Youtube Fencing Lesson Clips

•5 October, 2012 • 1 Comment

Presiding difficulties, conflicts and resolutions

•2 July, 2008 • 1 Comment

When fencers present themselves at competitions, they are often nervous and apprehensive. It takes one or two bouts usually for many to come to terms with the uncertainties and the fear of looking foolish, or not doing their best etc. It is most important that the person presiding over these contests has the following qualifications;

·         Experience

·         Knows the rules and the interpretations

·         Understands fencing time

·         Is decisive and accurate and

·         Has a full understanding of priority and right of way

There are three main areas of confusion that is generated by some Presidents in the sport of fencing. If we accept that in our local and state level there is no evidence of bias the three problems areas can be identified;

1.       Simultaneous attack

2.       Attacks into attacks

3.       Attacks on preparations

Simultaneous Attacks

For a simultaneous attack to take place, two people need to conceive of an action exactly at the same precise second with the same priority and exactly the same choice of time with the lights registering appropriately. A true simultaneous attack is therefore rare. Unfortunately a simultaneous attack is too often called when presidents cannot sort out actions from both fencers that result with a coloured light and fencers are called to halt and put back on guard. It is important to realise that this inaccurate call is not fair. In most cases one fencer is denied a point that he or she has won whilst the opponent has been awarded a point that is not deserved.


Attacks into Attacks

What appear to be simultaneous attacks to inexperienced presidents is in fact an attack into an attack. One fencer initiates that attack and the opponent in response tries to beat him or her to it. Experienced presidents know instinctively from which end the attack is initiated.


Attacks on Preparations

The third area of confusion is separating and recognising attacks from preparations of attack. For example, a step forward is a preparation, not an attack!

Often fencers step forward, hesitate momentarily in their resolve and then stick out their arm when the opponent legitimately attacks on that hesitation. If the attack is compounded with the step forward, is continuous and no arm withdrawals, (redoubles), then the attack has to be paid.


In any event the fencers must understand the theory and when presiding they must develop skills in anticipation, reading the play and decision making.

Fencers can be disappointed about a loss, but philosophical if they were “out fenced”. However we are at great risk of them becoming discouraged as a serious result of poor decision making, haphazard arbitration and indecision from referees.


Presiding is a very difficult role. It takes time, training and experience to become competent. Queensland Fencing is bright and motivated; we are growing stronger each year. “Near enough” is not good enough if our aim is to become Australia’s premier fencing state.


(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 2/07/2008

Presiding and Judging for Beginners

•2 July, 2008 • Leave a Comment

At a competition involving school fencing, we recognise a level playing field seldom exists. Often, few of the aspiring fencers have personal attire and equipment.  Borrowed weapons, masks etc. abound, apprehension reigns, while an enterprising and confident few are raring to go.

In this situation, skilful and experienced presidents are worth their weight in gold. The competitors must be guided through situations which will stimulate them to wish to repeat the experience. Most importantly, the president must exude authority without the overbearing attitude we sometimes witness and be fair and absolutely in control. It is mandatory that the youngsters are protected from hurt or injury and those rough or spiteful actions are nonexistent. In the cases of loss of control, emotional or otherwise, cautionary advice rather than punitive actions is preferable. It is a wise move to gather the contestants of a poule and explain to them priority, right of way and timing. Insure then that only one of four responses is acceptable from the judges and thus provide for an uncomplicated contest. The four responses are “yes”, “no”, “off target”, and “I abstain”. The answers are therefore brief and concise, and allow the president to be efficient in his analysis of actions and exchanges.

Should the president find one or two of his jurors are inaccurate or failing in any way, he can situated them on the same side of himself so he see what they see and can better gauge their efforts. A quick explanation, sorting out the differences between ripostes, remises and redoubles plus what a valid hit is as disposed to a flat hit or a pass is helpful. Doubtful hits too, can be a bone of contention, which new fencers will need to grasp.

All’s well that ends well and though some may be disappointed with their outcome, so long as they are not  discouraged it has been a successful experience.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 2/07/2008

The Class Lesson

•26 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment

                Most fencers commence their fencing journey in a class situation. It takes a great deal of effort to keep a group together for a long enough period to impart the skills necessary to reach basic free-play standards. In a group of would be fencers, our class would be made up of people ranging in ages, size, sex, interest, etc. Some, one in every seven statistically, are left handed. Others will prove more capable, and some may not be able to keep up. Include the ever present distractions, absenteeism and we can consider ourselves lucky if half the group emerges triumphant.

As we make a start and introduce the class to the sport and to each other. It is a good idea to stress safety factors and care of equipment. We then   can explain the purpose:- to hit and not be hit, the target areas, the lines of engagement, grip, stance, weight distribution, and footwork.

We now dispense with the line out stage and the class begins work in pairs. We introduce the rows A and B format where the two rows face one another and respond to the coach’s instruction and making use of the system of progressions.

     The most complex actions can be broken down to the simplest form by this method but first of all we make use of another formula.

1.       Definition – Define the action, stroke, parry, or any movement you wish to impart to the class

2.       Demonstration – Demonstrate the movement you wish the class to learn

3.       Explanation – Explain, where, how, why, when the movement may be used

4.       Faults to be avoided – Point out the risks and consequence of errors

5.       Execution – The class then proceeds to carry out the exercise

For the purpose of explanation of the system of movements by progression we will demonstrate with the disengagement in four progressions, then in three then in two and finally in one smooth action.

The class forms two rows A and B.

1.       On one, row A presses the blade gently against B’s. Row B then uses this pressure to lower his blade while maintaining the hand in the same plain.

2.       On two, row B raises their blade on the other side of A’s blade.

3.       On three, row B extends the sword arm.

4.       On the command four row B lunges.

The class will now execute the disengagement in three progressions, this time row A initiates the action.

