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#26 2006-10-29 03:28:52

Jeremy Tavan
Member
From: Palo Alto, CA
Registered: 2006-09-26

Re: Ideas

Adam Adrian Crown wrote:

2. One of the things I admire about boxing is the systematic and craftsman-like way they approach training. Go into your average boxing gym and you'll find a specific training tool for every job: speed bags, heavy bags, uppercut bags, hooking bags, double-end bags.
I'd be very interested in developing one or more such tools for fencing -- something a bit beyond the beanbag on the wall or even the typical fencing dummy.  Have any ideas?
What tools do you use and how? What tools do you WISH you had and what would they DO?

Reading this prompted me to look into the training tools used by the sport fencing community, to see if there might be something of value. I found the Target Speed electronic target for sale at a significant cost at http://www.targetspeed.com/photos.htm

Has anyone used something like this in training? Is it useful?

While there is of course no substitute for a real, live, qualified fencing master, it would be nice to find tools which when used properly could help develop and maintain some of the skills required for fencing.

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#27 2006-10-29 06:38:06

Adam Adrian Crown
Maître d'Armes
From: Ithaca, New York
Registered: 2006-04-04
Website

Re: Ideas

I think this particular one is exactly the kind of tool we DON'T need.
Speed is about the LEAST most important thing in fencing.
I'd like to develop things to assist with timing, distance, bladework.
Speed comes from skill, not the other way around.

AAC

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#28 2006-10-29 09:17:23

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: Ideas

"What good is speed if the brain has oozed out on the way?"
                  -Karl Kraus 1909

I just don't get the fascination with speed that sport fencers have.

The other trouble I see with the above mentioned speed training device is that it uses visual, not tactile, cues.  The last thing I need is to train to respond to something other than feel.

I'd like some sort of training device that could provide blade contact or absence, pressure or an opening.  Something that could respond accurately to a beat.  Something that could change directions, both with the blade and with footwork.

A practice partner, in other words. :-)

I don't think fencing needs more "sophisticated" training tools. I think people need to practice the very basic things more.  A dummy that could be adjustable to different sizes would be nice.  Different heights, different length of reach, different guard positions.  If we could just get that, then I'd start thinking about what else might be useful.

Linda

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#29 2006-10-29 13:41:04

Jeremy Tavan
Member
From: Palo Alto, CA
Registered: 2006-09-26

Re: Ideas

Linda Wyatt wrote:

I just don't get the fascination with speed that sport fencers have.

When composing my post, I was fairly careful to avoid judgmental language to avoid skewing responses. But this does pretty much summarize my impression, too. Much better to do the right thing at a normal pace than the wrong thing quickly.  I am not convinced that "quick to hit a flashing light" translates to "quick to take advantage of an opening in the opponent's defense."

In shooting, there are electronic training systems which track the motion of the gun continuously, from the time it's raised to position through a little bit after the trigger is pulled. The graphs of position over time, magnitude of deviation from center over time, and of heartbeat and breathing patterns with the other graphs allow the shooter in training to really get a feel for his/her personal performance. This works because shooting (in competition) is a solo activity. In essence, the shooter is trying to train to become as static as possible, as much like a metal rest as possible. Fencing isn't like that.

Regarding the ideal nonhuman "practice partner", we run into the problem that fencing is formed of complex phrases of actions, not so much of individual movements. Makes it a lot more difficult to create a dummy to simulate it. Some day, perhaps, we will have robotic arms hooked to vision systems capable of leading them through simple fencing phrases. (Don't believe me? It's been done in labs with ping-pong...why not fencing?)

The trouble trying to make mechanical devices to simulate fencing is that most of the reasonable/easily implemented approaches involve periodic motion (motors attached to wheets, etc). Fencing, of course, is anything but metronomic. Perhaps, until technology finally does overcome this difficulty, the only real training tools possible are those too simple to mess up a student with false cues. The old bean bag on the wall, or the fencing dummy with a blade on a spring. Sure, mount it on an adjustable-height stand. Put a little articulation in the arm to allow a few different fixed positions. It won't give a false sense of what actual fencers do.

Distance and timing, as dynamic properties of two moving fencers, remain difficult to simulate mechanically. I'm lucky enough to live with a practice partner. What can be done for those who don't?

