Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Handedness - The Left-Handed Fencer


The left-handed fencer is always tricky. This is the case for both fighting against them, and also teaching them. Due to the dominant presence of right-handed fencers, the left-handed fencer is one that we will only run into on relatively rare occasions. For those groups who have left-handed fencers present, you have an advantage over those who don't as you will become used to facing them. From the teacher's point of view teaching the left-handed this presents some issues in their teaching. This blog will be a discussion of the issues associated in both teaching and combat against the left-hander.

Teaching a left-handed fencer while you are right-handed is always a tricky situation. It requires a switching over in your mind about how to teach the fencer. For some of the demonstration you may have to switch hands in order to demonstrate the technique so that they can understand what is happening. This will also assist you in learning about fighting with the left hand yourself, which is to your advantage. The best way to do this is to think of the left-hander as a mirror image in all cases.

The lines are opposite, but also the same. The outside line is still to the outside of the weapon, in the case of the right-hander this is to the right, in the case of the left-hander this is to the left of the sword. Obviously the inside line is the opposite side also, but the same principles apply. When teaching a right-hander it is sometimes more effective to stand next to the student in order to show them the technique, in the case of the left-hander it may actually be more effective to stand opposite them and thus use the mirror effect of the position. In the case of companion weapons in rapier combat the companion weapon will be on the "wrong side" this will require some adjustment for their effective use. It may require the crossing of the hands and devices in order to be able to use them effectively. Another method for achieving this is to change the on guard position and movement in order to promote the off-hand, this will take a great deal of practice in order to achieve effectiveness.

The combat against the left-hander is an interesting prospect, just as with teaching the left-hander the combat against the left-hander takes a change in perspective. For some it makes no perceivable difference to them. In most cases there is a difference but the change for them is subtle enough that they do not consciously notice it. There are differences that should be made especial note of in how to deal with a left-handed opponent. These changes will assist you to deal with the change in perspective.

To start with you need to change your on guard position slightly. You need to stand more profiled in stance, this involves moving the feet slightly. This position should remove the inside line away from the opponent. The guard should be pused more toward the outside line due to the position of the left-handed opponent. Further importance of the outside line with regard to the left-handed opponent.

In the case of the left-handed fencer, he will seek the outside line as it is the easier target due to the on guard position. The most important thing is that the easier target for the right-hander against the left-hander is also the outside line. This makes things most interesting for the combatants. You should seek movement toward the outside line in order to be more effective in the attack. The inside line of the left-hander is far away and puts you in a position where you could be easily struck by the opponent. The only way that the inside line should be approached or attacked is when you have blade engagement with the opponent. This engagement needs to entirely close the line against the opponent in order to be effective. The essence here is that the line needs to be closed entirely in order that you are protected.

An interesting point that should be made in this discussion is that the left-handed fencer will usually be facing right-handed opponents rather than left-handed ones. This is an important consideration as it often results in the left-handed fencer having problems with facing other left-handed opponents. This is due to the change in position that results from facing a left-handed opponent. Ironically, the left-handed fighting another left-handed comes down to the same situation as a right-handed facing a right-handed opponent. In this the left-handed opponent should consider examining how right-handed opponents deal with other right-handed opponents and apply the same principles, but in a mirror image.

The left-handed fencer is an interesting prospect from the point of view of the combatant and also the teacher. In all cases, much can be learnt from both situations. In order that we become better at both facing and teaching left-handed fencers, we should endeavour to seek them out and learn as much as we can from them. This goes for both right-handed and left-handed fencers. Hopefully this blog will have given some ideas about how to deal with the left-handed student and opponent. The important thing to note is that both teaching and fighting against the left-hander requires a slight change in perspective in order to achieve the goal that is sought.



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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sword Parry and Its Execution


The sword parry is one of the primary defences of the fencer in all forms of fencing, be it rapier, sport fencing, or even the katana. This is a technique which is taught in the earlier parts of a person's fencing career and it is important that the parry is done properly in order for it to be effective. This blog will be discussing the execution of the parry and some points about such. For the first time this blog will be including some diagrams in order to assist the discussion.