1.       On the command one, Row A lowers the point of the foil and raises it on the opposite side

2.       On two, extend the sword arm and on three lunge

The next instruction will be to disengage in two progressions e.g. one lower the blade raise on the opposite side and extend in one smooth action.

Finally on command disengage; the attacking row will execute the action in one smooth movement.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 26/06/2008

Training Principals and Variables

•24 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment


Training Principals


Hard work

Concentration and focus


Decision making

Organised individuality


Over load process


Tolerance to training

Retentive memory

Recovery processes

Ability to hang in mentality

Gradual adaption and reversibility

Sense of touch and distance

Variation of training routines

Reaction time

Training environment and atmosphere


Nutritional preferences

Ability to move from immobility


Other Major Factors and Components

Physical effort

Dedication and courage

Fatigue factors


Performance factors

Assessment skills

Technical control of skills


Fitness in preparation of physical and mental application

Analytical skills

Self pride

Respect for all opponents regardless of perception

Self confidence in one’s ability

Ability to relax between bouts


(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 24/06/2008

The Fencing Lesson

•17 June, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The one on one individual lesson is the best opportunity to develop a fencer’s mechanics and skills. The rapport between coach and pupil allows for variation, experimentation and exchange thereby honing the pupil’s ability to cope with a wide range of actions and manoeuvres. The coach doubles as teacher and sparring partner, much as does a boxing trainer and the boxer. He submits bout situations, sometimes accommodating, sometimes surprising, and varying the degree of difficulty and changes in tempo. The traditional character of the duel is maintained with a combative style lesson involving fault finding, correction and athleticism.

The lesson is very much a developer, physically as well as mentally. It should be maintained continually for at least 12 to 15 minutes in order to obtain a cardio-vascular training effect. The intensive bouts usually following the individual lesson, ensures that the fitness quotient is built into the fencer’s routine. In the off season, some fencers add an isotonic and or an athletic component to their programme. Quite often fencers reflect their coach’s attitudes and techniques, but their mannerisms and personalities remain, as every single fencer has his own idiosyncrasies, characteristics, and temperament.

It is worth remembering that, for a fencing coach giving lessons intensively, one after another in a training session, the mental and physical effort is energy sapping in the extreme. A few coaches retire prematurely from the stress, while others continue until they drop. Coaching can be an addiction (There is no other way to describe it).There also is a saying, “old fencing masters like old soldiers never die” but the young ones wish they would.

Sometimes the question arises, why coach at all? The answer is that to coach talent, and be part of the reasons for the unfolding of skills, is enormously creative and rewarding.

Lesson presentation mechanics:

1.       Cues, contacts, pressures, invitations, openings etc.

2.       Presentation of the blade, emphasising point proximity to target

3.       Rock step and dismissal of the blade


Lesson requisites:-

1.       The lesson must simulate the bout

2.       The lesson must be mobile and a sense of distance emphasised

3.       The lesson must have continuity

4.       Conditioning of exchange reflexes

5.       Control of the point

6.       Manipulative and point passing skills developed           

7.       Anticipation, and ability to identify and correct faults

8.       Enhancement of touch and feeling for the blade

9.       Proximity of point in presentations

10.   Appreciation of touch, timing, cadence and rhythm


•10 June, 2008 • 1 Comment

Tactics in fencing, as in any struggle for superiority, involves stratagems, manoeuvres, diversions etc. Good tactics are based on good mechanics. One does not erect an edifice with defective materials. When opportunities arise to score or defend, technique has to be assured. A fencer cannot vacillate in determining which way to move. His conditioned reflexes, if properly tuned, will automatically respond for him.  If a fencer has to ponder which action to take in that split second of opportunity it is already too late, and any tardy reaction then is an exercise in futility.               

Experienced fencers make many more false attacks than genuine ones. They impart to these false attacks the character of real ones. The rationale is to lull an opponent into a sense of security and then surprise him.

Fencing is a neural activity. Emotions and fatigue go hand in hand in the intensity of conflict. Even the most experienced campaigners can become tired and edgy depending on their wellbeing, preparation, or lack of and the importance of the contest.  No competitor has a mortgage on self doubt or apprehension when the stakes are sufficiently high.

Tactics are as numerous and varied as are the personalities of competitors involved. Every action can be met, thwarted or countered. This explains the chess player like attitude of experienced fencers as they deliberate, and calculate in second and even third intention what they intend to do. These same fencers, as the occasion demands, can in a split second explode into an intensity of effort that defies the calmness of the seconds before.

For the novice fencer, particularly those well trained academically but yet to confront the vicissitudes of intense competition it can be somewhat of a shock. Suddenly all their training appears of no avail. Aggressive unknown opponents come rushing at them with all kind of unorthodox and broken time actions. Many such opponents have had substantial experience, also with some successes. They can be enterprising and effective until they meet the more complete adversary who can cope with their limited skills. He will oppose their attacks by parrying at the very latest moment or using counteroffensive actions e.g. stop hits and or time hits. He will often hurriedly yield ground to cause the attacker to over extend making it easier to parry his enforced final action. Conversely experienced fencers will move in at the appropriate moment surprising the aggressor and causing him in most instances to move back. In this event a hit can be scored on the breakaway. If he stays put; maintain the closed position until the referee calls halt. The aggression has been frustrated and confusion will take its toll.

Generally, good tactics require concentration and focus at the highest level throughout the entire bout for any lapses a price will be paid. Awareness of distance, timing, and skilled observations of Mannerisms proclivities, inclinations and tendencies, and anything else that can be garnered by an imaginative competitor reaps a just reward.

(c) Maitre d’Armes Michael A. O’Brien 10/06/2008