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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, September 22, 2009

Psychology of Fencing: Things to Consider


There are many psychological factors which have a great influence on your fencing. These need to be considered when you are fencing. Before the bout there are aspects which you should take into account, but there are also factors which will impact during the bout. It is important that these things are considered. This blog is more of an introduction to the idea of the psychology of fencing and will introduce some of the aspects that should be considered. It is important to realise that not all of the aspects will be considered here, but it will touch on some important points for consideration.

Before a bout there are various things that should be considered. The preparation before a bout with an opponent is important and there are advantages that can be gained before a person steps out on to the field. Some of these things are quite simple and are often overlooked by fencers. The usual thing is that people tend to throw their armour on and then go onto the field. For the more experienced fencers, these other aspects may come normally, but for others, they may not be so natural and thus must be considered as to what needs to be done, rather than just appearing on the field in a state of semi-readiness.

Information can be gained about the opponent before the bout which can be of great use. Observe the opponent in previous bouts if you are able to, the skills that they use will tell you something about them. Do they rely on the same techniques each time? Is there any restriction that they have placed upon themselves due to this preference? What gaps does this leave?

The handedness of the opponent is also important as this will change how the opponent should be apporached. Are they left-handed or right-handed? This is one that is often forgotten. A left-handed opponent may be able to close certain lines less easily than a right-handed opponent and will approach the opponent differently to a right-handed opponent.

The weapons that the opponent chooses to take upon the field is important as this will give you some ideas about the options that they have. This needs to be considered in relation to the weapons that you have chosen to take out on the field. It is not necessary to change your choice in order to match them. This is especially the case if their combination is less comfortable with you. You should take the weapons that you are most comfortable with.

What are they wearing? Will their clothing slow them down? What about footwear? Will it restrict their foot movement? Boots will tend to restrict a person's footwork, where as shoes will tend to leave them more free to be able to move about. What does their clothing tell you about them? Does it look well-fitting? This will affect how they will be able to move. The condition of their equipment can also tell you somethings about your opponent.

Listen to the announcement of your opponent, are there any titles or positions that have been announced? This can give you some idea of their skill level, and sometimes how to approach the opponent. You should not be frightened if the opponent has impressive titles as everyone has the ability to beat any opponent as long as they use their skills properly.

Purely physical aspects of the opponent can also tell you things about them. How tall are they? How long are their limbs? How is this in proportion to their weapon? You should go an introduce yourself to your opponent. The simple handshake can tell you something about their strength, and can also allow you to compare yourself to them physically.

Warming up is useful, fencers will stretch and warm their muscles up before the bout. In some instances this is all that they will do, but this leaves a great deal that is not done. Warming up on the physical side should also be the movement of the weapons allowing you to see how they will move and how to follow from one action to another. You should also be considering how you will respond to the actions of the opponent. Pushing all of this to the forebrain will allow you much easier access to it during the bout. The movement of the weapons around will also assist in the mental preparation for the bout, which is also important. The bout before you are supposed to take the field, you should take some time to yourself in order to be able to prepare properly. This is important in order that you are able to relax and prepare properly.

Relaxing in fencing has a great benefits that can be attained through its use. This particular aspect covers various things which have already been discussed, but also adds some more into the discussion. Having the ability to relax will allow you to move more freely and do a great deal more. It is important that you consider this both before you take the field and also while you are on the field and engaged with your opponent.

Being able to relax comes from self-confidence. This confidence must be placed in your own abilities as they are the ammunition that you take into the encounter. Remember all the work that you have put in to get you as far as you have, be confident in the ability that you have and that you know how to respond to the actions of the opponent. It is important that this does not grow to over-confidence lest this blinds you to the true ability of the opponent and also inflates your own to a situation where it is of no use to you. This confidence in your own ability will allow you to relax more easily.

Tension is important, but it must be tension used at the correct moment, rather than tension that has been built up. You need to be able to use and release the tension whenever you need to. An excess of tension will be detriment to you. This tension needs to be considered not only of the body but also of the mind. If you are tense in your mind you will end up tense in your body. A tension of the body will lead to a restriction in movement and a slowing down of the actions that you are making due to the muscles already being tense.

One of the places where this tension can most easily be seen is in the on guard stance. If you are hunched over, your muscles in your shoulders are already working as there is tension in them. This will restrict the movement of your arms. If you stand up properly and broaden your chest, the tension in your shoulders will be released. In a proper standing up position you will also be able to breathe more easily which means that you will have more energy.

Breathing is important. Breathing gives more oxygen to the muscles which allows them to move more freely. Breathing can also be used to relax yourself. This can be done before and even during the bout. Before, you should take relaxed breaths, breathe as deeply as you can. During the bout, you should take the time to breathe and relax and release tension. In order to do this you should break off from your opponent and out of distance, then take some deep breaths and relax yourself. This will allow you to release tension in your mind and your body.

One of the key ways in order to relax when fencing is to enjoy the encounter. If you are at training doing bouting, you are there to learn about yourself and your opponent. It does not matter if you are struck so long as you learn something from the encounter. If you do, you win. Your focus needs to be on the bout itself and not any prize or reward that may or may not come afterward. You should be focussed on the skills that you are using and the skills that the opponent is using. In a tournament or examination you need to be aware of your opponent and deal with what they throw at you. You need to deal with what is in front of you and enjoy what you are doing. This will allow you to relax. You need to consider what is truly on the line in the encounter. Each bout is the matching of the skills of two fencers against one another, and this is how they should be approached. It is a chance to explore your own skills and demonstrate what you have learnt. In order to truly relax you need to enjoy the encounter between you and your opponent, with this relaxation you will be able to do a great deal more.

The psychology of fencing is important for any person who participates in it, but it is often not considered by the fencers. It is important that you do consider what is going on in order to understand it better and be prepared for what may come. The points which have been raised are things to consider. This in no way covers all of the aspects that you should be aware of, but is designed to highlight some to be thought about. Fencing is both a set of physical skills but also a set of mental skills. These need to be combined in order that you are the most effective that you can be. The psychology of fencing is something which is often pushed to the side by some, but it needs to be considered as it is of great importance.