Why Your Child Should Take Private Fencing Lessons

Most American sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball are experienced in a group session. It’s rare to see a student participate in one-on-one coaching. Unless they are going to a very competitive level, the need for private lessons is mostly unnecessary. 

However, in more individualized sports, such as tennis, ice skating, or golf, the need for a private instruction is essential, especially when a sport becomes more of the focus. Because of this private coaching can make the difference between a good athlete, and a top rated one. 

As an individualized sport, fencing is no different. The importance of knowing the precise technique can mean the difference between progressing or not, and of course between  placing highly in competition, or not placing at all. And with kids especially, progress means more joy from the sport, a desire to continue and a personal commitment to improve.

Aren’t Group Lessons Good Enough? 

Group lessons are essential to your child’s ability to practice moves. To fence against peers, build up a camaraderie and learn some basic movements and strategy. 

However, while your fencing coach is always teaching to the highest level,  it is mostly conducted in an ‘average’ way. The ‘common’ way to parry. The ‘common’ way to attack or defend. And each student will learn and react differently to each different situation. 

Everyone’s technique is unique. In a private lesson, your coach will tailor the lesson to be specific to your child, to their current level and mastery, and to their strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, if a student is unusually short in their attack, a coach will address this specifically in a private session and will develop a precise technique that can work with this style of attack. For example, how to hide it, how to increase the length, how to add flash attack elements, or how to create a style that will put more emphasis on a defensive side to minimize the effort. 

Building a Baseline

While every child has at one point presumably  played with a sword and perhaps “knows” how to poke, even the most basic elements of fencing technique, such as making a single direct touch, is difficult. The act of taking a sword in your hand, extending your arm, and hitting something that is right in front of you such as a wall. It is the most straightforward collection of movements, but rarely a beginner can do this correctly. In fact, it may take several lessons and adjustments for them to do it close to what their coach wants. 

Each small muscle and joint has to work in tandem to make the movement work. The angle of the wrist, shoulder, elbow, how far you recover, where your hand and body will be in alignment, every element needs to be positioned exactly. Even down to the precise angle of the fingers and how it affects the positioning of the fist. 

Your fencing coach will help you build a correct, solid baseline of movements that are performed repeatedly. This baseline of movements will allow you to move into more complicated actions. And will let your muscles build up their memory of how to move correctly without even having to think about it.

But unfortunately, many fencers wait way too long to invest in private fencing lessons. With this, the potential of bad habits created from practicing without the watchful eye of your instructor may need to be undone. 

Perfecting Imperfections 

Improper motion in fencing will create a chain reaction. If you turn the blade incorrectly, you then must twist your arm to compensate, which will lead you to twist your body to adjust to the arm being twisted incorrectly, which will then affect your balance, your footwork, and ability to shift between your legs. 

One small mistake can lead to a chain reaction of bigger, more costly mistakes. It’s critical that you have the right stance, right grip, and right position every time. Here are some basic areas that your fencing coach will be able to help you perfect during your private lessons: 

  • Your grip on the blade

  • Wrist position

  • Stance

  • Shoulder position

  • Chin and head position

  • Weight distribution 

  • Distance between the legs and proper footwork

  • Balance 

  • Synchronization between the arms, legs, and hand 

Once  you become  fluent in a basic set of fencing moves, and  you learn how to properly make simple actions of offense or defence, your coach will be able to add more complex actions,  and then expand on all of these with combinations that will help to add speed and complexity.

A Good Fencing Technique Starts With a A Knowledgeable Simulation

One of the most beneficial ways that your fencing coach will be able to teach you is from simulating different actions in a precise way. Your coach will simulate many different actions, such as attacks, and parries initially in small steps and with a slow approach, that may otherwise confuse and disable you. 

They will do this by simulating with exact precise speed and distance what is appropriate to your level and skill, adding to your baseline repertoire of skills to practice. 

For an instructor in a group session to take the time to make adjustments and corrections for all of these tiny details, would make the group session intolerable, annoying, meaningless, and impossible to conduct. It’s impossible for them to spot and correct every incorrect position or movement. And this is why it’s essential to get the perspective of your private instructor. 

Theoretical Practice vs. Practical Practice 

While it’s true that private lessons are essential to the overall improvement of your fencing performance, they should never come in place of a group session. These lessons must work in tandem.  With the baseline of movements instilled through multiple repetitions, your child should try to implement as much as they can during the group exercises and bouting. 

This is an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned to see whether it will work. It’s also an opportunity for your coach to see how well you take instruction from the private lesson, use it in the group lesson, and perhaps tailor or change anything based on what they observe. 

In tandem with group and private lessons, the next step for your child is to put these moves into a competition. Each competition can provide a different environment to further perfect the skills they have learned. 