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#30 2006-12-12 16:57:32

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: Ideas

Linda Wyatt wrote:

"What good is speed if the brain has oozed out on the way?"
                  -Karl Kraus 1909

I just don't get the fascination with speed that sport fencers have.

The other trouble I see with the above mentioned speed training device is that it uses visual, not tactile, cues.  The last thing I need is to train to respond to something other than feel.

I'd like some sort of training device that could provide blade contact or absence, pressure or an opening.  Something that could respond accurately to a beat.  Something that could change directions, both with the blade and with footwork.

A practice partner, in other words. :-)

I don't think fencing needs more "sophisticated" training tools. I think people need to practice the very basic things more.  A dummy that could be adjustable to different sizes would be nice.  Different heights, different length of reach, different guard positions.  If we could just get that, then I'd start thinking about what else might be useful.

Linda

Here goes my first post on this board. 

I think that the fascination with speed has to do with what modern sport fencing (USFA style) has become.  In that style, I can see where an electronic tool like that and tons of speed could be useful.  In terms of making you a better fencer, I don't believe that it is any substitute for a partner and practice.  If a lack of speed is a serious deficiency for someone, I guess it could be kind of useful, but no improvements in speed that I have experienced have been the result of a device.  The device merely measures your progress, something done far more effectively, I think, by fencing with a practice partner.

I do think that an adjustable dummy as you have described would be immensely useful.  I have seen them with height adjustments, and we use such a dummy at kendo practice.  Unfortunately, it has no arms, so it cannot be adjusted for different guard positions. 

Interestingly, as a kendo practitioner, your post made me think of a student in my kendo class.  Nice fellow, but he can't understand why his strikes frequently are not counted.  He is extremely fast.  But he executes them improperly, both in technique and posture.  In technique, he does not strike with enough power, and in posture, he leaves himself wide open after making such a strike, causing him to be hit, usually on the head.  He'd do very well un USFA fencing.  In kendo, or indeed, in an actual swordfight, he winds up the victim of his own speed.  Thinking that because he struck first, he has succeeded, he fails to properly guard himself and also fails to strike correctly.  Then he wonders why he got hit and his opponent scored while he did not.

He says that as long as he feels he would have hit, it's good enough for him.  Rather a poor attitude, given that the masters of the dojang have instructed him otherwise.  Also, in his quest for speed, other students complain that he hits off target frequently.  For point of reference, Kendo strike areas are the same as sabre, minus the arms (wrists count, though) and the face mask (must be the top of the head).

One of the Korean federations is pushing to make kendo an olympic sport.  Other federations, Japanese in particular, are vociferously opposed to this, citing the degredation of fencing as a result of becoming an olympic sport and not wanting the same thing to happen to Kendo. 

Ultimately, the quest for raw speed is the quest to land more blows than land on one's self, with the emphasis on racking up more touches rather than remaining untouched, so to speak. 

Sorry for all the kendo references.  I hope in my first post that I have not come across as an ignoramus.

Daniel

Last edited by The Rose Knight (2006-12-12 16:59:34)


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#31 2006-12-13 07:37:35

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Re: Ideas

Hardly an ignoramus.  Speed kills the development of otherwise good fencers.  Here we continually exercise very basic actions--and do so emphasizing the tactile, a sentiment du fer.  A properly executed parry, beat or opposition, feels and sounds distinctively from the moment forte engages foible in tempo with a correct extension , and that can be performed and internalized only with deliberate repetition and....even blindfold drills.  In fact, anything more complex is useless unless a couple of years at least of such exercises have laid a foundation. And thanks for the news about the Japanese!  Another rhetroical weapon to use here in sport-fencing-dominated Germany.

Bill Leckie
Klassisches Fechten Soest


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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#32 2006-12-14 14:08:04

schlager7
Member
From: Dickinson, TX
Registered: 2006-07-20
Website

Re: Ideas

Here is a new tidbit related to the issue of speed. I live in an area with no classical or traditional salles. Houston is pretty much all USFA/competitive/sport fencing. Even here, however, one new rules that has a lot of folks scratching their heads (something the USFA and FIE seem able to generate at will) is the replacement for the "passivity" rule. This replacement is called the "Non-combativity Rule."

I would explain it, but let me use the words of a Dallas-based thoroughly USFA-based sabre coach/referee. It comes off a fencing forum I run locally.

