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SoulTripper
-3rd November 2003, 14:51
Ok,

I've hurled myself into the sport and and still accelerating down the learning tunnel at some rate, but what I would like to know, how does one rate themselves. On what level is this assessment made?

I've been fencing 6 months now but many fencers don't believe me, being able to have a fairly disciplined and controlled fight against fairly high ranked fencers and scoring quite a few well placed hits (note, I am a foilist, for the moment).


I was told by some A Grade fencers that winning a D.E. within your first year means you are doing well.

Most fencers in my area don't put much weight on BFA grades either.

Does anyone's club run a ladder? I think we are trying to implement one into ours in time, as it will allow for members to fence everyone and therefore get used to the different styles, but also give some indication of ability within the club.

My assumption on judging your level of ability is your placement within the national rankings (for those who compete). Is this the general view?

Regards all,

S

Rdb811
-3rd November 2003, 15:17
Try a competition and see what happens - there should be a regional intermediate foil coming up which would be a good starting point.

All the ladders (for a few sports) have satrted in a rush of enthusiasm and then peterd out. (there are a few other threads on the same subject on the forum)

whizzkid1982
-3rd November 2003, 15:18
i think that in terms of trying to work out where you are know look at how you perform against your piers, clubmates, and for novices how you do against other people who have been fencing for a similar amount of time.

as a slightly different question but one that has some potentially interesting answers, does anyone know of a way of trying to work out a fencers potential? obviously every individual is different and so will have differing levels of potential, or is it opinion that anyone can do whatever they want in fencing? i am not saying that with a lot of hard work and dedication people can exceed expectations but coaches must have some idea of how well they think a student can do.

Tarmac
-3rd November 2003, 15:23
there's also the factor of not being able to go through a move slowly or build up speed in a private lesson but being able to react purely on instinct and reflex more than adequately during a match - i'm this complicates matters too! If ya know what i mean.. :confused:
and what about when a student reacts in a totally seemingly bizarre manner, but it deflects the blow and gets the point... how do ya recognise genius or lucky incompetence?

SoulTripper
-3rd November 2003, 15:29
I was told I had 'Natural Talent' :grin:

whizzkid1982
-3rd November 2003, 15:32
this is a good thing. it means you are picking it up very quickly and will prob be one of the promising novices. this is about as far as you can offer when you have only been fencing for 6 months.

the situation i am interested in, personally and to see if its possible, is to look at the potential of an experienced fencer to move on from where they are now and how far they can go.

SoulTripper
-3rd November 2003, 15:58
I know my coach is often trying to assess his students ability but it's a time-consuming process.

I remember his speech on reactions are a innate trait that stay the same for your entire life. I quizzed him on hand-to-eye coordination development (as someone who has spent the last 15 years or so playing computer games I feel mine are not bad!) but the idea of reaction times was something that doesn't fade or something on those lines.

Perhaps this is the best physical 'feature' of a fencer to judge potential, along with their natural foot work.

Whilst in Budapest, I was told that I was a natural athlete, my build, speed, footwork were all good for any sport, which leads to quick initial development in any sport but unless I changed my mental viewpoint from a more physical to a mental state, I would only develop so far.

So, in summary, I guess my opinion on evaluating a fencer is a multi-tiered situation. There physical prowess and there abilty to understand the philosophy of the sport are the two core aspects.

I believe looking at a fencers philosophy and understanding along with their length of time of training will allow you to create some idea of that fencers ability.

Boo Boo
-3rd November 2003, 16:30
It's mental attitude that limits potential: being a natural athelete is an advantage, but determination, dedication, competitiveness, discipline and guts are more important in producing a successful fencer (since athleticism can be worked on and gained).

Of course, a fantastic coach (4 or 5 private lessons a week), a good club with good people to practice against, lots of time and a reasonable amount of money will also help you to achieve your potential...

Boo

Muso440
-3rd November 2003, 16:33
Originally posted by SoulTripper


I've been fencing 6 months now but many fencers don't believe me, being able to have a fairly disciplined and controlled fight against fairly high ranked fencers and scoring quite a few well placed hits (note, I am a foilist, for the moment).



Lucky you. I have the opposite problem. I've been fencing about the same amount of time and feel I'm rubbish compared to other people of about the same experience (although I don't get to meet them all that often, so it's slightly dificult to tell). :( :( :(

Maybe the fact I'd never done any sport seriously ever before has something to do with it.

Is it possible to make any ballpark judgements of where a fencer (an average one, say) 'should' be after 6 months?

SoulTripper
-3rd November 2003, 16:48
Muso, you put yourself down in all your posts :)

I'm only going on the response of others. My aim is to become a coach (or be able to help part-time in the years to come) so I'm taking it very seriously and I have one half hour private lesson a week and attend at least one club night, sometimes two a week.

I try to fence as many different people as possible, and the variety in style is amazing. Sometimes I feel hopeless against a fencer who is erratic, other times very much in control. What I don't know is whether my technique is very flawed or kept in line and therefore I'm lured into a false sense of security about my fencing.

Whilst a fencer may lose, it's their own understanding of the fight that is of benefit. If I go out to win in practice, then I usually hate myself afterwards for not learning. I think when I can win in practice and feel I have learnt, then my fencing is progressing (this is rarely happening at the moment!).

That's the serious philosophy. Other fencers in the club just feel let down if they're not having fun.

Muso440
-3rd November 2003, 16:56
Originally posted by SoulTripper
Muso, you put yourself down in all your posts :)

Maybe, but I really AM rubbish!



I'm only going on the response of others. My aim is to become a coach (or be able to help part-time in the years to come) so I'm taking it very seriously and I have one half hour private lesson a week and attend at least one club night, sometimes two a week.

I wouldn't mind doing some coaching too at some stage, although not professionally. I'm currently going to 3 club nights a week, and get 20 mins private lesson every week or 2.



I try to fence as many different people as possible, and the variety in style is amazing. Sometimes I feel hopeless against a fencer who is erratic, other times very much in control. What I don't know is whether my technique is very flawed or kept in line and therefore I'm lured into a false sense of security about my fencing.

Interesting... I think I go into most fights feeling terrified, so that probably doesn't help :confused:




Whilst a fencer may lose, it's their own understanding of the fight that is of benefit. If I go out to win in practice, then I usually hate myself afterwards for not learning. I think when I can win in practice and feel I have learnt, then my fencing is progressing (this is rarely happening at the moment!).



V. good point, and one I've never really thought of before!

Pointy stick
-3rd November 2003, 16:58
So how do you measure ability or potential? Ability by observing results over a sustained period; potential by waiting to see what the fencer achieves over an even longer period.

Natural talent is only one thing. Look at George Best or Gazza (in football) for what happens with great natural talent, coupled with a lack of staying power, determination, discipline, self esteem, etc. It's the old hare and tortoise thing: steady but determined usually beats fast but lazy over a long period of time.

I regard my main opponent as myself. I've been fencing less than a year. There are people in my club who have been fencing the same length of time, or slightly more, whom I can beat comfortably. There are others who are more difficult to beat. I have scored 'good points' against senior fencers, and I've also been whipped by people only a few weeks ahead of me.

So, do I go looking for easy scalps? Or do I push myself too hard and achieve nothing except irritating better fencers who'd rather be fighting someone at their own level? Or do I take each point as it comes, do my best, and know in my own mind whether the point was a good one or a lucky one?

Satisfaction comes from a well timed direct attack which lands; satisfaction comes from a circular parry and bind riposte which was 'planned'; or from deliberately scoring a hit with a one two three. Dissatisfaction comes from hitting the floor with the foil on a low line parry, or lunging 2 inches too short, or scoring a messy point more by luck than judgement.

One thing I do know is that however good I get, there will be someone better waiting to bring me down a peg. The other thing I've learned is that today's easy victim is next month's unexpected challenge, because we're all learning, all the time.

James
-3rd November 2003, 17:10
knowing where you are is a universal problem
im in a similar position to some of you
(six months fencing + 2 comps, never come last, won some fights, got through one de)
however, i think im lucky: i've just fractured one of the bones in my right hand/wrist
(im a mutant)
considering that i wont be able to get a jacket over my cast im goiing to have to concentrate on footwork and if i can find a huge jacket some basic fencing.
im thinking this will good, stop me being so interested in fencing other people and help me actually improve. im not too bad at this normally, except that i transfered to epee very early and find it difficult going back to foil to sort out my basics(difficult as in i'd rather play with an epee than a toothpick).