Make Your Muscles Remember

In reality there is one universal truth. However much you know about fencing, whatever your skill level, or however many years you’ve been practicing, during a competition you will only be able to access small subset of what you know. 

This works exponentially. For a person who has been studying fencing for ten years, who takes both private and group lessons, they will have built up the muscle memory for many different techniques and situations during a bout. A beginner who is competing for the first time will have much less to access. 

To put it simple, this limited ability to access your toolbox instantly is due to the speed of the bout, maybe only 10%. Each move happens within seconds. You must react. And the reaction is developed through perfecting form during private lessons and multiple repetition in group sessions. You can only react quickly enough when your muscle can remember what you don’t have time to think about.  The more repetitions you perform, the more it becomes part of your muscle memory, and the more you’ll be able to access it without even thinking about it. 

Build Your 10% 

The question becomes, how do you build up your muscle memory to get to a bigger 10%. During your private lesson, you may learn many different actions. But in competition, with the speed of the bout and its complexity, with an opponent trying to deliberately destroy your game, with nerves and stress, you can really access only a subset. So the more you learn and perfect to start with, the bigger your accessible arsenal will be during the competition. 

It all begins with the private lesson though. Without a private lesson, the skills with which you can access are far more limited. Your 10% may only encompass a few movements, whereas a teammate of yours or your opponent who has been taking private lessons, may have double or triple that amount. 

It is essential that if your child wants to build up a repertoire of movements, reactions, and attacks, worthy of a successful fencing experience,  they must take private fencing lessons. It is the only way to ensure that they will be able to perform these moves with the exact right precision, helping them to constantly improve and because of that enjoy their game and their sport more and more.



BY IGOR CHIRASHNYA ON MARCH 29, 2018 IN FOR PARENTS



Why fencers must warm up before private lessons

I’ve seen it myself too many times to count. A beginner fencer (sometimes even a seasoned fencer) comes in for a private lesson in a rush two minutes before the start time, throws on their gear and jumps in. 

This is totally incorrect! Before a private fencing lesson it’s so, so important that a fencer get properly warmed up. This isn’t a recommendation, it’s absolutely a requirement. Though it’s easy to get busy and skip the warm up, this is one of those instances in life where the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do. 

Before you engage in any physical activity, not just fencing, you should do a short warm up. It’s one of those small things that has a big impact, and that you’ll instantly regret skipping when that injury inevitably comes around. All sport experts consistently recommend that athletes engage in warm up activities prior to training. Private fencing lessons are an integral part of fencing training!

Nine reasons to warm up before fencing lessons

Should you need more convincing, here are nine solid reasons to take the time to warm up before your fencing private lesson.

1. You learn your body

During the warm up process, you’ll become aware of any hang ups in your body that you might not have noticed before. This is the most undervalued benefit of the warm up process! Maybe you turned your ankle a bit when you hopped out of bed this morning and slipped on the carpet. Or perhaps you over-extended your elbow in your fencing class yesterday. We don’t pay attention to minor discomfort during the busy day, so unless you self monitor you probably won’t notice that your wrist is looser than usual or your shoulder is stiff. 

Those small injuries are no big deal as they are, but if you don’t slow down and notice them, talk to your coach about them, then you’ll go full bore and make it exponentially worse. It’s easy to cater to those small things if you know they’re there though!

2. Physically preventing injuries

Warming up doesn’t just prevent injury by knowing your body, it also physically prevents the risk of bone and muscle injury. Warm up exercises assist your circulatory system in pumping blood to your muscles where it’s needed. That makes your muscles more pliable, easier to move without strain. Cold muscles don’t absorb impact as easily. Cold muscles are rigid and inflexible. Think about what happens if you drop a glass bowl on the floor, brittle and breakable, versus a plastic one that’s pliable and forgiving. 

When you warm up effectively, you prepare your body for the demands of fencing. 

3. Cardiovascular improvements

During any heavy activity, fencing included, your heart works hard. When you warm up effectively, it gradually increases your blood pressure rate instead of spiking it. Athletes who skip the warm up tend to get tired faster because of the spike, as the nutrients and oxygen burn up quickly when the heart goes into overdrive. The rapid increase in blood pressure that happens when you skip a warm up can lead to over-fatigue that can eventually contribute to many unpleasant health conditions. That’s obviously over time, but the better you take care of your heart in small ways, the more it adds up and vice versa. 

Easing up from being sedentary in the school, at work and on the drive over to the club to the aerobic movement of a fencing lesson allows your heart to stay healthier, your stamina to last longer, and your entire body to be more in balance.  

4. Brain preparations

The transition from outside the fencing club to being focused on your skill doesn’t happen magically. During a warm up, the brain has time to transition from whatever non-fencing activity you were doing before to fencing. Essentially, you’re “flipping the switch” to fencing. This means less transition time during the lesson and more quality time working on your skill. 

