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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fencing and the Learning Process


As you can tell by the subject this blog will address the idea of fencing and the learning process. More to the point it will have a look at the attitude of the fencer toward fighting different opponents and how this can affect the learning process.

In fencing when you are bouting there will always be a choice between the easy win or the hard fight. This is a question of who you go out to seek to fight. Do you seek simply to win, or do you seek a challenge and the opportunity to learn from the encounter? If you are simply looking for the win there it is more likely that you will seek opponents that you can easily beat whereas if you are seeking a challenge and an opportunity to learn this will inevitably lead to finding the harder opponent. While the instant win gives you some sort of ego gratification it is a much shorter path and actually leads not too far. If you go out and seek the harder opponents not only is a win against them more gratifying a loss can also lead you to learn something from the encounter, this will enable you to learn more and improve yourself, a much longer term goal. It is important that we all seek the harder opponent and be grateful for their presence as it gives a much wider opportunity for us to learn than fighting those that we can easily beat, which leads us on to something else.

Everyone knows that they have a set of techniques which are reliable for them, which in some cases will guarantee victory over the opponent. So, should we use these same techniques and be satisfied with the victory, or should we look to learn new things and put them to the test against an opponent? As with fighting opponents who are easier, the win is instant gratification whereas the other will extend our fencing experience. Even where the technique does not work something is learnt. Was it the way the action was performed? Was it the timing or the distance at which the action was performed that needs to be corrected? These are things we can learn from extending ourselves and trying new things, this is vital to the learning process. Even where the loss is to an easier opponent something can be learnt when using a new technique, so the expansion of ones repetoire is a good thing and will help us down the path.

In essence what is being discussed here is how we progress in our fencing and nothing more. Fighting the same opponents with the same techniques will refine the techniques, it is true, but it does not extend us from where we are at the moment. To exend yourself means to put yourself in a situation where the outcome is not certain in order that we can learn something from the encounter, this is what extends our experience and invites us to excel in what we are doing. We must seek the harder opponents and newer techniques in order to progress in our training and learning process it is the only real way to learn. If we seek the same opponents and use the same techniques we will stagnate and not learn and not progress, this is not what we should be about as fencers.

As you improve and gain experience and skill it will be difficult to find opponents who challenge you, this is where things become more difficult and the advancement process becomes more difficult. It is at this point that it is of vital importance that we seek new horizons, new skills and new opponents to face and test our skills against. Be happy that if there is someone out there who can give you a real challenge in your fencing and who makes you bring out your best in your fencing, this is the only way to improve. Remember that a loss is only a loss if you do not learn something from the encounter with your opponent. Even if you have to go and discuss with your opponent how you were defeated or what you did wrong this is not too much to ask if you really want to improve your fencing. Fencing is a learning experience more than anything else and we all have a great deal to learn, realise this and you are in for a long and fruitful journey.

I will be speaking more about the learning process as this blog progresses. Have a think about your learning process and ask yourself whether you are maximising your chances to learn.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teacher vs Instructor


I would like to discuss and issue. Now this may be an issue for some and a matter of semantics for others, but I think that it is something that needs to be looked at both from the teacher/instructor point of view and also the student's point of view. What I am talking about is the difference between a teacher and an instructor, and consequently teaching versus instruction.

Now first we have a look at the words, a teacher teaches, and an instructor instructs. Pretty simple really. The question is which one has the most benefit for both the student and the teacher/instructor. In essence I would like to look at it this way, instruction involves the giving of a set of techniques which the student follows, the instructor says and the student does, this is the essence of instruction. Teaching differs from this, a teacher teaches the student the technique and explains what it is based upon and how it fits into fencing overall. This involves a two way form of communication something that instruction is missing.

So the big question here is do we want to be instructors or teachers? Or another way to look at it are you a teacher or an instructor? Teaching involves explanation of what is happening in the technique. Instruction just deals with the technique and perfecting it. Now, there has to be some element of instruction in the teaching in order to pass the information along, but there has to be more than that in order for it to be teaching. How is only one question that can be asked of a technique, there is also why and when which are relevant to understanding a technique properly. The teacher should be able to answer these questions. The instructor will not worry about them as all he is interested in is the how of the technique.