A sword parry is a defensive use of the weapon in order to stop or deflect an opponent's incoming attack. This technique can be used effectively against both thrusts and cuts. The technique in principle is relatively easy. It involves placing your blade in a position where you will intercept your opponent's weapon before it strikes you in order to stop or deflect their attack. The principle is relatively easy, the execution of the thrust can be somewhat more complex.

Much of the purpose of the parry has been discussed above, but we must look at it a little deeper. The primary purpose of the parry is to defend against an opponent's attack. This must be realised in its execution, that our safety against the opponent's attack is the primary purpose of the parry. The setting up for a riposte or following action needs to be a secondary consideration in comparison to the defence that the parry supplies. This needs to be realised and will affect the execution of the parry depending on what your considered primary purpose is. This will be revealed in a later part of the discussion on this particular subject.

With regard to sword parries there are many different kinds. This blog will be focussing on the simple, or standard parries. There are other parries available to us, such as hanging parries. These work on very much the same principles as the standard ones, but due to their different execution, they will not be addressed in any sort of detail. The standard parries will also be the focus due to their commonality with the various forms of fencing which are available to the fencer.

There are four lines which need to be covered, and two parries per line, one with the true edge and one with the false edge. In all cases the parry must cover the line, in order to be effective as a parry, and this relies upon proper execution of the parry. In all cases it is important to examine the position of the hand in relation to that of the parry. In the case of true edge parries the knuckles of the fingers should be facing the opponent's blade. In a false edge parry it should be the knuckle of the thumb which is facing the opponent's blade. This will ensure that you have an edge to the opponent's blade. The hand position in the parry is vital and must be considered. There is the question about whether a parry needs to be done with the edge or whether it can be done with the flat of the blade. The edge of the sword is much stronger than that of the flat, and thus makes a more secure parry. This being said, there are parries which when done with the flat are quite effective, but as a rule it is better that the parry is done with the edge.

The next question that comes up is whether the parry should be done as a beat or with opposition. Both of the methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and these will be discussed. The principle of the beat parry is that the edge of the blade is struck against the opponent's moving it away by the impact of one blade against the other. This is an effective technique because it forces the opponent's blade off-line by the shock allowing the fencer to make a counter-attack against the opponent. The disadvantage of this technique is because the blades do not remain in contact, knowledge of the location of the opponent's blade through the use of senso di ferro is lost. It is also relatively easy for the opponent to use the impact to roll the blade back on line. The parry with opposition contacts and prevents the opponent's blade from contacting its target by placing a wall against the attack, also forcing the opponent's blade off-line. The advantage of this technique is that due to remaining in contact with the opponent's blade it is easy to know exactly where the opponent's blade is. This also allows for the use of techniques which rely upon blade engagement. The greatest disadvantage of this particular technique is that it can allow for a slower riposte, and also gives the opponent some senso di ferro by the contact between the weapons. In general, while the beat parry is easier to execute and learn, the parry with opposition tends to lead to more advantages and more options for the fencer. This being said, both techniques can be used effectively.

In the execution of the parry, it is important to keep the parry small. The opponent's blade only needs to be deflected enough, and just enough to avoid striking the fencer. The blade does not have to be forced particularly far in order to be forced away from its intended target. This means that in execution the parry needs to be minimalist in its execution. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is one of entropy. A smaller parry takes less energy to perform, this allows the fencer to conserve energy for future actions which require more energy. Another reason for keeping the parry small is that it will take less time to execute, thus giving the fencer more time in order to perform other actions against the opponent. The final reason that will be discussed has a great deal to do with the action that follows the parry once it is performed. If a parry is kept small, it is much easier to keep your point on line against the opponent, and thus make any counter-offensive action faster and more effective. With these reasons in place it is clearly advantageous for the parry to be made as small as possible.

