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Josh Hibbs

Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Joined: 23 Jan 2005

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Thu 23 Mar, 2006 8:19 am    Post subject: Teaching Fencing...         Reply with quote

So i joinged my universities fencing club this year and ended up being one of the few people that actually came all the time. So since I was there all the time the current exec. asked me if i wanted to be one next year. Well i have to say I'm pretty exited to help run the club, but then it hit me... I'll have to teach people how to fence!!!
I've learned the basics for foil and Saber from some really good folks, but i'm afraid it wont be enough for me to teach people so i was wondering if some of the fine folks on this forum would know any good sites for teaching excersises and such. I'm in the process of looking now but I figured some of you people might know of some good ones. Thanks a lot.


"We men are retched things"
~ Achilles
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Bill Grandy
myArmoury Team

myArmoury Team

Location: Alexandria, VA USA
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Mar, 2006 9:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Josh,
Will you primarily be teaching people who don't know anything? If so, the biggest turn off to new people is constant drilling without context. I've seen so many people turned off to fencing because their instructor started them out with hard footwork drills and a bunch of terms they don't understand without taking the time to explain why the heck they're doing what they're doing. On a similar note, don't try to do too much too soon: Many well intentioned instructors, excited by all the cool things they can show the new students, end up confusing them, which leads to frustration or boredom.

If your repetiore is limited, just be honest about that with people, and I'm sure they'll understand, especially given that you're not getting paid for it. Don't try to teach what you don't know, it will only lead to frustration from students. Footwork is always the first thing to show: Proper en guard, proper advance, retreat and lunge. Make sure they have that stuff down before you get to any handwork. As for handwork, the main things a beginner needs to know are the basic thrust, parry 4 and 6 (4, 3 and 5 for saber), the riposte, and the disengage.

In addition to that, conditioning is important, but you don't want to scare away new students, so make games for them to play. Warm up with games like tag. Play catch with a medicine ball. One game I like to do is where students get in a circle and toss a medicine ball around. When they are comfortable with that, you add the rule that if anyone drops it, they hand the ball off to someone else and have to do either 10 push ups or 10 leg squats. (if you've got a bunch of brand new people who don't look physically fit, you may want to reduce the number to 5 or so. After all, you don't want to scare them away at the beginning.) Another fun one is if you have a bunch of foils, have everyone stand in a circle, holding the pommel of the foil with the tip down on the ground. You're the leader and stand outside the circle with your own foil. If you tap the pommel once on the ground, everyone lets go of their foil and runs to the right to catch the foil that was about ot fall. If you tap the foil on the ground twice, everyone runs to the left. After people have been to a couple practices and understand footwork, you can add this to warm up games. Do relay races where they have to stay in en guard and use proper footwork, for instance. Or do advance/retreat drills while they have to balance their fencing glove on their head. Another game is to have everyone get a partner and designate one partner from each group as the leader. The leader is in en guarde with the lead hand held palm up. The follower is facing the leader in en guard with their lead hand palm down ontop of the leader's hand. The leader will advance or retreat, and the follower has to keep the palms together. But the real trick is that at any point the leader can slap the partner on the back of the hand, and the follower has to try to pull his/her hand out of the way in time. If the leader misses, the follower becomes the leader.

Also, never forget who your students are. If you have a group that is die hard about training for serious competition, then by all means encourage them to do so. But most likely you will have a group of people who are curious about this whole fencing thing. Some may never have done a sport in their lives. If you start them out on the first day with hard footwork drills, or expect them to be able to run 20 laps right away, you may lose them before they even understood whether they liked it or not.

An amusing story to illustrate the above point: My boss is a Russian fencing master who defected from the Soviet Union into America. When he started teaching fencing here, he taught the way he was taught in Russia: When people didn't bend their legs enough, he'd whack them with his saber until they did it right. He made people not wear jackets for drills so that it would hurt on purpose, that way they wouldn't do things wrong. He'd scream at people in a mad fury when they made mistakes. In short, he scared all of his students away. That was when he realized that not everyone is training with the intent of being an Olympic gold medalist. Most people are doing this as a form of fun recreation, and its only after they decide that they love fencing that they'll be willing to go hard core about it. And not everyone gets to that point.

Anyway, I'm going on for too long here, but I hope this helps give you a starting place, or at least some ideas.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--

"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Don Stanko

Location: ohio
Joined: 27 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Mar, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you should have no problem teaching the basics to new students, I have my students do it all the time especially when its the beginning of the year and we have too many to train all at once. My suggestion is to go the the United States Fencing Association website, they have some great links. While you are there you might look into attending one of their coaches colleges. They have many different levels of training for coaches, covering all three weapons. That is a good place to start. Where you might have a problem is when you get into strategy. Once a student gets on the strip, its less about good form and more about complex strategy and coaching them on what their opponent is doing and how to counter their actions. Coaching in a tournament will take years to master, especially on the national level.

Good luck!
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