James

Rdb811
-3rd November 2003, 23:29
At the end of day the question is:

Do you enjoy it ?

If so, nobody gives a stuff what level you are.

To be blunt, when you improve as fencers and know more about the sport, you will understand how good you are and how good you could be.

So, less of the navel gazing chaps and JFDI. As a suggestion, try fencing evryone in your club, even the most obscure casual epeeists. Everybody was abeginner once and benefited from fencing the more senior fencers on their way.

:)

Muso440
-4th November 2003, 07:57
Originally posted by Rdb811

So, less of the navel gazing chaps and JFDI.

JFDI?

neochrome
-4th November 2003, 08:09
Like the Nike advert .. Just Do It

Muso440
-4th November 2003, 08:14
Ah, gotcha. Thanks :)

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 13:56
Muso 440

You appear to be posting in the hope that someone will boost your confidence by telling you how great you are. I'm really sorry to have to dispell any thoughts you might have.

You are in your mid/late 20's and have been fencing for 6 months. It's likely that you took up the sport too late to reach international level and after 6 months you won't have anything other than a beginners level understanding of fencing. Don't worry that's fine. Enjoy yourself.

You say your coach is oftem trying to assess your ability but it's a time consuming process. No it isn't. If it's time consuming, he isn't good enough. I could stand in front of you for 3 minutes and would know exactly how good you are.

If you want to find out how good you are, it's easy. Go in for a local competition. If you beat everyone, choose a harder one next time. Believe me, you'll soon find out if you're any good.

As for you wanting to coach. British fencing already has too many fencers who started late, realised that they could not hack it as fencers, so went into coaching. They are a blight on the face of the universe. We must be one of the only countries that allows failed fencers to coach. Please do not join this group. If you find that you are no good at fencing, fine, at least the only person you will have affected is youself. If you go into coaching you might affect others.

I'm sorry if my response isn't as warm and cuddly as some of the others, but I hope it brings a sense of realism to what you're doing.

Good luck, and enjoy your fencing.

JohnL

Secret Squirrel
-4th November 2003, 14:01
ouch!

Secret Squirrel
-4th November 2003, 14:09
Please tell me there are people on this forum who have whupped this guys' behind....

Jambo
-4th November 2003, 14:17
JohnL. There is an expression "If you don't have something nice to say don't say it". Your advice is semi-constructive though it could have been put more politely.

As for your claims about age, I can think of a lot of fencers who are very very good who are a lot older than me.

SoulTripper
-4th November 2003, 15:06
Firstly JohnL,

I belive you criticism were targetted at me and not Muso, so I hope Muso is not upset, but it does undermine the weight of your argument some what if the bring-down-to-reality comments are readily thrown about.

Whilst my posts have an arrogant personal viewpoint, I find that I don't have as quite as a dismissive opinion on each and every person's ability.

A good coach can easily say about a person's progress in a few minutes, but to monitor it over time to see how that athlete is progressing is time-consuming when mixed in with giving lessons, answering questions, guiding beginners, along with trying to meet the expectant eyes of 20 or so fencers within the space of a couple of hours each club night.

As for the coaching remarks, yes it does surprise me how easy it is to get into the realm of coaching in fencing, but what you don't know is the course of action that person took to get there. What if I threw myself into every intensive training camp I could, both in England and abroad, attended 2-3 club nights with individual coaching lessons mixed in over the space of 10 years? Was offered personal lessons from family friends of good standing. It's all what ifs and maybes perhaps, but some of them are real probabilities that you warrently dismissed. If we are to have to have experts in the field of the minority sport of fencing in the UK to be able to coach, then I am afraid I don't see much expansion for it.

I am aware of the top-level rivalry between coaches to get students, it is their living after all, but having an aim to help young fencers in the future at any level isn't bad as far as I'm concerned.

I will go to competitions, and I will see how I do, and I don't expect to do well, but I do expect for me to continue to learn. And as far as experience of other fencers has shown, many of the older lot are the ones making progress who have started late. I know an epeeist who started around my age and is in the top 30 for the UK. There are most likely others.


I love the sport, I seem to be performing well, and I know there is so much to learn. I'd rather face the years ahead of me with an open mind to progress then as a missed oppurtunity of what I could have been.


Regards

S
:rambo:

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 15:45
You're right Soul Tripper, my post was directed to you, not Muso. My mistake, sorry.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't think your posts were arrogant in the least. I just felt a reality check was in order.

A couple of notes on your response;

If a coach can't continually assess the progress of 20 or so pupils, he isn't as good as he should be.

Your suggestion as to how you might progress as a coach is fantasy. 2-3 club nights is hardly throwing yourself into the sport if it's considered a high level. Your personal lessons from family and freinds- well that just depends if they're any good or not. The likelihood of you fencing or coaching at a high level given the age that you started, are between slim and none. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't train and try to be the best you can be. I genuinly wish you luck.

You argue that the expansion of fencing is a prime concern. I would argue that it is the expansion of good quality fencing that is the concern. Aiming to help young fencers is no bad thing I agree, the problem I have is that you do not have the skill to help them and are at your age unlikely to get it. I have seen too many youngsters with potential, fail, because they fell into the hands of well meaning but incompetant coaches.

randomsabreur
-4th November 2003, 16:13
In Reply to JohnL

Whether or not a coach is as good as he should be is clearly irrelevant!

We are not all blessed to live in an area where we can choose. I believe I am in lucky in my local coaches. If I were not, I would have to live with it. Some areas of the country are poorly supplied with coaches! (See other threads to this effect.)

Some people may have a talent for coaching in different fields. You may discover this talent late or early in your life, if you make enough effort, you will become good. Especially if you listen and learn from other coaches.

If a coach is good at introducing people to the sport of fencing and knows their limitations, their limitations are not an issue. If a coach comes across a fencer who talent in a weapon they are not capable of teaching, then, yes they should pass that fencer to someone who does have that skill but that fact that they are not of themselves the perfect coach does not change anything. They have introduced the fencer to the sport, and they have recognised their own limitations.

Also, a youngster who falls into the hands of a "well meaning but incompetent coach" is still a lot better off than the one who never picks up a sword, or who is coached by a technically proficient coach with whom they have a personality clash and so they never either try a sport they may be talented at, or give up after a month or so.

It is possible to start fencing late and still be competent and enjoy competing. At sabre, James Williams started fencing after joining the army and look where he has got to. There are others in and around the top 20 who have started late.

You get out of fencing what you put in, whether you start at school (and likely give up once you have to make a serious effort to find training when you leave) or if you start in you 20s, 30s or 40s.

OK rant over, but I was annoyed!

SoulTripper
-4th November 2003, 16:25
Well, I guess it merely is a matter of we'll wait and see on this one (in a few years!).

I certainly agree that unless the fencer is of high enough caliber, then coaching is a dangerous thing. I would definitely seek as much advice about my ability to coach, if and when I get there, as I can so as not to harm anyones future.

Your previous posts and confident comments lead me to believe you are a very experienced fencer (veteran I asssume) and I take your opinions on with great interest.

I will ask others that I know their viewpoint on this matter regarding how good a fencer should be before they can be a coach.

It is evident that the quality of British coaching is relatively less then that of foreign coaches by the growing number coming to the UK who are deemed as the countries best. And I have experienced hungarian coaching first hand to know the strictness and expertise they want out of their fencer compared to the British style.

If ever I get a coaching qualification, then I'll be sure to hunt ya down and get your approval before I help. If ya so no, I'll keep on practicing (or get you to teach me!)

All the best

S

aao
-4th November 2003, 16:49
I must say I'm intrigued JohnL as to what weapon you do? and what standard you reached at that weapon? you seem to have some very set in stone views regarding fencing which are not really born out by the fencers we have in the country.

Yes you're quite right that starting late is a hinderance but not an insurmountable one, yes it is harder to pick up the technique later but I can guarantee you that it would be alot easier and quicker for someone starting from scratch at 25 to become a top British fencer than for someone who had been fencing badly for since they were 12 or so to subsequently change their technique. Age also tends to lend itself a slightly more tactical approach to the sport and more mental toughness which is every bit as important as the physical/technical aspects. (if you have fenced internationally you will know for yourself how important this aspect is as the vast majority of hits scored are simple actions executed with good timing having been set up first)
Before you disagree with the above I could in epee point out a number fencers in the top 30 who started late but then achieved a respectable international standard one of those whoi is still in the top 10 and another who will be back around there having returned from injury.