Yes, its a bad rule. Yes, it takes the game away. Yes, it dramatically affects how specific portions of the sport function (epee for sure, foil in part, and if you get called for NC in sabre, you deserve it completely). It will dramatically change a lot of things.

Now, let me correct a couple of things that have been said. Katman, its no longer in the "glaringly obvious" category. The fencers MUST be actively trying to score touches. As far as guidelines about how long it takes, the instructions we received this past weekend in Richmond were, and I quote, "If the thought enters into your head that the fencers are being non-combative, then pull out the cards." End quote.

That is a TOUGH standard. Brutal it might even be said. And you better believe it was being called that way as well. I myself called it - in a QUARTER FINAL bout of DivI ME - when one fencer pushed his opponent down to the end of the strip, and then proceeded to back off and let his opponent come to him, and his opponent didn't. Out come the cards, advance the clock, next period, on gaurd please. It was called in Gold Medal bouts this weekend as well.

One thing though to remember - the FOC is NOT a monolithic body. It is composed of quite a few individuals of very different backgrounds, focuses, biases and views. Ask a question of 4 of them and you're likely to come back with 3 different answers, all seemingly contradictory. Part of becoming a better referee is to know what the FOC you're working for is looking at. Its going to change.

And yes, this rule (and its interpretation) is going to have dramatic effects on fencers. Best advice, don't give it a chance to happen. The "waiting game" is no longer a viable option. Be in there, and actively trying to score a touch, from when the referee says, "fence," to when he says, "halt."

From Fencing Net, here are the words of a very active, nationally-ranked USFA referee:

I don't like the new non-combativity rule and think it absolutely takes out portions of the game that should occur on a regular basis in both epee and foil. That said, it's a rule, we have to adjust and deal with it.

There is no specific timeframe for calling it. General guidance from the FOC has been in the neighborhood of 30-40 seconds. People have been throwing around a 15 second figure, but I have no clue where that originated.

Non-combativity is different than passivitiy. It comes into play MUCH more often. Allen's post a few up from this one seems like a good description of what passivity was. This is NOT what we're currently dealing with.

With non-combativity the fencers can be sanctioned while still engaging in normal fencing activities, so long as they are not actively trying to score touches. And the interpretation of this includes lengthy set-up time and preparations as not attempting to score. (*eyeroll*)

Playing distance games, little probing attacks that aren't designed to hit, working your way in and out, beats that aren't part of a beat attack, baiting an opponent into attacking, etc. These are all things that prevented passivity from being called that don't qualify as "combative" (despite the fact that we all know they're frequently a legitimate part of setting up a scoring action and should qualify as part of trying to fence correctly).

Note that the FIE version of these rules provides for black cards on the third instance (and that FIE black cards automatically carry a 2-month competitive suspension as well). The FIE (Rene Roch) REALLY doesn't want what he considers boring fencing. If the huddled masses of uninformed television viewers can't see the higher-level tactically by-play then he wants to get rid of it in favor of actions that turn on lights and that CAN be seen.

This goes well beyond merely speed as a tactic. This is haste as part of the culture.

Last edited by schlager7 (2006-12-14 14:12:54)


Sabre is theatre.
Foil is art.
Epee is truth.
--attributed to Al Peters

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#33 2006-12-14 16:03:59

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: Ideas

I'd say that even goes beyond haste in culture.  It is an attempt to turn something into something it isn't for the sake of television viewership and whatever corporate benefits accompany it.  Sad.  I suppose that for those who want hundreds of thousands of armchair fencers, such a rule change would be a step in that direction.  Hundreds of thousands of armchair quarterbacks are willing to watch television each Sunday, Monday, and now Thursdays (apparently) and advertisers spend big money to get those tv spots. 

Not busting on armchair quarterbacks; a few good friends of mine qualify, my ladyfriend among them.  But altering fencing timings to appeal to a broader sporting audience (who do not watch combat based sports) is akin to adding tackling to baseball to try and grab some of that football audience.  Silly: baseball is baseball, and it's merits are different then that of football's.  Just the same, fencing has very different merits from that of ball sports.

People who love football are willing to learn the most obscure of rulings and endure what I perceive as a whole lot of standing around and bobbing heads as comared to how much game play actually occurs.  But the football fan knows what's going on and follows it with interest.  People are willing to love a sport for what it is and changing a sport to appeal to those who don't love it will 1) not succeed in snagging a disinterested audience; they already watch what they love, and 2) alienate the existing lovers of the sport in question.  By the same token, people who love fencing can follow a bout and understand and appreciate what is going on.  The ideal would be to promote fencing for what it is rather than change it any further. 

