a clearer idea of tournament fencing, they ask someone to referee, usually if it's not too crowded. Most of us are working for performance in tournaments, not victories at the club, and as I often say to someone I'm fencing, "You have to understand. You're not my opponent. My opponent is a woman in her 50's who goes to veteran NAC tournaments."

    Yes, I agree, when we're self-refereeing and I'm fencing the guy who does the windmill attack and I hit him in tempo, he doesn't know it's not a simultaneous and I don't tell him because I'm not interested in arguing every point. But periodically I will ask a team-mate to referee and then he knows.
  5. prototoast

    prototoast Podium

    Aug 9, 2003
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    Isn't it a little odd that your club has a mandated format for practice bouting?
  6. klauver

    klauver Made the Cut

    Jan 12, 2004
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    Our club is facing the same issue, room to fence. We host 5 self-directed pistes vs 2 with a director. The discontent of having to wait longer to fence overwhelmingly causes us to only use the director format when prepping for competitions.
  7. Cyranox11

    Cyranox11 Rookie

    May 15, 2000
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    Simple Solution

    Fence epee!
  8. sabreur

    sabreur Podium

    Jul 26, 2000
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    When we self-direct at my club, one fencer starts the action (by slapping his thigh) and calls touches until the score is 3-X. Then the other guy starts the action and calls the touches for the rest of the bout. No arguing allowed. Works fine.

    If you're doing 15-touch bouts, switch when the first guy gets to eight.

    This presupposes a certain maturity on the part of the fencers, and a common understanding of the rules. We have one guy who can never admit that he was hit, unless it is a one-light action (even then it is a problem for him;) ). With people like that, you just have to think about how a director would have called the touch, and not get too worked up about losing a touch or a bout in practice...

    But all in all, I prefer having a director.

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2004
  9. Talyn

    Talyn Rookie

    Jul 17, 2003
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    Bah... you need a friendly club. Fence when you want to or fence a bout to 15 then get off if there are people waiting.

    Anyway most practice bouts should be relaxed enough os if you don't know who's point it was then no one really cares.
  10. grotto

    grotto Rookie

    Dec 29, 2003
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    Good call Mo, it also helps train directors!, and reading several threads on this board it would seem that everyone needs some time in the hot seat. My coach taught us how to direct by requiring us to direct at club (under supervision) and during our events (when not fencing). It is also a great opportunity to listen to what other coaches say to fencer x during breaks.
  11. FoilyGeezer

    FoilyGeezer Rookie

    Apr 15, 2003
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    I've been fencing at two different clubs lately.

    At one of them the general approach is to have one of the "on deck" fencers direct the bout that's up. Mostly we fence seven touch bouts there. If things are slow, and only one fencer is on deck, the winner of the current bout may opt to stay in for the next one, but normally it's two new fencer's per bout. This seems to be good because it gives most fencer's some opportunity to direct. It's good for the fencer's because it acclimates you to having to fence poorly directed bouts (which is a good thing), and because we have fencers at all different levels it avoids the situation of the good fencers fencing all night, and the huddled masses just getting knocked over one by one. The bad thing about it is that it emphasises winning over technique. You tend to see more fencers "getting stuck" by using moves that are bad fencing, but work anyway at the level they're fencing at, but fail at higher levels.

    The other club is mostly dry and self directed. For advanced fencer's I'd say that was okay (most of us are there to work on a particular thing), but it does take things down a few notches in intensity where bouting to win is concerned. The pace there is a lot slower and more deliberate, good for teaching particular fine points in technique but bad insofar as it doesn't often realistically resemble the pressure and pacing of competition.

    In an ideal world I guess you'd have both, but mandating one or the other kind of fencing doesn't make much sense. Everyones need (strengths and weaknesses) are unique in this sport.
  12. Craig

    Craig Administrator Staff Member

    Dec 7, 1999
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    I'm a fan of the on-deck fencer refereeing the bout. When I'm fencing with people at my level and the referee is at my level, it makes for a good tournament simulation, when the ref is a little lower level then that fencer is getting some good referee training mixed in with their bouting, and when the fencers are at mixed levels the lower level fencer can get a good feel for how things are called and how the better fencer is setting them up.

