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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, November 24, 2009

What Does Fencing Give the Fencer?

Greetings,

The fencer puts a great deal of effort into training, acquiring the correct equipment and various other aspects if they want to become a better fencer. How much the fencer puts into this is the measure of their dedication to the art. The question that needs to be asked is, after all of the effort put in by the fencer what do they get back from it? This blog will address some of those things that the fencer gets back from doing fencing. Some of these things will be obvious and others will not be so obvious.

In our dollar-emphasised, capitalist, modern society, the question is always what do I get out of this? It is a question that is asked in the workplace and even in social situations. In the workplace it is pretty easy to see, it is perks, benefits, and a regular payday. In the social situation it can be a little blurry, and for the fencer some of the results of the effort put into their fencing can be very difficult to see.

Clearly, some rewards are obvious, these are usually in the form of such things as trophies, accolades, awards and other prizes usually awarded after a tournament or a period of service to fencing. Depending on what sort of fencing and what sort of structure will depend on which apply to you. These things are nice to get but in many cases they are fleeting in nature. The question that needs to be asked is whether there is more than these physical things.

There are some physical aspects that the fencer will gain without having to win any tournament whatsoever. It is these physical aspects which are the most obvious rewards for the fencer. Fencing will, over time, improve the fitness of the fencer. This is especially the case if they are doing it on a regular basis. The simple cardio-vascular activity which goes on inside the body during fencing will improve the health of the fencer. While the health aspects are some which are the most obvious results of fencing, there are some health aspects which are over-looked. Such things as improvement in self-worth due to the acknowledgement of the skills which have been learnt, and the achievement associated with this. Then there are the skills learnt while fencing. These skills have their most obvious application while fencing, but the fencer will also notice other changes due to these skills being learnt. Their movements will be more fluid and more accurate. This actually leads on to the mental aspects as well.

The fencer actually does develop some mental attributes which are not clearly apparent in a short amount of time to the fencer, but these will surface over time. The fencer will begin to look at things from a different point of view. The thinking fencer especially will begin to notice the movements of their opponent and in some instances be able to predict what the opponent will do without thinking about it. This will begin to be apparent in times outside fencing as well. The important thing is that these mental aspects need to be developed while fencing. Problem solving will also be improved, and one that links with the physical aspects is the movements of the body in a thinking manner. The fencer who develops these mental skills will begin to see them appear more and more in daily life and not just in their fencing.

There are also some social aspects which are present as a result of fencing. Many long-term and indeed life-long friendships can be developed due to a mutual interest in fencing. These friends become such not only in the fencing environment, but also outside of it. There are also other social attributes which are developed. Due to the expected performance of the fencer in social situations notions of manners are also developed if the fencer takes the time to acknowledge their importance. This particular aspect increases their ability to deal with people in the wider community as well. Clearly some accolades recieved fencing will also carry over into the social aspect of people's lives, but these are not as regular as the other rewards which have been mentioned.

While the bulk of the rewards for fencing are hidden, they are present. The important thing is that for these things to develop in the fencer, they must put in the effort in order to develop them. The mental aspects will not develop unless the fencer is actually thinking about what they are doing when fencing. The physical aspects will not be developed without some effort put in and some pushes made. The social aspects will not develop unless the fencer takes on the ideals of fencing etiquette and is willing to express these in the correct situation. Without these more hidden prizes for the fencing, there is very little for the fencer to strive for, and it is often due to this that we see fencers drop off. Instant gratification is not what fencing is about in the long run. True gratification in fencing takes time and it takes effort on the part of the fencing. If this effort is put in then the rewards increase and never end.

Cheers,

Henry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pressure in Fencing

Greetings,

Pressure is something that we all have to deal with in our every day lives. This blog is primarily aimed at the idea of pressure in fencing and more to the point suggestions of how it can be dealt with. In fencing pressure can build up for many different reasons and some of these are self-influenced. The result of this pressure is what happens when it actually begins to affect people. The pressure will affect people in different ways and we need to be aware of this, but more importantly is how to deal with the pressure.

Pressure is exerted on people in fencing for different reasons and each one of these reasons has a particular impact on the individual. Any form of examination, whether it is verbal or physical, exerts pressure on the fencer as they are expected to perform. The success of this examination will allow them to progress further, the failure of which will restrict their progress. It is these thoughts which form a great part of the pressure. In the case of tournaments pressure is exerted because of the drive in the individual to win. Even if it is not to win the expectation of a certain level of performance is present.