The beginner fencer will come out and chase the opponent's blade in order to make a parry. This means that they will parry very early. The more experienced fencer will wait for the opponent's attack to come and then parry only at what they concieve as the last moment in which they can parry. This is about what is called parrying "late", it is late in the action of the opponent. This relates to what I tend to refer to as the "panic space". This is the zone in which the fencer sits in which if any attack comes the fencer will respond to. In the beginner fencer, this will extend to up to a foot out from the fencer. As the fencer becomes more and more confident in their skill, the "panic space" will reduce allowing them to parry later and later. The most experienced fencers will have a "panic space" which extends as little as 5cm from them. The advantage of parrying late is that you are less vulnerable to complex actions. A person who parries late is less vulnerable to a feint than a person who parries early. The late parrying fencer is also less vulnerable to changes in tempo. Because the attack is allowed to come close to the fencer it is easier to determine whether the attack is a feint or not. The fencer should only parry a valid attack, one that will actually strike them. This is achieved through parrying late. The late parrying fencer also achieves a better mechanical advantage over the opponent due to the fact that the later parry will result in the opponent's blade being caught further down the forte of the defender and further up the foible of the opponent.

Now that both time and distance have been discussed with regard to the parry, now it is time to discuss the angle of the blade in the parry. This is an important consideration and will come back to the discussion on the primary purpose of the parry. The larger the angle of the parry the more defense which is afforded to the fencer. The smaller the angle of the parry, the faster the riposte will be. Thus defense decreases as the speed of the riposte increases. This has been placed on a chart for your interest.
As can be seen by the chart, a parry which has a high degree of defence has a low speed of riposte, but a parry which has a high speed of riposte also has a low degree of defence. This comes back to whether the primary purpose of the parry being performed is for defence or for setting up for a following action. In the beginner fencer it is more important to focus on the defensive characteristics of the parry than the action which follows it. The more advanced fencer needs to balance the relationship and figure out what is most appropriate for them at the time. Into this discussion is also the fact that the larger the angle of the parry, the more of the fencer the blade will protect. This has been depicted in a diagram below.

As can be seen in the diagram the more that the angle of the blade in the parry increases, the more of the fencer the blade protects. With a point high, and thus large angle of the blade, the parry protects a large amount of the fencer. Whereas, if the angle is reduced, less of the fencer is protected. Of course referring back to the other diagram, this will also mean a slower riposte in response to the increased defense. It is better that we teach our students that it is better to have a sure defence than a speedy riposte. With a focus of striking without being struck, this is the only sure way to achieve this end.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss the general characteristics of the sword parry and how it should be performed properly against an attack delivered by an opponent. Various elements have been discussed in some detail and each one is important in order that the parry is performed correctly and effectively. What is really important to realise is that the purpose of the parry must be established and expressed to our students in order that they understand that defence is the primary purpose of the parry. A great deal of practice is required in order to perfect the parries and time needs to be spent on this on a regular basis. The sword parry is an effective technique when performed properly and this discussion has highlighted various points of importance in consideration of this technique. Each point is important in its own right, but also in relation to the whole. Focus on effective parries and your fencing will improve and your defence will be effective against your opponents.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Reading the Opponent


Everybody has been in this situation before... You are called up for your bout, you get yourself ready, you wander out on to the field, the various litanies are read, the marshal then calls you to on guard, and then "Allez!" You stand there looking at your opponent thinking "What do I do now?" This is the first place where reading the opponent becomes a practical thing, of course, if we are smart we observe our opponents off the field as well. This blog will be focussed on those aspects of reading the opponent which occur on the field. It is not designed to tell you how to deal with every opponent, just how to get the information so you have some ideas about how to deal with your opponents.