    However, I've done a lot of self-directing when there wasn't the odd number of fencers at club and the key is the maturity level of the upper level fencers. The "better" fencer should be taking the lead to call the bout and should also be willing to give up those touches that they don't think they would have received at a tournament. (I'll even tell my sparring partner: I tried to do X to you, but I don't think the ref would call that. It's either yours or simul. your choice.)

    When I bouted sabre, I would never self ref b/c I still live in foil tempo and I wouldn't get any of those calls correct. ;)

    If you're really seeing a drop off in tournament placement then a couple of the fencers that have the coaches' respect should talk to them away from the group to get their point of view and maybe suggest some ways to keep what the coaches want (more bouting, less standing) and get a little of what it sounds like the fencers want (tournament simulation). I may be a schedule thing (Mon, Wed: Self Direct; Fri: Referee).


  13. oiuyt

    oiuyt Podium

    Apr 26, 2000
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    I agree with Craig, rather than go the whole petition route people should be talking to the coaches privately. If it's even gotten to the point where it's apparent that the discontent is wide-enough spread that a petition would even be viable you should already be talking to the coaches.

    In my own fencing I do both with fair regularity. My team usually has the on-deck fencer referee, although when the referee is inexperienced (frequently, I have a young team) and one or both of the fencers are experienced the fencer(s) will frequently correct the referee. We also tend to have experienced fencers off the strip helping the referee. (important consideration: we still make the referee make the original call and then only help out if the call is blown or the wording is incorrect. Whether or not the original (possibly incorrect) call is retained depends mostly on who's fencing, what the purpose of the bout is, etc.)

    At the local club where I fence for myself most of the bouts are self-refereed at least until near the end of the night when people who are done or just waiting around to fence one of the fencers on strip generally referee. Usually at this point it's just the top fencers fencing anyway so having the more tournament-like situation helps.

    At the club that I travel to fence at there's a mix of refereed and self-refereed bouts (with the mix being different depending on the night, when during the night it is and the weapon involved).

    Having fencers referee can be very helpful. It helps the development of the referee (both as a referee and as a fencer). It helps provide a more realistic situation. It helps balance any inequality on starting reaction time (pretty much only an issue in sabre). It helps the fencers on strip concentrate only on their fencing.

    Having bouts self-refereed can be good too. It requires fewer people (or allows for more simultaneous bouts). It requires less space. Especially when the two people invovled are significantly better fencers/referees than anyone else in the room the fencers are likely to do a better job of assigning touches anyway.

    Most of the bouts that I fence in practice are self-refereed. Most good fencers know whether or not they've scored a given touch. Worse case they both disagree and who cares, it's a practice bout. If you're so hypercompetitive that you actually care about the results in a club practice setting (other than when you're intentionally fencing sharp bouts as immediate tournament tune-up) then you have other problems that need to be addressed before you look at how the bouts are organized. The week before a big event does winning touches matter? Frequently. The three ro four weeks before that? No. This is the time to work on your actions. Who cares whether or not that *^%@[email protected] will acknowledge the touch? YOU know you got it. Or you know that you screwed it up and it still needs work. That's what really matters. Then again, most of the time in practice I'm either fencing without keeping score or fencing where each person fences two bouts and then rotates off the strip so winning doesn't affect whether or not you get to continue fencing (other than in the first bout of the night when the loser takes a shorter rotation of just 1 bout).

    -B :)
  14. deadly lefty

    deadly lefty Rookie

    Oct 24, 2003
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    is your coach really that hard to talk to? just ask him also talk to your teammates about honest bout calling and how it well help their game
  15. Zelda

    Zelda Rookie

    Feb 21, 1999
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    When I used to fence in London, we had reffed bouts, however to allow for as many strips as possible the ref used to stand at one end of the strip and direct. It made it a little bit difficult in some ways, but we still got a ref, and could concentrate on fencing not directing.

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