To both Muso and Soultripper I wish you the best of luck, start doing competitions see how they go and don't be disheartened if at first go badly we all started somewhere. If you've got the dedication and the facilities to train there is no reason why you shouldn't do well at the sport. As for coaching well wait and see, you don't have to be a great fencer to be an excellent coach but you do have to be able to coach good technic and tactics. Don't rush into this as rarely can you remain a competitie fencer and coach at the same time.

srb
-4th November 2003, 16:54
If JohnL fenced Romankov he was probably an international foilist.

srb (Loving himself almost as much SoulTripper does,and hating everyone else much less than JohnL does)

aao
-4th November 2003, 17:06
Well either that or a remarkably good Welsh mens epeeist who retired a few years ago, after having been probably the best epeeist we had in the coutry for many years as both a fencer and subsquently as a coach.

Of course I could be wrong, and he could be none of the above!

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 17:37
Suggesting that I am either Welsh or an epeeist is an insult.

As far as the standard I reached;

I was, and still am,

A God :moon:

Rdb811
-4th November 2003, 17:56
Originally posted by JohnL
Muso 440

As for you wanting to coach. British fencing already has too many fencers who started late, realised that they could not hack it as fencers, so went into coaching. They are a blight on the face of the universe. We must be one of the only countries that allows failed fencers to coach. Please do not join this group. If you find that you are no good at fencing, fine, at least the only person you will have affected is youself. If you go into coaching you might affect others.



JohnL

For a crass, arrogant piece of nonsense, this takes the biscuit.

Muso440
-4th November 2003, 18:08
Phew, I'm glad that it got clarified that that wasn't directed at me!!

Don't have time to read through and reply to everything properly (about to go fencing, yay! :), but I'll just make a quick start:


Originally posted by JohnL


As for you wanting to coach. British fencing already has too many fencers who started late, realised that they could not hack it as fencers, so went into coaching. They are a blight on the face of the universe. We must be one of the only countries that allows failed fencers to coach. Please do not join this group. If you find that you are no good at fencing, fine, at least the only person you will have affected is youself. If you go into coaching you might affect others.

Personally, I want to go into coaching at some point because I already teach adults as my profession (uni lecturer), and having experienced a few coaches now, I think from the point of view of how to teach, I could do it an awful lot better than some of the coaches out there. Some people might know their stuff, but they can't actually convey that properly to others. I think one of the main things holding me back fencing-wise is the fact that the coaches don't explain things well and I just get confused. (And I consider myself a reasonably intelligent adult, so how do the kids feel?).

Just out of interest, do coaches courses actually teach the future-coaches *how* to teach, or just *what* to teach? The former is more important in my opinion.

More later :)

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 18:18
Why Roger

I never realised you were so sensitive.
Given your spontaneous outburst, I wonder if I've hit a nerve.

Pointy stick
-4th November 2003, 18:39
This thread seems to have got a bit personal. I thought as fencers we were meant to remain calm and in control, and treat our opponents with courtesy... ;0)

As a new fencer of a certain age, I can see at least two sides to the questions raised. I certainly like the point that it's better to learn well from a late age than learn badly from an early age.

As with most complex activities, most participants will NEVER achieve a high standard. Most of them don't want to, and some of the rest couldn't if they tried. Sheds, garages and lofts all across the country are stuffed with guitars, saxaphones, unicycles, juggling balls, and fencing gear bought by people who thought it sounded like fun, but never bothered to put the time in.

And clubs all over the country are full of people having great fun fencing, playing badminton, playing the blues, or line dancing to a mediocre standard. They aren't wrong. How many of the world's top fencers are mediocre at something else, be it guitar, football, kendo or cookery? each to his or her own.

There is a place for coaches who can teach 'hobbyists' to a sufficient standard for them to enjoy the activity. There is a completely different place for top level coaches who can groom the talented for stardom.

Anyone who cares enough to ask how good they are cares enough to improve. Anyone who thinks they are 'naturally talented' is in danger of only improving so far. No one knows how good they can be; one day, we'll know how good we were.

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 18:39
Hi Muso

You state in your previous posts that you've been fencing for about 6 months, that you're useless, and that you've never done any sport seriously.

What on earth makes you think you'd make a good coach.

I fully understand the differences between teaching and performing, and that as a University lecturer you can probably teach, however before teach something you have to know your subject.

I have no doubt that before you became a lecturer (in whatever field you are in) you studied the subject intensively first.

I maintain that too many coaches in the UK are basically failed fencers. They can then go into a group together and discuss the young prospects in the clubs where they coach, without admitting that they are doing more to hold back the progress of their pupils than helping them. Isn't it the the expression, "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach."

That applies to too many coaches in the UK and it's been happening for too long.

The fencers in the UK deserve better.

Rdb811
-4th November 2003, 19:09
Originally posted by JohnL
Why Roger

I never realised you were so sensitive.
Given your spontaneous outburst, I wonder if I've hit a nerve.

No, you haven't hit a nerve, just made an unsubstantiated attack on the abilities and motivation of many people I have a lot of time for and without whom my job as a club chairman would be well nigh impossible.

The reductio absurdum of your argument would leave us with about three coaches in the country, none of whom with any teaching ability.

To make matters worse, you then start putting off people without showing the slightest shred of evidence that you know anything about coaching or developing a sport.

Or do you think sport is only about the elite and we're something smelly on the sole of your foot ?

aao
-4th November 2003, 19:10
So John you've still managed to avoid the question, what level of fencer are you? you're not who I thought you were, for which I am rather grateful, and your views on coaching aren't too far off the mark but you are waaay too harsh on beginner fencers.

So who are you?

James
-4th November 2003, 19:34
This thread seems to have got a bit personal. I thought as fencers we were meant to remain calm and in control, and treat our opponents with courtesy... ;0)

nah, this is practically civilised compared to what would happen on most forums i know. the words "caps lock" and "flame" come to mind. what you see here is near enough constructive discussion!(enter request for sarcastic smiley).


James

Muso440
-4th November 2003, 20:21
Oops, John has done the slagging off of SoulTripper so now it's my turn.


Originally posted by JohnL

What on earth makes you think you'd make a good coach.

Because I'd like to think I'm a good teacher. (and see below)



I fully understand the differences between teaching and performing, and that as a University lecturer you can probably teach, however before teach something you have to know your subject.
I have no doubt that before you became a lecturer (in whatever field you are in) you studied the subject intensively first.

Yes, I did, thanks. And I would do the same before I felt competent to teach fencing. At no point have I said I want to go and teach NOW - I'm looking 10 or 20 years down the line here. Nor do I make any claims that I'm goign to be teaching our Olympic teams.


Isn't it the the expression, "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach."

Which is one of the most ridiculous expressions in existence. If you've ever been on the receiving end of excellent, inspiring teaching, you'll know that that teacher would have known his/her subject back to front.

Being good at whatever you do doesn't automatically make you a good teacher. I know some good fencers who just can't explain themselves properly to their students.

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 20:53
Hi Muso

I didn't think I'd slagged off anyone. When I was younger I was such an angry young man. I've now mellowed.

I understand that you do not intend teaching the Olympic team, however the problem is that you may be teaching young beginners who may have the potential to be Olympic team members.
It is possible for you to teach enough bad habits in one year, that a good coach may spend five years trying to get rid of.

I also happen to agree that good performers don't always make good coaches. In fact sometimes they're the worst kind.
I happen to believe though, that the UK has some of the most pretentious coaches around, strutting about as if they know something special about fencing. When in fact, they know very little, couldn't do it when they fenced, and now can't teach it because they didn't know the subject in the first place.

I have been lucky to train with coaches, some who could perform, some who could teach, and some who could do both. As a beginner, you don't know the good from the bad. I was lucky to fall into the good. If I had fallen into the bad, I would have died in the sea of mediocrity that is British coaching.

As few good coaches there are, there are 20 bad ones. God help British fencing.

Pointy stick
-4th November 2003, 21:13
You don't have to be able to swim to see that someone is drowning.

Up to a certain level, it is possible to teach any sport even if you have only limited ability in that sport. A good eye for what is happening, a good understanding of what should be happening, and a certain ability in passing on advice will make a good basic coach.

Take it to extremes: can Greg Ruzedski's coach serve as fast as Greg Ruzedski can? Why does beckham take all the free kicks, and not his coach? It's perfectly possible to coach beyond your own level of achievement, because coaching and playing are different, but related, skills.