Expectations form one of the most pervasive forms of pressure placed on the individual. This pressure can either be an internal thing or an external thing. The pressure exerted from others may be something which is explicit or implicit. A teacher or someone else may come up and tell the individual that they expect them to do well in this particular situation, as much as this is encouragement it is also a form of pressure. The implicit pressure is merely from an expectation that the student has learnt a great deal and should do well because of this. Expectations which come from the self are actually much more pervasive than those from the outside. These exert more pressure because there is an expectation which has become a part of our own thoughts and thus while the expectations of others can be ignored to a point, the internal ones are ever-present and in our thoughts. This is also how the external pressures can become internal.

There are three primary results due to pressure being exerted on the individual. Some people go to absolute pieces, some people focus harder on their task, and others do not seem to be affected at all. Obviously the people who go to pieces seem to be feeling the pressure of the situation the most out of the three, but this is not to say that presssure does not affect the other two, even subtly. The people who go to pieces, the pressure is exerted, hits a particular mark and then they go to pieces, all that they have learnt leaves their brain and sometimes they go catatonic. In this situation the pressure will move on toward panic, and the situation will get worse for them. The people who focus, tend to internalise the pressure and use it as a focus for the task which is at hand. They tend to end up so focussed that other that everything else is forgotten or just pushed to one side. The ones who do not seem to be affected actually are affected, but they have internalised it so far that it is just a normal thing for them and nothing to be thought about. The result of this is usually they end up blase about the situation, and this can lead to a lack of focus. Identifying which type of individual you are is the first step in dealing with it.

Pressure exerted on the fencer can result in some specific things and some general things. For some it would seem that they have a loss of ability. They can't seem to perform the techniques which they have learnt effectively. A further stage of this is what I refer to as the "brain-melt". In this situation they have a complete loss of ability and they have no response to the actions of their opponent. This is usually one of the most catasrophic result of the exertion of pressure on a fencer.

There are also physical effects that the fencer will notice in themselves. There is a large flow of adrenaline to the individual. This gives them more energy, but can result in being "twitchy" or the hands shaking. Another result of the boost of adrenaline is an increase in heart rate. Sometimes the increase in heart-rate will actually happen before the burst of adrenaline. This particular causality is the result of the human being's in-built fight or flight response. The increase blood-flow and adrenaline is so that the individual can either fight or fly. The amusing thing about this is that for a large portion of people the brain is programmed toward the flight response. This is not particularly helpful for the fencer. There are other effects that may be noticed, but these are the most common.

The first step toward dealing with pressure is understanding your natural response to it. There are important elements of this that must be taken into account. Many people will focus on the physical aspects of the increase in pressure, but will forget the psychological ones. It is important that both aspects of the situation must be taken into account. The attempt to deal with either of the sets of symptoms alone is futile. Once your own symptoms have been identified then it is possible to move on to dealing with these symptoms.

When pressure takes hold of the individual and the physical symptoms start manifesting, these are usually a result of the psychological ones being in full swing. The first approach is relaxation. Deep breathing to slow the heart-rate down and in order to conserve energy. This actually works very effectively as the blood gets flushed with oxygen allowing the heart to work more easily thus slowing it down and the rest of the body with it. The next part of the process is examining the thought process and removing all of those things which will not have an impact immediately. In this situation, it is especially negative thoughts that need to be removed. The focus on the individual needs to be on the current situation and not what may or may not happen. For the fencer, it is simply dealing with the problem presented by the other fencer. This allows the mind to be cleared and the focus placed on the present.

The other way to deal with pressure is to harness the energy supplied by the physical effects of the pressure applied. This approach works especially well for those who tend to focus rather than the other ones, but this is not to say that they cannot. The increased heart rate and adrenaline supply the body with more energy. This particular approach harnesses this energy and uses it for the current process. Energy is wasted in such things as shaking hands and other twitches, this energy needs to be directed to the purpose at hand. In order to do this the fencer needs to focus on what they are doing and to use the energy supplied on what they are doing. This may require holding some of it back while waiting. Having a constant flow of energy is much more useful than sharp spikes of energy. Of course, it also requires the fencer to allow themselves some leeway in order to open themselves up to more possibilities in their fencing. The important thing is that the energy needs to be focussed at what they are doing rather than being wasted. This can be a difficult approach especially for big tournaments where there are large breaks, but it is possible.

