We all know that muscles need oxygen, so we need to breathe when we are exercising, so this would be the reason why some time ago I wrote a post about the necessity of standing up straight in the on guard position (http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/stand-up-straight-and-relax.html). What you will notice about this post is that there is an element of the relaxation point in here as well. This element will be the focus in this post.
First point, when you are tense, your muscles tense unconsciously. This burns energy, so you are burning fuel without even doing anything. Relaxing will increase your endurance when you fence. Further, when your muscles are tense before action they move slower, when they are relaxed before action they move faster.
When people tense up one of the first things they stop doing when they make an action in fencing is breathing. When you relax, you will breathe properly, this means that your muscles will become oxygenated properly this also means that you will have more endurance. When people tense up another thing they stop doing is thinking and this is never good. The physical elements lead to the psychological elements.
Relax, take a breath and just fence. "Well that's easy for you to say." Why? What is so important? Are you going to die if your opponent hits you? Most of the pressures that are built up, we build up ourselves and it is up to us to remove them. It is not easy and it will take time.
Practice is for practice. This means that you are supposed to try new things. This means that you are supposed to make mistakes. The most important thing is that you learn from those mistakes. If you are not getting hit while bouting at practice, then you are not learning, and you are not progressing. If you have just learnt a new action or skill in a lesson, you are supposed to be trying it out in bouting. Talk to your opponent and tell them what you want to practice; maybe they will want to practice something too and then you can help them.
Release the pressure. Find out what is causing the pressure in your fencing. Find a way to release it. Talk to your teacher. Talk to other fencers. Sometimes a little pressure to push us forward is good, but when it restricts what we are doing then it becomes a detriment to our fencing, and can even become a detriment to our character. It is great to be focused on a goal, but not to the exclusion of all of life that goes on around you.
Fencing will improve when you relax. Your actions will become smoother and more natural because you are not forcing them to happen. A relaxed attitude in your fencing relies on your confidence in your skills, this means that you also need to practice what you have learnt. This relaxed attitude and form of fencing can also be passed along to your partners and this will improve your experience.
There is a nice feeling between two fencers when they are both relaxed and are able to perform their skills. This can be seen by those watching. The bout can still be very technical and also very intense, but because the fencers are both relaxed with what they are doing it will also have a good feel to it. This will be different to two fencers who just go at one another, simply trying to be first to strike the other one. The bout will also be intense but for different reasons.
A relaxed attitude and relaxed nature and approach to fencing will lead to better and more comfortable fencing. This takes time. You need to be comfortable with what you are doing. You need too be comfortable with who you are fencing with. You even need to be comfortable with the equipment that you are using to a certain point. The most important part of this process is that it has to start with you. You need to relax and just fence.