But there comes a point when 'book learning' isn't enough. Fencing is a tactical sport, and requires a certain type of focus and mindset. After less than a year of fencing, I'm pretty sure I could teach a complete beginner a pretty respectable on guard position, a good lunge, and the basic parries. I could teach them the basics of movement on the piste, and tempo, and notice and correct their obvious errors. What I couldn't do is teach them to win a bout.

I can do loads of stuff in my own lessons which never transfers to the piste. What happens in bouts is often weeks behind waht happens in my lessons. I often know what to do, but not when to do it. So I could (theoretically) teach quite a bit of 'how', but very little 'when'.

Which comes back to the point that there is plenty of room for the type of coach who gives up his/her evenings to encourage beginners into the sport, and set them on the way to enjoying their fencing. The small percentage of fencers who want to go further and compete at a reasonably high level need better coaches than that.

Of course, if all coaches were equally excellent, there would be no problem... likewise if all training facilities were twice as spacious and half as expensive, weapons and clothes were half the price, and anyone with an ounce of talent was allowed off work 3 days a week to practise. We live in the real world, not the ideal. It seems unfair to condemn those who give their time freely, at whatever level.

Rdb811
-4th November 2003, 21:26
Originally posted by JohnL
Hi Muso

I didn't think I'd slagged off anyone. [snip]

the sea of mediocrity that is British coaching.

As few good coaches there are, there are 20 bad ones. God help British fencing.

Other than the generality of British coaches. Maybe I've been lucky, but I don't see much evidence for this wholesale "mediocrity" charge.

JohnL
-4th November 2003, 21:30
Hi Pointystick

"After less than a year of fencing, I'm pretty sure I could teach a complete beginner a pretty respectable on guard position, a good lunge, and the basic parries. I could teach them the basics of movement on the piste, and tempo, and notice and correct their obvious errors. What I couldn't do is teach them to win a bout."

Please don't even think about coaching if this is the level of experience you have. You don't know what you're doing yet, never mind passing it on to someone else.


Rbd

"Maybe I've been lucky, but I don't see much evidence for this wholesale "mediocrity" charge."

It's worrying that you are the chairman at a fencing club and you might think that you have good coaches.

Jambo
-4th November 2003, 21:30
JohnL - Before you continue being rude why don't you answer the question put to you several times. Who are you? I don't mean specifically, I mean are you a coach or ex int fencer or some middling fencer. Most of the people here don't make sweeping and hard to justify statements without backing up their opinion with some evidence of knowing what the h*ll they're talking about.

Incidentally i think I've got a good coach, care to challenge that one?? I could name at least two other very good coaches in my region.

Rdb811
-4th November 2003, 21:45
Originally posted by JohnL

Rbd

"Maybe I've been lucky, but I don't see much evidence for this wholesale "mediocrity" charge."

It's worrying that you are the chairman at a fencing club and you might think that you have good coaches.

What makes you think I don't have good coaches and that I and the rest of senior members of the club couldn't tell how good a coach was ?

aao
-4th November 2003, 22:47
I'm going to hate myself for this but unfortuantely to some extent John is right, the vast majority of coaches in this country are mediocre, out of the uk epee coaches there are probably about 4-5 genuignly top level coaches and maybe another 5 or so good coaches (and a number of 'top' names do not feature in this list!). I base this on having at one time or another been coached by a large variety of domestic and international coaches (ranging from county level keen coaches to an ex-3 times world chammpion).

The best coaches do tend to have been reasonably succesful fencers as to coach at the top level you have to have a first person understanding of what it takes to get there and be competitive.
They also have very good technical knowledge and application of fencing as it is crucial that they teach their pupils the correct technique and not something which 'works for them' (this is often where good fencers come unstuck when they try to coach)
They must be able to relate to their pupil and tailor their lessons according to their pupils ability and mind set, how many time do you see a coach giving the same lesson to 10 different fencers who have vastly different abilities and different tactical views.
Finally they must know their limits and be prepared to keep learning, I have the utmost respect for coaches who know where their weakness lie and who instead of trying to hide their failings admit to them and try and rectify them. I have taken great pleasure in seeing how some coaches have developed over the years. (I have also dispared at some who haven;t!)

Yet again I haven't written this to discourage people from looking to become coaches, just simply to point out things they should look to be able to offer their pupils if they ever reach that stage

Muso440
-5th November 2003, 08:41
Originally posted by JohnL
"After less than a year of fencing, I'm pretty sure I could teach a complete beginner a pretty respectable on guard position, a good lunge, and the basic parries. I could teach them the basics of movement on the piste, and tempo, and notice and correct their obvious errors. What I couldn't do is teach them to win a bout."

Please don't even think about coaching if this is the level of experience you have. You don't know what you're doing yet, never mind passing it on to someone else.


What's the problem exactly? A person who's been fencing a year might not be able to do the technical stuff, but might be able to do a perfect lunge and have a damn good en garde. So why shouldn't they be able to teach that to someone else?

Gav
-5th November 2003, 08:59
Guys play nice. Some of the posts on this thread are at the extreme limits of acceptable. I'll be keeping an eye on this thread if it degenerates into further mud slinging it will be closed.

tigger
-5th November 2003, 09:12
Really Gav? I thought it was just getting interesting :grin:

Gav
-5th November 2003, 09:41
Originally posted by tigger
Really Gav? I thought it was just getting interesting :grin:

True but then I think we were getting close to stepping out of interesting and heading towards interesting. If you catch my drift.

tigger
-5th November 2003, 09:53
A very astute observation Mr Moderator

Marcos
-5th November 2003, 10:11
yellow cards all round

randomsabreur
-5th November 2003, 11:53
There are many good coaches in this country, some weapon specialists and some who are 3 weapon coaches.

There are also some who are less good, in my opinion, those who are closed minded and do not attend major competitions and see how fencing actually happens. How many of the country's coaches attend for example the Bristol, the Leicester, the Welsh and the home A-grades.

Also, someone may be a very very good coach technically and for certain types of person. This does not mean that they are any good what so ever for other people. It is all to do with personality and style. What works for one person may not work for another.

I would say that it is possible for someone with fairly limited fencing experience to teach the very basics of fencing and be useful for the students. It is completely useless if you can fence perfectly but not explain how you are supposed to get to this perfect position. If you have been fencing for 20 odd years, it is very very easy to come en garde correctly. But can you remember how to correct the obvious faults, can you remember just how sore your muscles feel even after 5 minutes in an en garde position.

I wouldn't want an inexperienced coach to try to teach the subtleties of the timing of a stop hit at foil or sabre, or to explain tempo, but. if they have good basic technique, they can get someone parrying correctly (ie not getting hit!) and ensuring that the point stays closeish to the target... at foil

pinkelephant
-5th November 2003, 12:00
Originally posted by Gav
True but then I think we were getting close to stepping out of interesting and heading towards interesting. If you catch my drift.

Is that "interesting" as in the ancient Chinese curse - May you live in interesting times.

srb
-5th November 2003, 12:59
Tinwell F.C., winners of the Sporting Record Team Foil in the late 80's?

srb

JohnL
-5th November 2003, 13:32
Hi Muso

I understand your point, quoted below, but disagree with it;

"What's the problem exactly? A person who's been fencing a year might not be able to do the technical stuff, but might be able to do a perfect lunge and have a damn good en garde. So why shouldn't they be able to teach that to someone else?"

The main reasons are that when someone of limited experience (Let's say a year for discussion purposes) trys to teach just these "simple" things, they are invariably taught badly.

Instead of letting a beginner find his own natural on guard position, he is forced into what his inexperienced instructor believes to be the best position for him. This merely reinforces the classical mess he is being confined to.

If he was taught to find his own natural method of standing and moving, he would do so without being told that what he is doing is wrong, just because the inexperienced instructor can only repeat parrot fashion what he has been told.

In this method, British fencing will stay in the medeocre league longer than it needs to.

Gav
-5th November 2003, 13:47
I largely agree with JohnL's comment. If you are intending to coach then I would say, "take the time to learn to coach". In fact I would go as far as to say that the ability to coach [well] is a skill that requires as much effort and perserverance to learn as it is to learn to fence in the first place. I know of one good UK coach that doesn't have much in the way of competitive experience yet is well regarded as a coach. This is precisely because they took the time, and put in the effort, to learn to coach.

SoulTripper
-5th November 2003, 14:16
Agreed, but I think JohnL originally implied that the level of fencing in UK is not good enough for anyone to become coaches.