In the end, you do better with a small but rabidly dedicated fan base than you do with a large but fickle one.  A guitarst whom I like, Yngwie Malmsteen, never changed what he did.  He was the biggest thing in guitar in terms of being all over all the magazines for a brief amount of time in the early to mid eighties.  Now, nobody knows who I'm talking about when I mention his name.  But his fans remain loyal and he continues to be successful without having broad appeal.  He's never had the broad appeal of Elton John or the Beatles, but his fans can follow what he does and love it. 

Well, I'm getting long winded here, so I'll end here.  Maybe I'm off base in my observations, but that is how it looks from my perspective. 

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#34 2006-12-15 06:21:30

Adam Adrian Crown
Maître d'Armes
From: Ithaca, New York
Registered: 2006-04-04
Website

Re: Ideas

Non-combativity?
Good grief.

I didn't think they could come up with anything dumber or more conrtary to fencing than had already been done -- but clearly it's an error to suppose there are limits to human stupidity.  This one is the Titannic of stupid rules.
Note that all these fantastical changes -- starting with the infernal scoring machine -- are ALL made at the top, Nobody ever polled the fencers, took a vote, or held a referendum on any of it.
The FIE must believe that it OWNS fencing -- and fencers.

And I don't know what's worse, the rule itself or that do-as-you're-told attitude that suggests you must robotically and unquestioningly obey every vomitus of bureaucratic whimsy that comes down the pike, abdicating all personal responsibility for doing what is right and true.

Funny, they're doing EVERYTHING to popularize fencing EXCEPT the very thing that would probably work -- requiring fencers to fence WELL!
Here's a case of microcosm and macrocosm reflecting each other perfecly.

I hope Kendo doesn't fall prey to the same fate. I quite enjoyed my brush with it and have great respect for it.

AAC

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#35 2006-12-15 09:30:17

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: Ideas

So far, Kendo is holding true.  The last sweeping rule changes to radically alter the art came in the fifties and separated Kendo as practiced today from prewar kendo.  This was primarlilly geared towards saftey.  In prewar kendo, horizontal blows to the head, leg hooks, grapples, and even choke holds (done by pinning an opponent and literally choking him by lifting up on his breastplate) were all allowed.  That change eliminated grapples and leg hooks and limited head blows to the top of the head where the men (helmet) is strongest.

One of the concerns of the Kendo/kumdo community is that the WKA (World Kumdo Association) is actually pushing to make kendo an olympic sport.  The IKF (international kendo federation) currently has a stronghold on kendo and is dead set against it, citing all of the problems which we have observed in olympic fencing and not wishing to inflict such problems on themselves.  Should the WKA gain enough membership and support (they appear to be well on their way to it), the IKF may not be able to prevent it, though I don't think that the olympic effect would be nearly as pervasive for kendo as it has been for fencing.

Like classical fencers, Kendo/Kumdo is much more focused on not getting hit.  In fact, if you watched the 13th World Kendo Championship (Korea and the US came in first and second respectively, beating Japan for the first time ever), all of the kendoka would have been carded for non-combativity.  In a kendo tournament, it only goes to two points or whoever has one when time expires, and a double touch awards a point to neither kendoka; we see a double touch for what it is, just as Maitre Crown does, so it isn't rewarded.  To touch with out being touched: Kendo and Classical fencing are identical in that regard.  I pray that it remains that way.  I also pray that the FIE regains a semblence of sanity and stops making things up as they go along. 

I've been very pleased that the club my son and I have just joined (Rockville Fencing Academy) seems to focus more on correct fencing than on the silly stuff, though they are a completely USFA club.  We joined very recently, so time will tell if my perception is accurate.  I'm hoping that my older son will join with us; they have just started a fencing club at his high school and I think he's the only member with any weapons training; fencing with the recreational department two years ago and currently practicing kumdo (and getting really good at it).  I showed him this site and he loved it, by the way.


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#36 2006-12-15 10:04:29

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: Ideas

Linda Wyatt wrote:

Fencing is swordfighting.
Calling something that is no longer based on the sword "fencing" is a lie.  Period.
Has nothing whatsoever to do with what happens elsewhere.