The first question that is asked is why is reading the opponent important? There are various reasons that answer this particular question. The first and most practical one is that so we do not launch into an attack and skewer ourselves on the opponent's point in the process. This can be avoided through reading of the opponent and knowing how he will react. This leads on to another aspect, that of predicting what the opponent can or cannot do. The ability to predict what the opponent can or cannot do is dependent on reading the opponent, and if we can see what the opponent can or cannot do we can plan for those things that they might do. The element of prediction comes from reading the opponent both stationary and in action, each one of these elements will tell us something about the opponent.

There are two main senses which are of greatest use to the fencer in reading the opponent and one which is less useful. The two which are the most useful are sight and touch, the one which is least useful is hearing. Hearing is limited due to the head protection which is worn when fencing, this muffles the ability to hear and reduces the effectiveness of this particular sense. Sight is the most obvious one as we are looking at our opponent and seeing what they do or do not do. The sense of touch is also important as we can also feel where the opponent may move and how they move through contact through the weapons. Each one of these two most useful senses will be addressed in turn, giving some ideas about how they can be used to read the opponent.

The first sense that will be discussed is sight. This is more than just looking at your opponent, it is observing them. In this it is important to look at details but also at the whole picture as well. The details assist with building a complete picture of the opponent.

We will start from the ground and work upwards. You can tell things from the position of the feet of your opponent. Is their front foot pointed at you? Is their back foot in line with their front foot? Are they standing flat-footed, or are they more on the balls of their feet? Each one of these elements will tell you something about the opponent. If their front foot is not pointed at you then their facing may be different. This can also affect the accuracy of their thrust. If their feet are in line with one another the opponent may have a tendancy to use more linear footwork. If they are standing flat-footed they will move slower than if they are on the balls of their feet. Needless to say the primary information you will get from looking at the feet will be about movement. Similar information is gained from looking at the legs. Are the opponent's knees bent? Are they bent deeply? This will give you some indication about how well the opponent will move and also some indication of how quickly.

The next element to look at is the body. This is the primary body mass that the opponent carries during fencing. This should also partially consider the head of the opponent, but staying with the body, questions can be asked. Is the body upright or bent? Is the opponent slouching or hunched? Where is their body mass located? The location of the body mass will determine which foot, if either the weight is placed, this will give some idea as to wether the opponent is more likely to move forward or backward. The bending of the body can indicate some of this direction, this can also give you some idea about what they are trying to protect the most. A slouching or hunched opponent may be tired or scared, this will affect their fencing ability. Moving on to the head, the position of the head will tell you much of what has also been discovered by the position of the body due to its weight. If you can see your opponent's face you can see what sort of expression they have and this will tell you about the opponent and their feelings about the bout.

Hands and arms are important. They are a direct connection between the body and the weapon of the opponent. These limbs will determine where the weapon is and is not able to be placed. How is the opponent holding the weapon? This can give some indication about what they are likely to do. Where are the arms placed in the on guard position? How does the opponent move them? Each one of these will tell you where the next movement may be. Is the hand and arm extended from the body, or withdrawn? Are they in an advanced position or more refused? This may give you some indication about what sort of blade engagement, if any, you will get out of your opponent.

The next part of the observation is assembling all of the information that you have gained by observation in order to get some idea of your opponent. Each piece of information will fill something in about the opponent and how they may move. Their position will tell you which direction is easiest for them to move to and where they are likely to go to. This relates to their ward and contra postura, which will be discussed in more detail further on. The overall picture is important, but it must take into account the different elements and details in order to complete the picture. Nothing at this point in time has been said about movement, but the observation process should continue when the opponent is moving. The idea of activity versus inactivity will be something that will be discussed later on.

While it can sometimes be misleading, information about the opponent can also be gained from examining the equipment that they are using. How well does the mask or helm fit? What about the fit of the jacket? Does it look like the equipment belongs to them or is just borrowed? What sort of state of repair is the equipment in? Each one of these elements can tell you something about the opponent. If the equipment is borrowed and does not fit as well as it could, this could result in some restrictions on the opponent. It could also indicate that the opponent is only new to fencing. If the equipment is not in a particularly good state of repair this can tell you things about the opponent and their attitude to what they are doing. All of these elements can tell you something about your opponent.