Believe it or not, exercise actually helps prevent brain fatigue and it also helps you to relax so your brain is better equipped to handle the new information you’re about to pour into it during your private lesson! You need to condition your muscles to react to the commands coming from your fencing coach to your brain and to react automatically. Cold muscles don’t do that well!

5. Improving performance

While strictly speaking a private lesson isn’t a competitive performance, it’s still a time when you want to be doing your best so that your coach can see your best action and help you to improve it. 

Warming up will increase your heart rate and also increase the flow of blood to your muscles, two things that will allow your body to function more efficiently. Coordination is all about the paths between your nervous system and your muscles to get them to react the way that you direct them to act. When you warm up, you’re priming those pathways. That kind of priming will increase your muscle memory for later down the line when you want your muscles to recall what you taught them during your private lesson.

6. Increased endurance

Private fencing lessons are short – twenty minutes or so. That might not sound like a long time but it really is! When you’re going full bore to repeat a big fencing motion again and again, it’s easy to get worn out halfway into a fencing lesson. If that happens, you’re not going to get as much out of the lesson as you should. This is where the warm up comes in, as warming up has been shown to be an effective way to improve endurance during physical activity. 

This can also help greatly if you’ve got a private lesson scheduled near to a fencing class, as you’ll be able make it through the physical exertion of both. Endurance is not to be taken lightly for fencers!

7. Lowers soreness

Sore muscles are of course a natural part of any sport, including fencing. While we’re certainly ok with a level of soreness, extreme pain should not be a necessity for fencers. Warming up prior to your private lesson will help lower the inflammation in the muscles and prevent tears. When you warm up, you’re literally “warming” the temperature of your muscles, and as a result you’ll prevent them from hurting after practice. This is very important in a private lesson where you’re going to be demanding those muscles to move in potentially new ways, which is more likely to result in soreness. 

8. Loss of instructional time

If you aren’t warm enough when your lesson begins, then your fencing coach is going to start more slowly with you. Basically, you’re going to get a warm up anyway because your coach is going to know how important it is to do it!  Imagine you’ve got a twenty minute lesson and you spend four minutes of that essentially warming up, you’ve lost twenty percent of your private lesson time! That’s just not efficient. It’s so simple to warm up before, and that four minutes before just isn’t as valuable as the same amount of time when your coach is spending on new techniques or sharpening your current ones.

9. It’s a transferable skill

Warming up is a great habit that isn’t just for your fencing lesson, it’s for all kinds of sports activities. For example when you go skiing or snowboarding, you’ll see a lot of people who just go straight off the lift without warming up or stretching at all. The reason? They think it’s just a fun activity. But in reality it is a sport activity! 

If you condition yourself to properly warm up and stretch prior to private fencing lessons, group classes, and competitions, you’ll naturally do it before any sport activity. Whether you’re going for a swim, playing beach volleyball, or going for a round of tennis on the neighborhood court, you’ll be in the habit of warming up. That’s a great habit to get in!

Basics of a fencing private lesson warm up

There are just a few basics that you should keep in mind when you’re doing your warm up before your private fencing lesson. 

Length

The precise amount of time that you warm up before a private fencing lesson depends on a few factors. If you’re taking a group class right before your private lesson, then obviously you’re warmed up already. If not, then you need to spend a minimum of ten – fifteen minutes warming up. Any less than that and you won’t get enough, so don’t try to cheat it! On the other side, you can take longer and it’s great. Some people love long warm ups, as in thirty to forty-five minutes. That’s totally fine. The point is to get something that works well for you. 

Cardio

So much of what makes the warm up worthwhile is getting that heart rate up. There are plenty of ways to do that, either through a short run if you’ve got some space or just jumping jacks or jumping rope exercises. Whatever works for you. Do your cardio before you stretch, but keep it light. You want to just be breaking a sweat, your heart pumping but not out of control. You should get that warm rush of blood flowing into your skin, enough that you’re breathing deeply. 

Stretching

Again, keep this light and keep it simple. Stretch out the muscles that you’re going to be using, think shoulder stretches and deep lunges. Stretching properly is going to help you with your posture, so don’t forget about your lower back and neck. Do a wide variety of whatever specific stretches your coach recommends, and take your time with them.

Your coach is by far your best source of information on how to warm up! Talk to them about what form to use, which movements to focus on, and how best to target your cardio. Some coaches have specific warm ups that they give to all of their fencers – just ask!

However you warm up, it’s so so important to do this before EVERY private fencing lessons. There’s never an excuse not to take just a few minutes to get your body ready. You’ll get more out of your fencing lesson!  





BY IGOR CHIRASHNYA ON DECEMBER 19, 2018 IN FOR PARENTS