I noticed the B.F.A. is now running a coaching scheme (run by foreign coaches) over 6 months beginning next year. I know one of the coaches, and yes he is an Olympian, but they obvioulsy are running this course to make sure people get the right teaching.

Perhaps, instead of being so pessimistic about a fencers ideas, more constructive ideas JohnL would cause a little less of a storm-in-a-forum?

But then, I do remember the hungarian coach correcting virtually everybody's en-guarde position when we started out. He didn't let us use our natural position (as JohnL puts it), so this seems somewhat contradictory to John's comments, as the coach was quite strict about this and is considered one of the best foil coaches around. Even the standard straightening of the arm was seen as mess!

(Unless JohnL is saying a novice coach lets people go into a natural position rather then the correct position but this doesn't seem to be the case)

srb: What is that in reference too? And it's pretty hard to love yourself as much as I do me! :cool:

Regards

S

JohnL
-5th November 2003, 14:43
Hi ST

"Agreed, but I think JohnL originally implied that the level of fencing in UK is not good enough for anyone to become coaches."

I wouldn't say not anyone, but I would say very, very few.

Unless you have performed to a reasonable level, you will be restricted to teaching what you can see. I on the other hand I can tell you what it feels like to do it. I know the movements and their subtleties in intimate detail, of which unless you have experienced it yourself, you will never know, never mind being able to teach it.

I believe that the skill level of coaches in the UK (Yes there are exceptions) is poor and needs to be improved. The recruitment of poor fencers as coaches does nothing to improve fencing in the UK, in fact it spreads poor fencing like a disease and infects fencers that may have had potential, until that potential is destroyed.

Tarmac
-5th November 2003, 14:49
what would you suggest to improve the situation?:rolleyes:

JohnL
-5th November 2003, 15:59
I thought it was obvious.

Pay me an inordinate amount of money over the next 10 years and I will produce any number of world class fencers. (foil only)

As I said, I am a God :grin:

I'm running out of time and will try to answer seriously soon.

Pointy stick
-5th November 2003, 16:41
Originally posted by Marcos
yellow cards all round

As a beginner to the sport, I had naively assumed that the yellow cards were all oblong, as in other sports.

Good job I'm not even beginning to think of becoming a coach when I make elementary mistakes like that.;)

Pointy stick
-5th November 2003, 16:58
Originally posted by JohnL

Instead of letting a beginner find his own natural on guard position, he is forced into what his inexperienced instructor believes to be the best position for him.

As I've made clear, I'm a hugely inexperienced fencer. However...

Say (as happened recently at a club night) I face a beginner who goes on guard in such a position that I can clearly see his target area each side of the blade. He is neither in sixte nor in quarte, but this is NOT through a tactical decision to take a central position, but through a complete lack of understanding of what he is trying to achieve.

Now, I score a hit against him in free play. Then I pause and explain what I've done. I offer my blade in such a position that it just misses the target area and ask him to use this as a guide to where he positions his own blade when on guard. I then demonstrate that I cannot hit his target area with a straight thrust on that side of his blade. He is wholly covered from one side.

I've NOT forced him into an uncomfortable or unsuitable on guard position, but I have observed and demonstrated a weakness in his position, then demonstrated an important principle to him, and increased his understanding of what he is trying to achieve. We continue with the free play, and I get few, if any, opportunities to hit him in that way again. We've both benefitted. He's learned a snippet; I have a more challenging opponent, and might even get a pint out of it... ;0)

Is that 'coaching'? I think it is, at the most basic level, a form of coaching. I received similar advice myself a few months ago, and that beginner will (hopefully) pass on similar advice to someone else in a few months time.

Sure, if I was going to pay for coaching, or take a formal lesson, or develop my skills to any significant extent, I'd expect a coach who knew two things: (1) how to fence well, and (2) how to pass the knowledge on to me. I don't think anyone's argued against this. I certainly haven't. I have such a coach, thankfully.

James
-5th November 2003, 17:26
thats a difficult one PS. i often dind myself in similar situations. to what degree do you tell a beginner to change something you know they're doing incorrectly? i personally find the best choice of action is to tell what you think they're doing wrong and get them to ask the coach about it when they get a lesson. im very aware that if i tell someone how to do something i will not explain it well and probably wont explain it accurately. although i do think we should be incouraging coaching rather than telling people they have to win the olypmics before they can coach. realistly if we do that how many coaches will we actually have?

James

JohnL
-5th November 2003, 17:32
Pointy

Let's discuss another scenario.

You are facing a beginner.
He faces off with his foil hand held at approximately shoulder level and outside the shoulder of his fencing arm, exposing all his target area below.

You correct this for him so that his foil hand is held in the classical (french) position, explaining why you have done so.

Well done so far.

You have now changed the hand position of Cipressa and 1/2 the Italian team from the 80's when they were at the top of the world fencing tree.
Congratulations.

You altered something that was not wrong, you only perceived it as wrong, as it was outside your realm of experience.

If you now go back to your original idea, of correcting someone who held their hand in the middle of their target area as opposed to covering one line. I can name any number of international level fencers who used this hand position effectively. Just because the guy is a beginner doesn't mean he's got it wrong because it isn't what you were taught.

Before you start correcting people, you need to fully understand what you are correcting and why. With the level of experience you say you have, I do not believe you should be correcting others.

plewis66
-5th November 2003, 18:21
Ok, so lets sack all the coaches who don't meet JohnL's standards. How many are we left with? 5? 10? 50?

How many students can they cover? Well, all the top fencers need coaching, so if we are only left with 5 or 10, then that means there will be no time at all to introduce any new fencers. So in five years time, the UK will have no top level fencers left, and no new fencers to take their place.

What if there are 50 left? Well, take out 10 of those to coach the top athletes, and leave 40, who can each cover, effectively, say 50 beginners. That means there will be only 2000 people fencing in the UK. What's the chance of finding new top athletes from a pool of 2000? Hardly any.

Fencing is not a special sport. Every sport in existence has coaches of differing abilities. Should we shut down all the non-premiership football clubs because they can't coach to the right standard?

Any sport needs to cast it's net wide in order to find the people who will reach the peaks of achievement. It is not sports with exclusive access to coaching (tennis) at which the UK excels, but the sports that have thousands upon thousands of participants, with hundreds upon hundreds of crap coaches (football, rugby).

The way things work in most sports is that people start at their local club, do competitions, get spotted by bigger clubs and better coaches, and end up on the regional and national squads (or premiership teams).

By reducing the number of available coaches, the sport would just be stifled.

also, if a person is not capable of having bad habits given by an early crap coach ironed out, then they are not champion material anyway. Players of any sport that make champions, especially in sports like fencing, are people with a strong ability to adapt. If you can't adapt, you won't be a top fencer anyway, so early bad habits a hinderance, but not a killer.

What is a killer is if that person never gets into fencing, because there are no coaches available.

Muso440
-5th November 2003, 18:28
Originally posted by JohnL
You have now changed the hand position of Cipressa and 1/2 the Italian team from the 80's when they were at the top of the world fencing tree.
Congratulations.


Aside from the slightly offensive sarcasm, surely you're undermining your own argument here? If you're saying that you have to be a top class fencer to coach properly, then surely there's quite a large possibility that a coach might come along who was in the Italian team in the 80s (say), and tell everyone to use that en garde position - because it's the 'right' way / has always been done like that where he comes from, etc etc etc.

Whether one is a top fencer or an (in your opinion) mediocre fencer, it doesn't mean that either is going to follow the 'needs' of the student. Either could be equally helpful, either could be equally dogmatic.

Rdb811
-5th November 2003, 21:40
I have this vision of JohnL being the chairman of a Premiership football club, reviewing the CV's of possible managers in the bin, chucking those of A . Ferguson and A Wenger in the bin for not having enough top flight experience and selecting P. Gascoign for being skilled enough. :tongue:

In most sports the top coaches were in the seond flight of players; hving a better understanding of errors and what to do to correct them, rather than doing it 'just like that'. (As anybody who's had to suffer me explaining either accounts or IT wll testify- it's obvious to me, why do you have a blank look on your face ?))

How many of the top coaches in the world now could hack it as fencers ?

Pointy stick
-5th November 2003, 22:40
Of course, I freely accept that many or all of you far exceed my knowledge of 1980s Italian fencing techniques. My knowledge thereof is nil.

That said...

