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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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Building Self-Confidence


Going by the title of this particular blog one could assume that this is going to be some sort of "make people happy" discussion. Actually, that is not the point of view that will be the focus of this one. In this particular case the subject of self-confidence will be addressed from two points of view. Firstly it will be examined from the student's point of view and then from the teacher's point of view. The purpose of this blog is to address the idea of how both the teacher and the student can build self-confidence in the student. This is an important process that both the student and the teacher need to be aware of in order for the student to excell.

From the student's point of view, there are three main points that will be raised. Firstly that training is a learning process and mistakes will be made. Secondly, the importance of practice and how it builds skill and thus confidence, and finally being comfortable in what you are doing. Each one of these particular points is important and needs to be addressed in order for the student to build confidence in themselves.

Fencing and training is a learning process, in this there will be mistakes made by the student in what they are doing. What is important about this is that the student needs to learn from these mistakes, in this way the mistake made is not a failure but a chance for the student to learn and improve what they are doing. The learning process takes time. This is important as the student must realise that it will take time for them to learn skill-sets and be able to use them effectively in fencing. Fencing is a long road if it is approached from the correct point of view and they will never stop learning. When something is done well it should be celebrated. The student should take pride in all of their achievements, no matter how small they might be, but this must be in proportion to the level of the achievement, and also through this not become over-confident. This achievement should spur them on to want to do more.

It is practice that builds skill, and skill that builds confidence. Needless to say, practice is required for all of the skills in fencing so that they can be called upon and used at anytime that the student requires them. In this practice the student needs to be practicing the correct action in order that the correct action is learnt. In this the teacher should be correcting them in order tha this is possible, and to a point the student should also be correcting themselves. The action performed must be completed. Where the drill involves a parry and riposte, both actions need to be completed in order for the student to learn the correct thing. Where the parry is missed, the student should correct the parry, and then make the appropriate riposte. This is the same for all actions. It is this sort of repetition that builds muscle memory and allows a student to perform an action without thinking about it. Much in these blogs has already been said about practice, but it is something which is vital for the student to keep progressing.

Being comfortable in what a person is doing is about several things. Firstly it is necessary for them to understand what they are doing and what it is suppose to achieve. Next it is important to understand the effect of the action and the parts that are involved in the action. This understanding will enable the student to have a better grasp of what they are doing and thus be more comfortable with it. Once the mind is prepared it is important for the body to be able to feel what is happening. Performing an action slowly will allow the student to feel the activation of muscles and other parts of their body. This will enable them to perform the action properly at faster speeds once they can feel what their body is doing during the performance of the action. Each student will find things that feel more comfortable for them. In some cases there may be some modification in the action required for the action to work for them, and this is fine. It is important for the student to discover what works for them and thus enable them to develop a level of comfort for themselves in their actions. Of course, the development of this level of comfort in an action will take time, especially for a new action. It is important that the teacher allows the student to take the time that they need in order for them to become comfortable with an action. An action which is comfortable for the student will more readily be used by them.

From the teacher's point of view, there are also three main points that will be raised. The teacher's purpose in training is an important factor in building self-confidence in the student. Next is encouragement and how it can be effective in building self-confidence through building the student. Lastly is the idea of relaxation on the part of the student in order that they can more freely learn what needs to be learnt. Rather than specific points of reference for the teacher, it will be a general discussion focussed on the particular sub-topics presented.

The purpose of the teacher needs to be something that the teacher is aware of. In teaching their purpose is to develop skill in the student, rather than simply demonstrating how good they are to the student. It is important that this focus is maintained by the teacher in order that they do not get side-tracked into simply contradicting the actions of the student. Along with this, the teacher must get hit. The hit should be the result of a correct technique performed by the student and not simply the teacher just standing there. This may be required for the most timid of the students, but in general the hit should result from a correctly performed technique. In this particular aspect, once the teacher has taught a student a particular technique, and they are getting them to perform the action, they should neve counter the correct technique as this builds negative reinforcement associated with the technique. If there is a counter, this should be taught as a separate section. The student should be allowed to complete the action as described. The teacher must allow the student to complete the action and to perform it as it was taught, if there are problems, the teacher should correct them once the action is complete. Being that it is the training of the student which is the focus, the teacher must also know the difference between training and bouting. Training is designed to reinforce a particular action, in this the person who is supposed to get hit, should. This is the same for drills as well, the action needs to be completed. This is where the focus of the teacher must be toward teaching the student.

Encouragement is important and necessary. The student should be praised for a skill well performed. This encourages the student to complete action and gives them a boost in order to move on to the next action. It is important that the encouragement is not over-used, but measured in proportion to the achievement of the student. This will also reinforce the validity of the action taught and performed. Encouragement is especially necessary where a student is having problems. This may be problems with a particular technique, or overall. In both cases, the teacher needs to find little victories to encourage the student to continue along their path, without this encouragement the student may give up. When an action is performed as per a drill, the action must be allowed to be completed, unimpeded by the teacher. Encouragement should be given for the performance of the action completed. Encouragement goes a large way toward building confidence in the student, and especially confidence in their skills.

For some students, relaxation in the performance of skills is difficult, but it is also important in order that they are able to perform the action without hesitation and more fluidly. It is important that the student is focussed on what they are doing, but not so much that they become tense. This tension needs to be relieved in some manner or other. This can be achieved through light-hearted anecdotes, but the student should not be criticised in these. Tension will be built by the student over-thinking an action. This often comes from looking outside the technique being taught. It is important that the students focus on the particular technique being taught, rather than worrying about what comes next or what might happen. Over-thinking an action will increase tension which will make the action more difficult to perform. If the muscles are relaxed, and thus lack tension, the action will be much easier to perform. This is the primary reason that relaxation is important, it allows for better performance of actions. Of course true relaxation comes from confidence, and this must be built. This confidence needs to be built one technique at a time, and then stacked in order to complete the picture.

Self-confidence is important for both the student and the teacher, without it neither could perform. It is also important that both are able to improve the level of self-confidence by both their actions and also their attitude toward training and the training process. The student needs to consider how what they are doing can build their own confidence in what they are doing, but the teacher also has a role to play in this. Victories need to be celebrated, especially where the road toward it has been difficult for the student and the teacher. Of course, such victories need to be celebrated in proportion to their merit otherwise over-confidence will build and this will be to the detriment of the student and the teacher. In all as fencers all need to consider how they affect and are affected by the actions of ourselves and others in the building of self-confidence. The students in a class all have a role to play for themselves and one another. The building of self-confidence in the student needst to be a partnership between the student and the teacher.