Touch is the other sense that does us most good in fencing. This is primarily achieved through the use of senso di ferro, or sentiment du fer, or tacto. The idea of feeling through the blade is an important one and a skill that every fencer should seek to develop as it can tell us a great deal about our opponent. Both prolonged and incidental contact between the blades can tell us something about the opponent. This skill, if well developed, can act like an extra sense and can help us predict what our opponent may do, or is likely to do. Simple things such as the blade quivering can tell us that the opponent may be afraid, nervous, tired or be overly excited. Is the contact between the blades weak or strong? This can tell us whether the opponent may attempt to use force against the blade in order to open a line. It is important that how the blades contact is important as well as where they contact. The movements of the blades against one another is also important. All of this information is gained through the use of senso di ferro.

Contra postura is an idea which was expounded by Salvator Fabris and is a most useful concept. In order to use it properly we have to understand its underlying principles. The main idea of contra postura is to place yourself in a position which both actively and passively resists the position of the opponent. The principles behind contra postura is that your blade should be on-line while the opponent's blade is forced off-line by the simple position of the weapon and the body of the fencer. In essence in a correct contra postura you should be able to make a simple unhindered attack against the opponent. If they were to attack at the same time their attack should pass you by because you have closed the line. This is all about examining the ward of the opponent and placing yourself in a position to resist this. The whole idea is reliant on the accurate observation of the opponent.

The greatest effect of contra postura is that you place yourself in a position where you can attack the opponent safely while guarding yourself against the attack of the opponent. This is the primary purpose of the use of contra postura. The only way for the opponent to attack you is to change their position and this results in an action which involves the opponent using a fencing tempo in order to achieve this. Depending on the particular position will determine where the opponent will have to move to in order to perform this action, resulting in an element of prediction, which you can then use in order to counter them. This leads on to the concept of second intention also as you are making the opponent perform an action which you can then counter with a following action, thus the first action sets up for the following one. Contra postura is a most useful tool, if it is used properly, and can lead to a great advantage over the opponent.

The idea of movement has been briefly discussed in various parts above. It is now time to examine what activity and inactivity can tell us about the opponent. If you perform an action and the opponent does not respond this can tell us something about them, as well as if they actually respond to the action can tell us something about them. What the opponent does and how they do it are simultaneously important as this can allude to the skill level of the opponent and how they move. This will assist us in telling us what they are and are not likely to do, and how they may or may not respond to an action. If you perform an action in order to elicit a response from the opponent in order to perform a following action, and the opponent does not respond, this tells us something about the opponent and how we should respond in future. Thus it is important that both action and inaction can tell us something about the opponent.

The question that needs to be asked once all of this information has been assimilated is where does all of this lead? There needs to be a point behind spending so much time in reading the opponent. The first thing that reading the opponent does is it allows us to feel out the opponent. To find out where they are strong and where they are weak. The smart tactician will then attack where the opponent is weak and avoid where they are strong. It is sometimes necessary to feel out the opponent by performing actions, these actions should be designed to see how the opponent will respond and thus gain information about them. This can lead on to further actions which can result in a plan being formed as to how to defeat the opponent. The information gained through reading the opponent can allow us to form attacks and defences against the opponent. Further to this, with the full facility of reading the opponent in action and the correct responses elicited, it is then possible to move on to second intention and other advanced ideas.

Reading the opponent is an essential skill that every fencer will eventually have to develop if they want to become more successful. Each time we face an opponent we should be observing the opponent, finding out their strengths and weaknesses. The reading of the opponent on the other side can also tell us things about ourselves and where we need to improve. This can be a great asset to us as it allows us to improve everytime that we face an opponent. It should always be a learning experience for us everytime we face an opponent. Each one of the elements is important in telling us how to deal with our opponents. Each one must be taken into account in order that we have the most complete picture of the opponent. Only with this information to hand are we able to make intelligent decisions as to how to deal with our various opponents.