I think you'd find that anyone learning to play the piano would perfect his scales and arpeggios before going straight onto playing in the style of Dave Brubeck.

A poet needs to learn the basics of metre, assonance, rhyme, and alliteration before venturing into experimental free verse. otherwise, he would write only pretentious prose.

When I was taught to drive, my instructor never mentioned deliberate oversteer, even though ALL the top drivers in WRC use this technique, and couldn't possibly win without it. Likewise, my motorcycle instructor never mentioned clutchless changes, although I learned to use them later.

Picasso's early paintings were quite realistic. Having learned to paint 'properly', he had a good base from which to develop his radical new ideas.

In most sports, there is a set of rules which "work" up to a certain level, then the really good players go beyond that level, and 'break the rules'. In most activities, you can only break the rules constructively if you understand them first. In fencing, I was taught the classic on guard position (in sixte). I learned to parry quarte and sixte. THEN I started to learn to fence with absence of blade. This still seems logical to me.

From the example I gave in an earlier post, it is quite clear that I meant a beginner who had never understood that an on guard position covers him from one direction. Having understood that basic principle, and learned to apply it, that fencer might eventually go on to develop a technique in which he deliberately fails to cover himself, for any one of a number of tactical reasons which will probably always be beyond me, even if I fence for 20 years.

But are you really arguing that it's a good thing for the novice to bypass the basic stuff, and move on to the advanced stuff straight away. If so, then fencing is truly a unique activity!

SoulTripper
-6th November 2003, 09:38
Its good to see the majority of the posts here are in support of bringing in new coaches to the sport if only to help the absolute beginner or curious starter.

I still find JohnL's views a little hard to swallow. Fencing has a diverse range of styles, but there are basics to which they all stem from, evolved over time.

Speaking to other fencers, it's seems coaching the basics doesn't require international rankings. I pointed out, even if my en-guarde was flaky, or my lunge, I would develop a lot quicker if I could watch myself fence. As a watcher, I can see if a fencers back leg is straight, the knee is adequately bent, the back straight etc. even if I'm not perfect.

My biggest grumble about coaching (from the few I have experienced) in British fencing is the lack of correction thats goes on. It annoys me a little, that in a basic footwork practice, say step-forward, lunge, that I rarely ever hear a coach correct a student directly in a group. I.e. straightens the arm or back, emphasis the kick forwards and so forth. I find it hard to believe everyone in the group is performing perfectly. As JohnL should know, in martial arts, the teacher often watches each student closely during training and physically realigns them if say, the shoulders are twisted, or the arm is too straight. This doesn't seem to happen in warm-ups for fencing. Pity. A body remembers the position it should be in after a while. Though JohnL seems to say there is no correct position, only owns own!

Agreed our club's head coach does criticise and adjust, but in a large club, the assistant coaches do seem a little too 'nice' to criticise (maybe that's just my experience).

As a final point, JohnL, it interests me that you teach the arts (Karate and Judo I believe, as well as fencing). You should be aware that there are different styles that the student learns (e.g. in fencing e.g. the Italian/French/British/E.Eurpoean, in Karate Shotokan, Kenpo ) for the first 10 years or so, but then after that, their knowledge of the form is adequate enough to experiment, and find they own variations, derived from their lengthy training of that style. I gather you do not let your students completey straighten their arm when they throw a punch, or twist their shoulders, or feet too far apart? These are the basics. Fencing has them too, for all styles (from what I've read and experienced :confused: )

Perhaps I may not have started this post JohnL if you were my coach. Perhaps you would constantly correct my style, tell me what I'm doing wrong, tell the group what they were doing wrong and keep a good eye on them all. Perhaps if not you, then your assistant coach would. I wish my club did have the best coaches in the world who knew the sport on all levels, but it doesn't. But I'm learning at least some form of fencing, and for that I'm very grateful, whether they are 'nice' or professional.

I'm still not sure how my technique is progressing, but it now seems evident, some coach somewhere, will say terribly, another will say well!

Regards

S

:sam:

Gav
-6th November 2003, 10:21
There are two issues here.

When does a fencer have the experience to advise another fencer?
What constitutes a good coach?

The first comes with experience. As you become experienced the basics get ingrained in you. These are the fundamentals, it is very important to get them as close to 'right' at the beginning as you can. To that end another beginner should not offer anything other than casual advice to someone [as has been noted in a previous post] as they bout. This is fundamentally different from coaching.

[i]Coaching is teaching someone your philiosophy - this will be drawn from the fundamentals. A beginner, someone who is learning, does not really know the fundamentals well enough to actively 'coach' someone to a decent standard. An experienced fencer might, but just because someone is an experienced fencer doesn't automatically make them a good coach. Coaching, as I have noted previously, is a skill which may be inherent, but like everything else requires it's own training regimen to maximise it's potential.

I've tried to make a distinction here between the concepts of coaching and casual advice. I believe the proponents on both sides of the discussion which has developed here are right up to a point.

Don't forget that the sport of Fencing evolved over a long period of time. The basics developed for many reasons and that these should be passed on as proficiently as possible from one generation to the next.

Cheers

Gav

[who is sympathetic to both sides and feels distinctly like a liberal democrat because of it!]

srb
-6th November 2003, 14:43
Originally posted by aao
So John you've still managed to avoid the question, what level of fencer are you? you're not who I thought you were, for which I am rather grateful, and your views on coaching aren't too far off the mark but you are waaay too harsh on beginner fencers.

So who are you?

I reckon JohnL won the Bristol Open Men's Foil in 1983. The same year I won the 'plate' (but I was only 16 - excuses, excuses!!).

srb

JohnL
-8th November 2003, 19:51
Hey Gav

Good separation of points.

There is a distinct difference between coaching and casual advice.

On casual advice, the problem I have is that this is most abundantly offerd by those most incapable of giving it. It is normally offered by people who have been fencing for a year or two. It is also normally offered, not in attempt to cure a problem that a beginner has, (As I said earlier, they're incapable of spotting a problem, never mind curing it.) but so they can feel superior to the beginner. I vividly recal trashing a guy in the club who had been fencing longer than I and was older. After shaking hands at the end he then took me aside and gave me a 15 minute lecture on what I had done wrong and that I would never get anywhere unless I corrected my mistakes. He also gave a load of highly ineffective tactical advice.

The fact that I had just handed the guy a whole can of whup-a** seemed lost on him. I'm sure that after the lecture he told his cronies that he was correcting my mistakes, just in case they hadn't heard the lecture. It made him feel superior without him having to train hard enough to beat me.

It is futher unfortunate that it is this type of person, having realised they are not going to make an impact on the fencing scene, that promptly attend a couple of coaching corses and start coaching.

They have then made the transformation from casual advice giver to coach in one easy lesson. The can then justify their existence in a club without having gone through the process of learning to fence.

They invariably then infect their pupils with there own lack of ability.

I agree Gav that a coach should teach his own philosophy with regard to fencing, however, spmeone who has only been fencing a year or two has none and it is highly unlikely that he will develop one.

JohnL

James
-8th November 2003, 20:05
you generalise too much
you're letting one bad experience cloud your vision
and it really doesnt help your arguement

james

JohnL
-8th November 2003, 20:39
I could have quoted fifty such cases. As such my judgement isn't clouded.

I know I'm generalising, but if I get too specific, others on the forum will get really offended and I'll (quite rightly) be thrown off the board.

Even though the comments I've made are fairly general, I still believe they highlight a chronic disease in UK fencing that needs drastic surgery.

James
-8th November 2003, 20:57
so should, in your view, the best coach in the club spend his time teaching every beginner the very basics? everything from where to put their feet to the basics of a lunge? would this not leave a lot of coaches with very little time to spend on others? and lets face it doesnt matter who shows you the basics of fencing for the first time, be it world class coach or guy of 1/2 years experience, you will not do it properly first time. when you come back the next week you will have forgotten how to do it. i believe that from what i've seen the only way to work things is to have initial instruction from the more/less experienced fencers to be complimented by coaching by the best coach your club has to offer. what i think you'll find is that very quickly those who have the drive and desire to do well will concentrate on getting instuction from the coach rather than their peers. certainly for me this happen. i started about the same time as a friend and although i will take a lesson every week he does not and is happy to fence at the level that non-coaches can get him to. i dont know if my coach is good. i'd say he was, but that means very little. i think its important to focus on passing fencers up through coaches. the best choach in the world to me is one who knows when to suggest you go to another coach instead or as well.