Pressure is present in fencing, the important thing is to know where and why the pressure is being felt. Once that is known then it is possible to go about dealing with the pressure being exerted. It is important that in any approach to dealing with pressure that both aspects, physical and psychological, must be taken into account in order to get the best answer to the situation. The approaches presented are designed to give some ideas about how pressure can be dealt with by the fencer. It is important in all cases that the energy supplied is used effectively in order that it is not wasted, or the energy of the fencer runs out before they have achieved their end. Look at pressure in fencing as one of the problems to deal with, and a challenge to surrmount. Just remember that like any one opponent, it can be beaten.

Cheers,

Henry.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Building an Individual Training Program

Greetings,

The individual training program is different from the group training program as it is designed to fit an individual. This means that the specific requirements of the individual must be taken into account. In order for the student to get the greatest benefit from the program it is important that it suits them. This can be somewhat trying if sufficient information is not gained from the student to start with. The teacher should not be attempting to build the training program without communication with the student. In this way the program will fit the student better and go further to achieving their aims and also keeping them interested in it.

The individual training program must suit the individual and thus must be individual in nature. This will mean that the program will change dependent on the particular student. There are several different aspects that must be taken into account in order for the program to suit the student the best and these will be discussed in a little detail. In order for the program to be the best for the individual student all of the elements present in the training program must suit the student. This means that information is required from the student in order for this to happen.

The first element that must be taken into account is the student's background. Do they have previous experience in any relevant areas that may assist them? Are there any elements in their background that may hamper their development due to thought processes or physical elements present? Students with experience in martial arts of any kind will already have some background in movement and bio-mechanics. Also they will also have certain movement patterns and thought processes that will have an impact on what they are to learn. This is the same for students who have previous experience in fencing. How this will affect their program and ability will be dependent on the type of fencing they have done, and to some degree the school of thought. Other sports can also have an impact on the program depending on the sport. All of these background elements will have developed a level of conditioning which can be an asset or a detriment depending on their training.

The student's present ability and potential ability is important and must be taken into account. Their present level of ability is important and must be taken into account so that the skills that will be taught are appropriate to the student. This is to ensure that the program does not deal with skills which are too far out of their current ability. This is also dependent on their potential ability. A student who is currently at a lower level may be able to deal with skills at a higher level if the program allows them to build up to the higher level, but this must be present in the program to allow them to do this. If the program is to be built around a particular manual, such as a period manual especially, this must also suit their ability in order that they are able to perform the skills present. Finally in this particular element, personal issues must be taken into account. This includes such things as disabilities, fencing knowledge and also time constraints. All of these elements will affect how the program is built and what sort of program is used.

The final personal element that must be taken into account before developing the program is interest. What sort of level of interest in fencing does the student have? This will affect how rigidly they will stick to the program and also how much they will be willing to spend time doing it. In general, the student with a passing or social interest in fencing will not request a personal training program, and will also have more difficulty sticking to the program. The dedicated fencer will go out of their way to make time in order to train and do what is present in the training program. Their level of interest will also affect how far they want to go with the program. Interest areas are also important. It is less useful to attemtp to teach the French school of fencing to a person who is more interested in the Italian or German. Specific areas of interest are useful as they allow the student to focus on one particular area and this also allows a more focussed training program to be constructed.

Once all of the more personal details have been taken into account with regard to the student, it is then possible to examine the program itself. The purpose of the training needs to be considered next. This is the foundation principle upon which the training program is based. The basic requirement for this to be possible is communcation with the student to find out exactly what they want out of the training program. It is through this process that goals for the training program are set. This will affect what type of program is developed and the focus of the training program. If the student has a specific goal, this is useful as it means that the training program can be tailor-made to strive toward that particular goal. If the student has a more general goal, then the program will be more fluid and will involve skills of general development. It is important that the purpose of the training program is established for both the student and the teacher, in this way they both know the goal of the training program. Once this is established, it will then be possible to examine the type of training program that will be required in order for the goal to be achieved.

