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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.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Footwork: Movement in Fencing


Footwork is vital in fencing and it is often overlooked in importance in comparison to the use of the sword. What must be realised in this particular situation is that it does not matter what forme of fencing is being done, footwork is of great importance. This particular edition will be focussing on footwork and its importance. It will also address the differences and advantages and disadvantages of practicing footwork both indoors and outdoors. For some they may not realise the difference, but there is a difference.

Footwork is undoubtedly important. The practicing of footwork at a training session tends to be rather boring. It usually involves moving up and down the training area over and over again. This is designed to implant the footwork into the muscle memory of the fencer. Once the basic motions have been practiced and perfected, more interesting things can be done with it such as distance games of various kinds. The thing about this practice is that the fencer needs to be able to move without thinking. This means that the footwork movements need to be so familiar to the fencer that they do not have to think about them, this takes a lot of practice.

Practicing and using footwork is all about the ability to move freely over the field. Now, anyone can walk or run across a field, this is undoubted as it is something which we learnt when we were small children. Footwork in fencing is about taking this particular ability and making it more efficient and also about making it effective. Footwork is also about teaching the body to be stable while moving across the field. This means that footwork enhances the ability of the fencer, and it also protects the lower limbs through this movement. Accurate footwork is about safe and efficient movement across the field. Simple things such as turning the foot in the direction of the opponent creates a biomechanical situation where the body is better protected from injury and damage.

Distance is controlled by footwork. The arm of the fencer is only so long and so is their weapon. If the fencer stays stationary, the opponent only has to stay out of range of the arm and weapon. If the fencer moves with their feet they can change the distance. Footwork does the major part of moving the body of the fencer. Without the correct footwork, it is difficult for the fencer to move properly. It is also through the use of footwork that the fencer is able to control distance in the bout. Through this the fencer is then able to close or withdraw at the time and place of their choice. Through this use of distance the fencer is then able to control the bout.

For the most part, the question of training and fighting indoors or outdoors is pretty much mute for the sport fencer. So this particular aspect is more directed at the Renaissance and Classical fencer whose tournament field may be indoors or outdoors. The question of where training will actually take place is usually up to the person or organisation which organises the training. This may mean that you may end up training either in a hall or outside. There are some important differences that must be realised between these two.

Training indoors has some advantages. The floor is flat and this can affect many things. It is much easier to practice perfect footwork on a flat floor, and to some point it is also easier on the joints of the fencer. The other great advantage of training indoors is that the training is not affected by weather. This means pretty much regardless of what the weather is like outside training can go on. Of course if the tournaments are to be fought outdoors, this can also lead to some issues.

Training outdoors involves usually uneven ground. This can place extra stress on the joints of the fencer, and it can also be more difficult to present technically perfect techniques. The fencer who trains outside is also affected by weather and inclement weather means that sometimes training is not possible on that particular site. However, the big advatage that outdoor training has over indoor training is that it reflects the effect of outside conditions on the movement in fencing. This means that the fencer's footwork is prepared for uneven terrain and knows how to move efficiently across this.

For the most part, for the Renaissance fencer, the field on which tournaments are fought is outside. This means that the fencers who train outside are already prepared for the conditions presented by the field. For the indoor practicing fencers this can present somewhat of a challenge to them as they are not used to fighting on uneven ground. It is true that the event organisers will attempt to find the most even ground possible, but this is not always guaranteed. The result of this is that the advantage will go toward the fencers who train outdoors. A way that this advantage can be gained by all fencer is for all fencers to do a proportion of their fencing outside. For those fencers who have the access to do both indoor and outdoor training this presents an advantage over both the people who train only indoors and also those who only train outdoors.

Footwork is of vital importance to the fencer and it is something which should not be glossed over. For the fencer to be able to move properly over the field they must have practiced their footwork. This must be done with correction so that the fencer learns the correct thing and is able to move efficiently and safely over the field. The practice for footwork should be done under as many conditions as possible, indoors and outdoors. This will enhance the fencer's ability to move over a variety of terrain, and thus be able to move efficiently over it.