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BCAF Intermediate Youth Class 7.21

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This week’s class is looking at how to change time and distance using the check step. The check step is a short half step made quickly and can be used to accelerate.

Class started with a couple exercises that emphasized the feel of the floor

Jump to guard – advance, Jump to guard – Lunge

These exercises focus the fencer on feeling the floor and springing forward off the landing. This replicates the pre-loading action we instinctively do when trying to jump straight up. The fencer needs to learn to use that spring to propel themselves forward and back.

Tap-Tap Adv/Ret

These exercises focus the fencer on managing the center of gravity evenly between the feet and to drive through the floor to move forward and back. The exercise is intended to train the fencer to drive with the trailing foot rather than step forward with the leading foot when initiating a movement.

Check Step:

Described the check step to move forward and back. The check step is a short, fast half-step where the trailing leg drives the body similar to a short hop or stutter step. This is used to make minute changes in distance and to change timing without giving up forward motion. The check step can also be used to pre-load the leg muscles for a powerful lunge (check-step lunge).

Drills:

The class practiced integrating the check-step into the attack with a lunge. First as a rote drill then as a semi-competitive drill where the attacking fencer can manipulate the timing with a direct attack in 1-2-3 scenarios (1: check step lunge, 2: adv check step lunge, 3: adv x 2 check step lunge) with the defender maintaining distance and attempting to read the acceleration to parry-riposte (P/R) in distance.

Class 3: The Lunge and Advance Lunge

GuBongilLunge
Gu Bongil and his devastating lunge (fencingkr.com) post by Sydney Saber Center

Lesson Plan

  • Discussion of video’s watched
  • Warmup and Warmup Game
  • Review of fundamentals
  • Lunge, Advance Lunge
  • Distance games
  • Assignment: Watch a team match of your favorite weapon

Warmups

Warmups will be a fixture at the beginning of each class. As we master one I will bring new ones out of my bag of tricks for the students to learn. Warmups will continually challenge your coordination and agility.

  • Alterna-jacks: We will review and perform Alterna-Jacks again
  • Boxing Hops: This is a traveling exercise to help hip and leg mobility
  • Ballet Kicks: This is a dynamic stretch of the legs and hips to help lengthen the muscles prior to our workout. It also requires balance and coordination.

The Lunge and the Advance Lunge

Inigo: “Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capoferro!”

MIB: “Naturally. But I find that Thibault cancels out Capoferro.”

Inigo: “Unless your enemy has studied his Agrippa!” [does great big somersault] “Which I have!”

-Princess Bride (The duel on the Cliffs of Insanity)

One of the most popular duels to appear on screen is in Princess Bride between Inigo Montoya and The Man in Black at the Cliffs of Insanity. It is the lunge that is referred to as Capo Ferro. The explosive attack was published in combat manuals of Ridolfo Capo Ferro published around 1610.

The lunge is the fundamental attack in fencing. It is probably the most important contribution of fencing to martial arts and sport in general. It was adopted for attack in the martial arts by Bruce Lee when he developed Jeet Kun Do (Bruce Lee fenced while attending High School). It has also been adopted by other sports such as badminton to cover ground quickly and efficiently.

Footwork will continue to be our focus this week. We covered the basic static lunge last week with the basic advance and retreat. This week we are going to expand the possibilities of the lunge looking at a few ways it can be executed and combined.

  • Lunge and Advance Lunge
  • Ballistic lunges

 

Movement Games

We get to break out the toy swords today. We will learn how to put on a fencing mask. and do some basic distance games. We will revisit some of our games last week.

Distance Game: The game starts with an attacking fencer and a defending fencer. The attacking fencer is allowed to execute an advance lunge in an attempt to hit the defending fencer on the top of the mask. The defending fencer is allowed to retreat as much as desired to avoid being hit. As soon as the front foot of the attacker hits the ground the attack is over and the roles are reversed, the defender is now the attacker and the attacker becomes the defender and must evade the new attack.

Cross the moat: Two fencers will face off across a gap marked in tape. The fencers can not step in the moat but must reach across it with a lunge to attempt to touch the other fencer with the toy sword. They may not cross with their back foot.

Steal the Bacon: A fencing glove is placed in the middle of the space and two fencers will pair off at opposite sides of the area. On the command to fence they will race to the middle using advances and lunge to steal the glove. Once a fencer has touched the glove the other fencer can attempt to tag him out. But not before the glove has been touched.

Homework:

Since you’ve watched a few videos now, I expect you might be developing a preference for one weapon or another. Your assignment before Wednesday is to watch a team match of your favorite discipline. You don’t have to watch these particular matches, but these are fine choices for each discipline.

Team matches are played in 9 rounds where the three fencers of each team fence all three fencers of the other team (unless they use their substitution). Each round ends at the maximum score reaching the next multiple of 5 (5, 10, 15, … to 45) or if the three minute fencing period expires or non-combativity is called (a minute of fencing has elapsed without a touch scored). You get to see a number of different fencers and styles meeting and how each fencer adapts to each other.

I will answer any questions about what you all watched when we meet again on Wednesday.

Class 2: April 11 Movement

FencingFootworkImage

Lesson Plan

  • Warmup and Warmup Game
  • Movement in fencing
  • Advance and Retreat
  • Lunge and Recover
  • Distance games
  • Assignment: Watch one bout of each weapon

Warmups

We are going to learn some more warmups to start the class. These warmups are meant to get the blood moving and warm up the muscles for the work ahead. I have a series of warmups that I use with the High School Fencers that may find difficult to master at first. These are all constructed to learn body coordination and balance and with a little practice they will be mastered.