Instruction is easy, teaching is hard. The question here is whether we have the willingness to put in the effort in order to improve ourselves and our students as a result. Any person can tell another how to perform most fencing actions and make sure that they can do it properly. It takes someone more dedicated to teach the person the action as there is a fuller explanation of the action. We should all strive to become teachers of fence rather than instructors as this will result in better students and further on better fencers.

From the student's point of view you must ask, do I have an instructor or a teacher? Am I being given instruction or am I being taught? Most of the things that have already been discussed from this point of view as well. A student needs to be able to have the fullest explanation of every element of the fencing actions that are being taught, rather than just being instructed how to do it. You need to seek a teacher of fence more than an instructor. The instructor will perfect your technique, but the teacher will give you the full explanation and explain how this action fits with all the others.

This is an element which some think about and more should. Have a think, are you being instructed or taught? Are you a teacher or an instructor?



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Motivation and Fencing


I would like to talk at this time about motivation and fencing. This is an important subject for all fencers and should seriously be considered. We all have our own reasons for taking up fencing in the first place. For some we have seen something in the media and thought it would be cool to be able to do it. For some we have been influenced by friends and family who fence and have decided to fence ourselves. For others we were looking for a pastime that would last a long time, and for others it is a simple search for the secrets of swordplay in all its forms. What ever your reason for learning to fence in the first place, it will become a factor in your motivation to continue.

Your fencing instructor or teacher will attempt to keep you motivated by introducing new skills for you to learn and encouraging you, but when it comes down to it, the motivation must become internalised if you want to really get anywhere. You need to decide where your fencing sits in your priorities and this will decide how much energy you will be willing to put in.

Do your lessons end at the end of your training session, or do you do extra research? Do you practice alone at home in order to improve your skill at and understanding of the things you have learnt at the lesson? Do you do extra research into things related to fencing in order to understand more of what is out there? All of these things relate to personal motivation. If you are truly motivated, you should have answered "Yes" to all of the questions. If you really want to succeed in fencing these things are the key and they require motivation on your part. Your teacher will have information about these things and can give you direction, but in the end it is up to you.

Personal motivation in fencing is expressed not only in seeking the things which I have mentioned above but also in simple things. Simple things such as turning up to your practice before it starts in order that you are prepared to go when the practice starts, making sure that all of your equipment is present at the training session, making sure that all of your equipment is in good working order, finally, and a big one is being at the training session and being prepared and interested in learning. All of these things express a level of personal motivation and it will be noticed by your teacher.

Your teacher will attempt to supply some motivation to you by attempting to keep the training sessions interesting and encouraging you when you do well. This support is much easier to give where the student is personally motivated also. Where the students are less motivated, the teacher is less likely to give extra information and classes as in many ways the teacher's interest in teaching the students is dependent on their interest in learning. If there is no interest, why should the teacher bother? If you want interesting lessons where you can get the maximum benefit you must understand that your interest is one of the keys to this. If you turn up late, don't have the right equipment, show little interest, distract other students, or similar things, the teacher will notice. This will affect what sort of classes you will get, especially in the future.

Your success in fencing is up to you. You do the work. You learn the skills. You fight the bouts. You put the skills into practice. There is only so much that the teacher can do. So, what happens if the teacher is unavailable for a training session? Do you go home? Do you find something else to do? Or do you go out an practice the skills that you have already learnt with other students in order to improve them? This is a choice and displays personal motivation, or a lack of it. The teacher should not have to be there for you to do drills in things that you have already learnt. Getting other students out on the field and practicing skills with them demonstrates interest and motivation on your part and will be noticed by the teacher. You need to consider what you are doing in order to further your fencing career.

In the end, success in fencing requires personal motivation. Your teacher can teach you the skills and give you the information, but it is you who puts them into practice. You need to be willing to put in the effort if you want to get anywhere with any form of fencing. Drills can be boring, but in the end the benefits will show. Go out seek information, seek new skills, improve the ones you already have, but remember in the end it is all up to you.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Here We Go...


Here I go again sprouting about things that I hope I have some idea about. This is actually my second attempt so bear with me. The purpose of this blog is to have a place for my random ramblings about the subject of fencing. I hope that at least some of the information that I put forward will be of interest to some people out there. I can't guarantee that this will be a regular thing, I can guarantee that there will be some thought put into the subjects that I post on this blog. So sit down and strap in, this could be an interesting ride.