James

Muso440
-9th November 2003, 16:33
Originally posted by JohnL

On casual advice, the problem I have is that this is most abundantly offerd by those most incapable of giving it. It is normally offered by people who have been fencing for a year or two. It is also normally offered, not in attempt to cure a problem that a beginner has, (As I said earlier, they're incapable of spotting a problem, never mind curing it.)

Oh purlease. Here's an example: as I've said, I've been fencing less than a year. Recently, about a month ago, a woman has started at my club. I'm practicing some basic moves (parry reposte type things) with her in the group coaching session when everyone's paired off. Her blade is way over to her right, ie she's not holding it pointing at me, so has to bring it further over to parry me. I recognise this as a problem as I've been doing the same thing recently. I tell her this and she then remembers to hold her point in roughly the right direction.

I defy you to say I'm doing something terribly wrong and destructive to her future fencing career here.


but so they can feel superior to the beginner.

Pile of pants, if you don't mind me saying so. You might have experienced that, as your anecdote shows, and no doubt there are some older fencers who feel threatened by upcoming younger ones. But some people are actually trying to be HELPFUL when they give such advice, believe it or not.

Muso440
-9th November 2003, 16:35
Originally posted by JohnL
Even though the comments I've made are fairly general, I still believe they highlight a chronic disease in UK fencing that needs drastic surgery.

and how do you propose that surgery is carried out, exactly? Sack all the coaches that don't make the grade, and end up with about 5 for the entire country? Very practical. That's really going to help British fencing.

randomsabreur
-10th November 2003, 15:32
Brilliant point from James!!!

Also in total agreement with Muso

Yes beginners should have access to good coaching, however many of us do not live in areas of the country where there are many coaches.

Casual advice is usually limited to for example, try and keep you point pointing vaguely at the target, don't put your left hand across the front of the target (Sabre) and try to get your guard wider than your elbow when parrying tierce (sabre) The two sabre ones have the main purpose of preventing the beginners suffering pain, it is very difficult to avoid hitting a back hand if it moves to the wrong place at the wrong time. Evidently a lecture is not casual advice, casual advice takes a couple of minutes max and is not a lecture on what would be better in the long run. It focuses on the here and now and is not an "I am better than you pose" It would perhaps be better defined as friendly advice

JohnL
-10th November 2003, 18:21
Hi Muso

This thread has developed somewhat from the origonal topic, but in the meantime, a number of debaters have asked what I would suggest. A fair question, as I've taken my time to point out what I believe to be failings in the current system.

A very difficult question, but I'll try.

My opinion is that if UK fencing is to improve to where it is an international force there are a number of aspects that need addressing. As we are discussing coaching in this thread, I'll restrict my comments to that.

As I've stated before, I believe the current level of coaching is inadequate and is only made worse by the attempts to increase the number of coaches by training people with inadequate experience/abilities. The introduction of these "coaches" will produce nothing but failure. Worse, it will infect British fencing further with a series of mediocre coaches at best, that will prevent possible talent coming through.

Unfortunately this system is already well ingrained in the UK fencing scene and the only suggestion I have is amputation.
I have fenced in clubs where they should have a notice above the door stating, "abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

I suggest identifying 5 coaches, fund them to set up clubs away from the existing clubs and start coaching youngsters from scratch. The selection of these coaches should come from fencers who have no less than 5 years of international experience and must show an aptitude and dedication to teaching. (I don't ask a lot do I) Let the existing clubs die the natural death they deserve. Allow the new fencers to fence only each other for a period to prevent the transfer of poor fencing to them. When 10 fencers from the 5 clubs develop they should provide the basis of a family that only knows how to fence well. This can then be the begining of a development programme that provides a solid basis for the development of fencing.

A single paragraph is hardly enough to describe the system but is basically to isolate the new fencers from the current british fencing disease. I believe the current system is beyond repair and most involved should be cut out. I say this with some feeling as I know that a lot of people give up their time for little or no reward, purely for the love of fencing.

If you accept that fencing is about fun and having a few beers after pointing a sharp stick at someone for a few hours, fine. It is my argument however that this system will not support in any meaningful way the development of a system of fencing that will put UK fencing on the international scene.

Robert
-10th November 2003, 18:44
Originally posted by JohnL

A single paragraph is hardly enough to describe the system but is basically to isolate the new fencers from the current british fencing disease. I believe the current system is beyond repair and most involved should be cut out. I say this with some feeling as I know that a lot of people give up their time for little or no reward, purely for the love of fencing.


Perhaps it is possible to rephrase what you said in a more positive way while keeping the essential spirit. You would like to create a small number of centres of excellence (maybe London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh/Scotland, +location in the north/midlands) run by coaches of suitable standard (presumably with specialist nutritionist, physio support). A sort of parrallel structure alongside the 'fun' clubs run primarily for evening entertainment.

In practice these would have to run on weekends (due to their large catchment areas) and you couldn't completely isolate them (people would have to start fencing somewhere and it could never be at this sort of centre, and you can't force anyone not to attend opens or other clubs) but you could provide 6 to 12 hours a week for people being trained primarily by coaches of the standard you would like to see.

This seems like a reasonable idea, one that BFA members might even be willing to support with a suitable input of cash.

Robert

JohnL
-10th November 2003, 19:28
Robert

I understand what you're saying but believe the dilution of my suggestion would be it's downfall.

You need to be available 6 days a week and the training needs to be intensive. The catchment area can therefore only be small to begin with. Tauber never had a wide catchment area to begin with.

The isolation I see as essential. It is the only way to prevent the perpetuation of the current problems. To run them alongside a "fun" club would infect the purist solution I am proposing.

When you are starting fencing, I would suggest 11 year olds are targeted, the nutritionist and physio are overkill. Let's teach them to fence first.

Another important aspect I would like to see is the fencer selection process. I would like to see this done in inner city areas and selections made bearing in mind their natural athletic ability, rather than the physical rejects that normally go into fencing.

Jambo
-10th November 2003, 20:03
John L. A really nice idea in theory but v difficult to implement. I see where you are going with the idea (Tauber and Keeth Smart influences it seems) but...

- You want to recruit young kids who have no prior knowledge of fencing into a pressure cooker atmosphere training six nights a week. By the age of 18 they may well hate fencing.

- Fencing is seen as an elitist sport, athletic kids from inner city areas dream of being David Beckham not Luigi Tarantino. Recruiting these kids into a intense regime would be very difficult. We are not football.

- How can you fund such centres?

- Why would good coaches abandon their current pupils?

- When kept to fencing a small number of people your technique stagnates, you learn how to beat them not how to fence.

James
-10th November 2003, 20:49
JohnL your plan has gaping holes in it.

Time is required to see whether or not someone is good at fencing, or if they actually enjoy it enough to be dedicated. At some point people have to get an introduction to fencing, and i will repeat myself by saying that your five "elite" coaches cannot possibly have time to introduce everyone to the sport.

Natural athletic ability? As a reason for making someone fence and giving them all the expert coaching in the world? Although fencing requires a degree of fitness and athletic, cunning and deceit can get you equally far. So maybe we should start recruiting crimanals and conmen, they'd have the natural advantage when it came to being deceitful.

Rathering than gambling all the hopes and dreams of the fencing community on a few kids selected when they were eleven because the very more athletic than most other kids, we should focus on exposing more and more people to fencing. The more people, the more chance of a champion, the more chance of money to invest.

There is no magic formula for the perfect fencer. We could put all your plans into action and more and i would still put money on the next great fencer emerging from no where. Not through one of your schemes, but out of the blue. I'd even expect them to be quite old. Someone who never saw fencing as a real sport until 16/17. And then it doesnt matter how good the first coach they had was. They started fencing and now there's a thousand times greater chance of them fulfilling their potential than if they hadnt.

James

JohnL
-10th November 2003, 20:51
Hey Jambo

"John L. A really nice idea in theory but v difficult to implement. I see where you are going with the idea (Tauber and Keeth Smart influences it seems) but..."

Never heard of Keeth Smart.

- You want to recruit young kids who have no prior knowledge of fencing into a pressure cooker atmosphere training six nights a week. By the age of 18 they may well hate fencing.

They'll love it and enjoy the success. I anticipate that in 7 years they'll be almost the entire national squad operating at world level. Their success will create sponsorship, and rub off on the students who follow.

- Fencing is seen as an elitist sport, athletic kids from inner city areas dream of being David Beckham not Luigi Tarantino. Recruiting these kids into a intense regime would be very difficult. We are not football.