  • Alterna-jacks: Similar to jumping jacks but the feet and hands change motion and timing to learn to move our bodies deliberately and de-couple the arms and feet.
  • Boxing Hops: This is a traveling exercise where we hop forwards and backwards and alternate motion with our feet. This promotes balance and coordination.
  • Ballet Kicks: This is a dynamic stretch of the legs and hips to help lengthen the muscles prior to our workout. It also requires balance and coordination.

Movement in Fencing

After exhaustively covering our guard positions in class 1 we will review first and then we will start learning the fundamental movements of fencing.

  • Advance and Retreat
  • Lunge and Recover

Because fencing is performed on a strip or piste that is 1.5 to 2 meters wide and 14 meters long, movement is essentially linear. We move in a straight line towards or away from our opponent. The fencing action stops if a fencer leaves the strip, collides with or passes the other fencer. There are no dramatic spins, twists, turns, spiral staircases or chandelier swinging that we see in the movies (pity).

The fundamental movement is the advance and retreat we use to shift forwards or backwards in small quick steps that maintain balance and allow for quick changes of direction.

The lunge is the basic attack in fencing. It’s an explosive reach forward pushing the weight from the back foot and reaching with the front foot. The lunge is much more complicated than it looks requiring all parts of the body to move independently.

Movement Games

We get to break out the toy swords today. We will learn how to put on a fencing mask. and do some basic distance games.

Mask Carry: Two fencers hold a mask between their palms and one will lead the other will follow to keep the mask balanced between them.

Cross the moat: Two fencers will face off across a gap marked in tape. The fencers can not step in the moat but must reach across it with a lunge to attempt to touch the other fencer with the toy sword. They may not cross with their back foot.

Steal the Bacon: A fencing glove is placed in the middle of the space and two fencers will pair off at opposite sides of the area. On the command to fence they will race to the middle using advances and lunge to steal the glove. Once a fencer has touched the glove the other fencer can attempt to tag him out. But not before the glove has been touched.

Homework:

The homework for the next few days is to watch at least one bout of each of the three weapons. This can be from any competition domestic or international, and excellent choice can be the finals from the Cadet Championships held a week ago in Verona:

The Cadet group are the best fencers under 16 in the world. There are loads of other videos available at the FIE site or through the USFA channel on YouTube, feel free to look around and find the perfect match.

I will answer any questions about what you all watched when we meet again on Monday.

Class 1: Mon April 9

  • Introductions to coach and sutdents
  • Description of the class and goals
  • Introduction to Fencing
  • Rules of the Class
  • Warmup Game
  • Learn En Garde
  • Assignment: Watch Some Fencing

Introduction to Fencing:

Fencing is the practice of sword play using “fenced” or blunted weapons. Although it can generally describe any kind of swordplay practice, modern sport fencing has it’s roots in European rapier and cavalry saber. Schools of fencing became popular in the European Renaissance where young lords could learn the art of the sword in a safe environment from a master of the sword. This swordplay would have been much like what you would read about in fantasy novel or see in movies like The Princess Bride.

Fencing contests became popular among the schools in towns and the sport of fencing was born.

Modern Fencing: Modern fencing came about in the late 10th century leading up to the first Olympic games held in Athens Greece in 1896 with foil and saber. Epee was added in 1900. Women’s foil fencing events were added in 1924. It would be electrically scored starting in 1930. Fencing has been featured in every Olympic Games since.

Electrical scoring changed the game considerably allowing fencers to move and execute actions faster and more athletically. Leading to what we see in current sport.

Class Rules:

Fencing is a sport that reinforces fair play and sportsmanship. The fencing rulebook (t.87) describes the fencing exchange as:

All bouts must preserve the character of a courteous and frank encounter.

  • I expect all exercises and games to preserve this character
  • All games will begin and end with a salute to our opponents
  • All games will end by shaking hands after a salute

En Garde:

The basic En Garde position in fencing is the fundamental stance every action in fencing starts from and returns to.

  1. Stand sideways with your dominant hand facing coach
  2. Rotate you front (dominant) foot 90 degrees to point at coach
  3. Look where your toe is… look closely.
  4. Take a small step forward with your front foot so that it is about half a foot length in front of where your toe was.
  5. Sit down a little into that position, bending your knees so they are over your toes
  6. Keep your back straight and your head up with your weight evenly distributed lightly on the balls of your feet

Watch some fencing

It is an amazing resource we have today with thousands of world cup level fencing bouts available to us on the internet. These are archived by the fencing organizations like the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE), the United States Fencing Association (USFA), schools like the Sydney Sabre School or enthusiastic individuals and coaches.

FIE Fencing on YouTube

Take a look at this modern sport with your parents. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or when we meet again at our next class.

Princeton Charter School Fencing Program

I am very excited to have launched the Princeton Charter School Program. We will be running two classes: one for 4th and 5th Graders and a second for middle school students. Our first classes will launch after the end of the Princeton Charter Spring Break and the first class will be on Monday April 9th.

Our goals for the class are to teach the basics of fencing over the course of six weeks meeting twice a week. I am very much looking forward to working with young athletes that I hope will continue with fencing and eventually participate on the high school team next year.

The program is outlined on our page: Princeton Charter School

In preparation Princeton Interscholastic Fencing registered as a club under the United States Fencing Association.