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fencing and Dedication to the Art


In all our endeavours we must sit back and have a look at where we are going and where we want to go. It is the same with fencing, and it doesn't matter which form of fencing you are talking about. We need to have a look at our motivations and where we want to go, but also what this will require of us as students. One of the questions that is raised here is our level of dedication to the Art. This blog will address this particular facet of the Art that we have all chosen to pursue and ask just how dedicated we really are to it.

The Spirit of Fencing is something that we must ask ourselves whether we have or not. This is about whether the Art is within us and has been made a part of us or whether it is just another pastime that we do. This encompasses many questions that we must ask ourselves whether or not the spirit of fencing is within us or not.

Is fencing to you just another game or is it something else? Could you just as well be playing tennis? This is an important question as it tells us just how far we are willing to go with what we are doing. This also questions the level of thinking we have toward fencing, is it just something that we like doing or something that is more important to us than that? If we are truly dedicated to the Art then nothing will be able to take its place, and nothing will fill the hole that is left by the absence of fencing. For those who are truly dedicated to what they are doing fencing is something that cannot be put down and picked up, it must be held on to and utilised and followed.

Next we have the question of needs and wants. Do you want to fence, or do you need to fence? There is a distinct difference between the two. A person who merely wants to fence is stating that it is something which is not really necessary to them, a person who needs to fence is stating that it is something that they cannot do without. In order to be dedicated to fencing you have to need to fence. It has to be so much a part of what you are and what you do that its absence is felt in a very deep manner. This will determine your willingness to go out of your way in order to do things to enhance your fencing, and follow the path you have chosen.

We need to have a close look at the actual fencing that we do, and how we achieve the end that we seek. Winning is nice and is something which should be considered, but you need to ask yourself if the final result is more important than how you got there. Is it better to win by any means necessary, or is it better to stick to our form and win using skill and style? This is a question of dedication to what we are doing. Learning to fence is hard and winning by the use of pure skills and techniques looks hard in the beginning, but it will improve your fencing overall. Only a fencer who is dedicated to what they are doing will spend the time to ensure that they win using skill and not brute force or some trick. This leads well into the subject of learning and how important it is to the process and our level of dedication to the art.

Learning is important to progressing in the Art, and it is something that we need to be dedicated to in order to progress fully. It is important that we must always be learning in order to progress, and learning in order to improve our fencing. The only way to progress is to keep learning, while this can be a more difficult process as we progress in skill, there is always something new to learn and dedication to this process must be made if we truly want to excel in out Art. It is important that we take the opportunity to learn from anyone who is willing to teach us something, a different point of view is always useful. This is the case even across the various disciplines, and this should not be underestimated. Even our students can teach us something, even if it is just a different point of view. This learning process does take dedication, and remembering why we are there and what we are doing.

Progression is important and the amount of progression in a period of time is actually irrelevant. We must be dedicated to progression in order to progress. If we are not we stagnate. Progression itself needs dedication also in order to be able to push us past those times where the progression is hard. Everyone hits plateaus in their progression, in fencing, in music, and in most pursuits. It is important to stay dedicated and work through this particular phase in order to progress. The progression may seem slow at these times, but it is important that we stick with the process. With regard to plateaus it will be noted that the early stages the plateaus are infrequent and short, as we progress and our skill level increases, these plateaus will become more frequent and longer. We must be dedicated enough to push through these periods in order to continue to progress. This will take a great deal of time and patience.

In the question of measuring progression there are different approaches. One is a physical evaluation based upon wins and results of encounters, the other is a more internal process which is based upon the increase of knowledge and its expression. The first one is what often drives sport fencers and those who are more interested in winning than the pursuit of the Art. The second gives a much broader playing field and progression can be noted in the form of the skill presented and the ability of the fencer to achieve their goal through the use of their skills. This enables the fencer to see progression in different places, from the performance of a skill against an opponent, to the realisation of a concept or the application of a piece of fencing theory. The measurement of success and progression is important.