Linda

I was on fencing.net this morning and a thread about a fencing article in a newspaper was posted.  The article was about a high school fencing club and they were debating about whether or not this article was really good publicity, as the writer seemed to not be knowledgeable regarding fencing.

The reason I quoted Linda's paragraph is because it contrasts so greatly with one of the comments posted.  The comment was "I hate when they call it a 'sword'.  We don't use swords".  The article referred to an epee and a foil as different types of swords.

Linda's statement here is the truth.  This gentleman's comment about the article merely serves to underscore Linda's statement.  If one does not believe that the weapon is a sword (even a blunted one), then just what do they consider themselves to be doing?


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#37 2006-12-15 13:15:02

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: Ideas

The non-combativity rule is interesting.  It must be part of the evolution of the old superior-will mantra.  I do recall back at the 1997 USFA Nationals that there was an obvious and intentional bias towards fencers showing aggressive movements.  This was one of a very few rationalizations I could make as to why Directors were "seeing" flick/bent arm attacks as primary actions or as actions with any kind of advantage. Also, and I apologize for the age of this information but it was the last time I officially participated in USFA competitions, there was much off-piste coaching taking place.  But it was more along the lines of egging the fencer on than providing any substantive advice.  There were many times when I felt more endangered by the coach than the guy in front of me.

Now, my seque into CF/TF is that I have witnessed similar actions/behaviours in "classical" tournaments or bouts when a more modern leaning fencer adopts an Italian foil.  I propose they do so because of the oft repeated misrepresentation that Italian fencing is only aggressive.  Non-combativity may just play into the kind of hyper-aggressive personalities cultivated in these clubs.

Finally, I have been criticised by fencers on piste for not "doing anything".  My reply is twofold but short:
1) I am never not doing anything - I am always actively scanning and reading my enemy.  If you look at me and think to yourself that I am just standing there then you have made at least two crucial errors.
2) Fencers who make this accusation are always guilty of it themselves, for what are they doing when watching me allegedly "not doing anything" - they themselves are "just standing there".  Waiting for me to start doing something?

I cannot begin to fathom the wisdom of the new FIE/USFA rule, but I can hazard a guess as to the individual fencers who, themselves, try to enforce their own form of the non-combativity rule.  My guess is that they are lazy, non-creative poseurs.  We make choices and decisions in fencing.  If we're good, we make good choices and good decisions.  If our enemy can reciprocate with good choices and decisions of their own, you have the building blocks for a phrase d' armes that people off piste will take an interest in.  But if you can't make up your own mind or come up with some choices on your own, shifting the responsibility on me will get you nothing but point.


all conditioned things decay - seek liberation diligently

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#38 2006-12-15 15:46:09

wleckie
Member
From: Soest, Germany
Registered: 2006-06-24
Website

Re: Ideas

The 'non-combativity" idea is just a wart by the pimple of "no forward motion" which wreaked havoc in sabre and which I encountered here barely off the plane in foil; I'd already observed it or something like it in the last foil event I'd watched in the St. Louis Division of the USFA.  It totally mystified me to be lectured by a German foilist--introduced to me as a Westphalian champ-- that I was fencing "incorrectly" by withdrawing from his attacks and parrying or wearing him out while nailing him with a simple extension after an attack would fail--and I was using a #0 Triplette children's electric weapon.  Poor thing was bent all gollywhumpered from receiving his momentum! This was three years ago, and apparently in the DFB the  equivalent of "non-combativity" was being applied already all the way up the competitive food chain.  With some mischievous glee, I'm delighted:  Here all we receive are compliments when we fence publicly, which is often when the weather's good, followed by disparaging remarks about what German viewers see on TV.  Since we do not use a set of rules derived from the FIE, "combativity" carries with it penalties.  If students or visitors here don't get it when instruction emphasizes not receiving the hit, failing to see the rationale of the curriculum, or it fails to dawn after spending time with me (I'm old and like to conserve energy), we maintain a failsafe for the judged bout; we do not acknowledge the double touch in epee, even.  Priority--and the fully extended arm--are reinforced by demanding that for an attack to be valid a parry has to be successful; a whisk of blade contact doesn't cut it.  A deuce or simultaneous hits, both fencers lose a point: both are dead with any weapon.


Klassisches Fechten Soest

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