There are essentially three types of training program that will be developed for the individual student. The first is the initial training. This is designed to introduce the student to the skills of fencing for the first time. This type of program will introduce the basics of fencing and how the skills all work. In some cases this type of training may be included into the other training program types. The second type is the re-training type. This is designed for the student who has been away from fencing for an extended period of time and is designed to re-introduce them to the skills that they may or may not know. The re-training program may also be used for those who have been rushed through their initial program in order to go over basic skills to establish a foundation from which to progress further. The final type of training is the developmental type. This is designed for the advancement of the skills of the student. In this case the student has already learnt the basics and is looking at advancing their skills to a higher level. This form of training tends to be the most intense version of the program types as the skills are at such a high level and more is required of the student.

The individual training program must be developed between both the student and the teacher. If either attempts to do this by themselves the ultimate goal may be missed. The most important thing is that the training program must suit the student more than it is required to suit the teacher. This means that the goals of the student must come first. Pushing a student into a premade training program is generally futile as it may not have those things that the student is interested in learning or may not go toward the goals that they have set for themselves. While in general every form of training should be suited to the students which are present, the individual training porgram takes this idea to its upper limit as it is purely focussed on the individual. It must be a collaboration between the student and the teacher at all times. Both the student and the teacher have important roles to play in the development of the individual training program and this is very important. Of course, the first thing that needs to happen is that the student actually requests the training program in the first place. Teachers are not mind-readers.

Cheers,

Henry.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Building Co-ordination in Fencing

Greetings,

Co-ordination is important in fencing as such this blog will be discussing the development of co-ordination in its relationship to fencing. This blog will be partially written from a personal point of view as I have had some co-ordination problems myself. It is hoped that this blog will assist those with some co-ordination issues and realise it is an obstacle that can be surmounted given time and patience. The discussion proper will discuss the question of co-ordination in fencing from two points of view, the mental and the physical. Both of these are important in order to get over this particular hurdle.

Co-ordination or lack thereof can be a real problem in fencing. A lack of co-ordination can lead to elements in fencing being substantially more difficult than they otherwise would be. In the realm of the positive is the fact that it is possible to defeat this particular problem given the time and the patience applied to it. The trick is actually taking the time to figure out what is actually happening. Surprisingly enough for some, all fencing students will feel the bite of a lack of co-ordination some time in their fencing career. For some it may not last long for others it will last for a longer period of time.

This can be as simple as something that just does not work for some inexplicable reason. It is something that can be fought against and that can be defeated. While I do not tend to get very personal in these blogs, for this particular subject I think it is important that I explain some things about myself and the reason why I believe that this problem can be beaten. I am actually naturally uncoordinated. I have a history of being exceptionally clumsy and accident prone, and believe me when I say that I have the hospital records and scars to prove it. In my earlier years as a child I was clumsy enough that it was important enough for my parents to send me along to physiotherapy to get some physical therapy to help the problem. This is something that has plagued my whole life and still does to a point. The important thing here is that with time and patience it is something that you can overcome in fencing, it may just take a little more effort than other people.

There are two different aspects that need to be taken into account when considering the nature of being uncoordinated. The first is the mental side of things and the the second is the physical side of things. Both of these aspects need to be acknowledged in order for the process of dealing with the problem can start. The correct physical processes will train the body how to move. The correct thought processes will train the brain how to think about what is going on and what to do about it. It is the two working in combination that allows a person to master the problem presented.

The mental process of dealing with this particular problem is of great importance. The process, the way that I see things, has four elements or parts which are all important to the process. The first is acknowledgement. You need to acknowledge that there is a problem with what is going on. For some this can be an issue as they don't want to acknowledge that they have a problem. Without this particular step it is impossible to move on to solving the problem. Of course at the other end of the scale is those who obsess about the particular problem and this is equally unhelpful. This moves on to the second part of the mental process.

The second part of the mental process is a positive outlook. You must be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. It is not enough to believe that you can do it, you need to know that you can. This is the way that you fight frustration. You acknowledge each little victory. Take one step at a time and keep looking at where you are going. Without the positive mental outlook there is no point in starting the process as it is this that will enable you to keep going through the processes required. Of course, beating up on yourself won't help either.

The next part of the mental process is to start dealing with those negative thoughts that you may have about the process and your ability. You should only be thinking positive things about yourself in this process. Words like clumsy should not be used to describe yourself. These negative thoughts can poison the whole process of development of the skills required to beat the problem. It is actually quite difficult to stay positive about yourself the entire time. Yes, mistakes need to be acknowledged, but they also need to be turned around and used. Mistakes are just another way of not achieving the goal, and thus are a learning process. The reason why which is behind it is more important. This requires concentration, and this is something that is required.