Progression is necessary as has been stated, but how it is achieved is also important. In order to progress we must stay dedicated to the Art which we are learning. This means progressing through the lessons, drills and bouts associated in a methodical manner. A training program for yourself will help in this particular aspect so you can see where you are going. This needs to be based on a set of goals, short term, and long term ones as well. Once you achieve a particular goal, it needs to be recognised in proportion. This is important as it recognises the successes that you have had. It is important to push through those lessons which seem difficult and those times where progression is not immediately evident. These are the times where your dedication will be tested. If you can push through this you will achieve a much greater result than if you give up and get distracted part way through.

Dedication, or a lack of dedication is expressed in many ways. Some of these expressions are very subtle and some are quite overt. The first and most overt expression of dedication is attendance. A person who attends all the training sessions and tournaments that they can get their hands on is a person who is clearly dedicated to learning and performance of their Art. A person who is less frequent at training and tournaments displays a much lower level of dedication to the Art that they have chosen to pursue.

Mere attendance is not the only method of expression, there is also the performance at these training sessions. A person who just hangs around and talks at training sesssions and only participates to the minimum amount even though they are attending training sessions is clearly less motivated than the person who engages in these sessions to their full capacity. As for tournaments, it cannot be expected that a fencer will win every tournament that they enter into, this is reliant on several different things, but if they do not do their best at the tournament and fight their hardest this will be seen.

Another expression of dedication can be seen in the fencer's equipment. If the fencer's gear is left in a state of disrepair, or if they forget parts of their equipment, then it is clear that they are not as dedicated to what they are doing as a person who turns up with their gear in good working order, and all present. This also goes for the acquisition of equipment to use at tournaments and training sessions. A person who is constantly borrowing gear from other students or the fencing school rather than going out and buying their own equipment is clearly less dedicated than the person who obtains their own equipment at the first chance that they are able to.

Dedication can also be seen in the preparation for lessons, this has physical and psychological elements which are all important in the person's level of dedication to fencing. Part of the preparation for a lessson is ensuring that all the appropriate gear is in good working order and is preent and packed before leaving for the lesson. Forgetting some part of the equipment shows a lack of dedication as this should have been checked before the person left for the lessson, and ensured that the gear is in good working order.

Next to look at are less overtly expressed elements in the preparation and attendance at training sessions and tournaments. Attitude has a great part to play in the student's ability to learn and also the way that they approach the lessons and tournaments. If they have the attitude that they have already learnt what they need to learn, then it is less likely that they will pay close attention to the class being taught.

Ego is an element which needs to be controlled and kept in check, this was already discussed in one of the previous blogs but relates very much to dedication. If the ego is used to fence rather than the skills learnt, this says something about the fencer, and alludes to their level of dedication to the learning process and thus the Art overall. Obviously in order to participate completely in the lessons, a person needs to have the willingness to learn what the teacher is imparting at the lessons. The willingness to learn is expressed in how they approach the lessons themselves, but this is something which starts before the lesson starts. This willingness needs to be enshrined in the individual before they leave for the lesson, and is one of the most important elements. It relates very much back to the question of attitude and ego.

The dedication to the Art of fence is something that each person needs to consider on their own part and to what level they are truly dedicated to the Art that they have chosen. This dedication will be expressed in many ways and it is up to the individual to ensure that this dedication is enhanced in order to gain the greatest benefit from the Art. Dedication will determine how far we will be able to go more than pure phyiscal ability. Skills can be learnt. Concepts can be learnt. Theory can be learnt, but the fencer has to be willing to put in the hard work that is required in order to gain these things and this will take dedication. It is dedication that will see us through the hard parts of the fencing process, and only dedication that will assist us to surrmount the largest obstacles in our path. As a fencer, dedication is something that we must all consider personally as it will determine how far we are able to progress within the Art.