Most of the time in life we do not particularly concentrate on what we are doing. This is because we already know what we are supposed to be doing and how the body is supposed to move. This is because these particular things have been learnt and practiced to the point that we don't have to think about them anymore. In order to defeat uncoordinated feelings, it is important that the focus needs to be on what you are trying to do. Each part of the action needs to be focused upon in order for it to all come together. Often when mistakes are made it is because the concentration has drifted somewhere else for a brief period of time. It is important for the learning process that the brain is trained to concentrate on what is happening. Distractions in this process can lead to problems with the action and also frustrations. In order to achieve the end desired we must be focused on the action being performed.

Once the elements of the mental process are dealt with, it is then possible to look at the physical. What is important is that the aspects of the mental process will reappear in the physical process. These two sets of concepts must work together in order for the end to be achieved. The physical aspects are about training the body in order that it can do what it is supposed to when it is supposed to. The important thing about this is that the actions have to be mentally set in the mind. You need to think about the action and focus upon it. Then the physical side of the action can be dealt with.

In the case of any action in fencing, or any action for that matter, you need to learn the action. In this particular process you need to be focusing on the movements that are being made. For some it will require listening to the description of what is required, and for others it will require watching the action closely. In this process it is important to pay attention to the small movements being made as well as the large ones. This focus will place the action into your mind before you attempt the action. The first time you attempt the action, do it slowly and have someone watch you doing it. Once you get the action correctly then it is time to practice and drill. At first it is best to practice the action alone so that you can train your muscles and tendons exactly what they are supposed to be doing. At the same time you should be going through the description of the action in your mind and making sure it matches up with what your body is doing. Practice the action slowly over and over until you are comfortable with it. Once you can do it comfortably alone you should be able to move on to doing the same action with a partner. Drill the action slowly with a partner to see how your action relates to theirs and how your movement relates to theirs. Once you are performing the correct response at slow speed you should begin to speed up. You should be remaining focused on the action that you are doing. Responses to this action and counters will come later. Remember it is all parts of the action that need to be thought about, the small actions and the large actions. Each element of the action needs to be learnt, practiced and drilled.

In the process of learning an action it is important to think about what you are doing and focus on this. All the elements of the action are important and you need to be able to feel how you are moving. In order to get these movements right you need to be focused on these actions rather than anything else. Find a partner who is willing to allow you to drill slowly so that you can feel the response of the opponent's blade as well. Be approaching the fencing action in this way you will be training both your mind and your body simultaneously. This will make it much easier to learn the action and get over any awkwardness in the action.

The unity of hands and feet in fencing is important they should be moved together and this may take some time for you to get your head around this concept, and get your body to do this. It takes some practice to get them to work together and if you only focus on one element the other will be left behind. In training a skill it is important that you get one movement completed first and then work on the other. In general while the hand should always move before the foot, training the feet first has its advantages. Work on the foot movement of the technique so that you are comfortable moving in this manner. Then once you are comfortable with this move on to the hand movement, first alone and then in combination with the foot movement. This division of an action into single movements is a great advantage when learning and this process can be applied to all actions in fencing.

All fencing actions can be divided into separate movements. This goes for the simplest as well as the most complex. For example, the thrust is actually the combination of the movement of the shoulder and the movement of the wrist. The shoulder moves the arm and the wrist moves the point to the appropriate target. In this way the movement can be practiced as two actions and then worked together to form a single motion. Movements in fencing should be stacked like bricks one building on the other, in this way you can focus on a single movement which will add to another and another until the technique is completed as a complete movement. This takes more time than attempting to do the whole technique as a single action, but it is better for the assimilation of the movement into a fencing routine. During this process it is important to accept the achievement of getting the technique right. This praise is useful as it motivates you to move on to more complex actions.

Being uncoordinated in fencing can be extremely frustrating as this may result in taking much more time in order to learn an action. The important thing is that with work it is not an insurmountable obstacle. It is important that you get your mind in the right place first and also your body. Work on the actions from a mental as well as a physical point of view. Work on the actions in simple terms, dividing a technique into individual actions and this will assist your process to learning them greatly. Take the time needed to learn the action before moving on to other things. There are people who can help you with this and who will be willing to take the time required, all you need to do is be able to find them, and also be strong enough in yourself to be able to ask for help in the learning of the actions.

Cheers,

Henry.