No we're not, but the chances of success are greater. Create the enthusiasm, create the effort, it's infectious. kids dream of success.

- How can you fund such centres?

Don't know.

- Why would good coaches abandon their current pupils?

Most current coaches won't have to. They can continue to coach at the fun clubs until they go the way of the dodo.

- When kept to fencing a small number of people your technique stagnates, you learn how to beat them not how to fence.

You keep with the small number for the first year, cut by 1/3 based on performance/potential and start a new batch of 11 year olds to supplement. This will gradually increase the variety of fencers available to spar with.
I would also invite on a regular basis the top fencers available to fence them.

Jambo
-10th November 2003, 21:02
"Never heard of Keeth Smart."
American top sabreur, picked out of an inner city area by some scheme, currently in the top 10 of the world, was number one for a while I believe.

"They'll love it and enjoy the success. "
True but a lot of good juniors drop out now because of pressure and politics.

"No we're not, but the chances of success are greater. Create the enthusiasm, create the effort, it's infectious. kids dream of success."
Very true

"Most current coaches won't have to. They can continue to coach at the fun clubs until they go the way of the dodo."
Where are these super coaches going to come from then?

"You keep with the small number for the first year, cut by 1/3 based on performance/potential and start a new batch of 11 year olds to supplement. This will gradually increase the variety of fencers available to spar with."
Hmmm, possibly. Then the first time they come into a comp and run into some wiley bugger with poor technique but some nasty tricks up their sleeve they're going to come a cropper.

I think you're points on athletic ability are true, fencing suffers from a general lack of fitness which hampers many people. Its not all about tactics. Endurance, speed and power are important.

JohnL
-10th November 2003, 21:28
James

Of course my scheme has gaping holes in it.

I tried to put into a paragraph, what I have been thinking about for 20 years.

As for the "more people the more chances" statement. We've been relying on that for too long and it hasn't worked.

It doesn't matter how many mutts you get in the kennel, you're not going to get a pedigree anything.

At the moment there are far too many mutts around. Not only are the mutts no use, they're infecting the pedigrees.

Jambo
-10th November 2003, 21:38
Originally posted by JohnL

At the moment there are far too many mutts around. Not only are the mutts no use, they're infecting the pedigrees.

You don't half have a way with words. Please try to not denigrate the few fencers we have who achieve some measure of success.

I'm most definitley a mutt in your terms but I don't see how I'm ruining British chances of becoming more successful in fencing.

James
-10th November 2003, 22:40
ok
you're way of comparing fencers to animals and the likes is annoying. so lets see if it rings true. which type of dog is most likely to get a disease or genetical disorder? a pedigree. which is stronger? a mutt. which is all looks and so inbred that it cant tell its head from its arse? well...that would be a pedigree and the type of fencers you intend to create.

As for relying on "more people the more chances" having been tried for too long and not working? thats just crazy. lets take a look at the BFA and SFA websites and see how helpful they are and how likely they are to get more folk involved. not very is the answer. lets look at how much advertisment there is for fencing clubs in newspapers/magazines/sport centres. next to none. it is only recently through companies like leon paul that we have a forum like this to get together. somewhere we can show people that fencing is not a minority activity, but instead a serious sport.

If we can change the view of fencing from that of an activity to a sport then it will attract the kind of people you want it to. Rather than kicking of some ambitous plan by injecting it tons of money, why not take the simpler/cheaper approach of changing the way fencers are seen.
All it needs is a bit of national organisation to get every club in the country putting on displays at about the same time putting emphisis on the idea of fencing been a highly athletic sport.

Once more athletic people have been introduced to it, then you can start to take the best that emerge and give them special training.

James
(not disagreeing with your ideas of raising the standard of fencing, just your manner and the way you talk about all present fencers as many on this forum talk about "classical fencers". its disgusting. dont look on anyone in britain who already fences as a lost cause because they havent been through your system, try and suggest things that will improve it for everybody)

plewis66
-11th November 2003, 07:33
Originally posted by JohnL
[B]Most current coaches won't have to. They can continue to coach at the fun clubs until they go the way of the dodo.


Hmm.

Up until that point, I had respected, if perhaps not agreed with your ideas JohnL. BUt this is an incredibly offensive position to take.

I don't think you are even worth listening to.

We may be mutts, but seems you are turning into a troll.

Muso440
-11th November 2003, 08:17
Originally posted by JohnL

You keep with the small number for the first year, cut by 1/3 based on performance/potential and start a new batch of 11 year olds to supplement.

Oh yeah, the 11 year olds and their mums and dads are really going to go for that. 'Hey kids, you've never heard of fencing, but come and spend your whole life doing it, 6 hours a day 6 days a week. But by the way, if you're crap, we'll chuck you out after a year.'

Very tempting.

Robert
-11th November 2003, 09:53
Unfortunately JohnL doesn't know a great deal about teaching. You need three things resources, time, and desire; and JohnL is only proposing the first two. If these people are going to learn they have to want to learn, and that comes from prior contact with fencing (remember footballers who learn at the equivelant camps to JohnL's have been playing football in the streets and watching Beckham for years).

Good ideas from JohnL's post

o Create a more intensive setting for development

o Bring together top coaches (and you will need physio/nutritionist expertise, unless you want your juniors injured)

o Try to give an option where people can JUST study in this elite environment rather than travelling from club to club to get their time in.

I have some sympathy for JohnL as I have experience in other fields which I think need similar radical solutions.

Problem: How to pay for it? At £40 for a hall, £15 for a coach, and £30 for two sub-coaches and a sports specialist, £10 for invited experts (British team fencers, Referees etc). £95 an hour, for a class of about 30. 4 hours a night, 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday (36 hours a week, basic membership £3 an hour, is aprox £100 a week fees). Plus one-off expenditures on kit of in the region of £10,000.

BFA could probably stump up the one-off fee to set up. But where is the £5000 a year for each pupil going to come from? Your 11 year olds can't pay, the government won't, and BFA could never justify spending more than the membership takings on 30 juniors.

Inevitably you would have to compromise, by allowing fencers who simply wish to improve in this sort of specialist environment, to subsidise your efforts, and accepting that no-one is going to invest this sort of time in fencing until it has the sort of profile football does.

The Bad element in JohnL's post is that a proposal that isn't costed isn't a proposal.

Robert

plewis66
-11th November 2003, 12:27
Originally posted by Robert
The Bad element in JohnL's post is that a proposal that isn't costed isn't a proposal.

Another bad element of Johns post is that there won't be any members of the BFA providing funds for this to happen, because he wants the 'fun fencing' clubs to 'go the way of the dodo'.

Basically, he seems to be taking the most extreme elitist stand possible, and appears to be trying to be deliberately offensive. I suspect that these are not his real views, and he's just having a laught at us flapping about.

If they are his real views, then instead of fencing being better off without the several thousand 'mutts', perhaps it would be better off without him.

plewis66
-11th November 2003, 12:32
Just to add...

I do hope he's not a coach. Imagine being one of his students and finding out what he thinks of you!

Robert
-11th November 2003, 13:59
Originally posted by plewis66
Just to add...

I do hope he's not a coach. Imagine being one of his students and finding out what he thinks of you!

That is a coaching session I would not relish.

Robert

Peanut_UK
-11th November 2003, 14:12
Definitely an interesting thread, and well trolled.

As someone who helps run what is essentially a fun club JohnL's comment about "fun clubs going the way of the dodo" is grossly offensive, not to mention ill-conceived, narrow-minded, and frankly, retarded.

Our club, and others like it, does more for keeping fencing alive in the UK than having a just couple of centres of excellence ever could. Yes, the general level of fencing at our club is not great. But it's not only "fun" fencers that attend our club. There are a few (and I mean a few!) very serious competitive fencers that attend regularly as they simply get to fence more in the week. So we're providing something for every standard - absolute beginners to Commonwealth fencers.

Which brings me onto the point of coaching - I've fenced, on and off, for about 12 years. I have coached beginners' classes, and they've gone very well. I don't pretend that I'll ever be a good coach, but I can inject enthusiasm and interest into the fundamentals of our sport, then pass the beginners onto our professional coaches who take them onto their full potential (or whatever potential the individual is prepared to realise).

Ultimately, what "fun" clubs do is provide an entrance to our sport (that, despite what anyone says, is seen as elitist, but that's another argument). And more fencers, means more money for the clubs and the BFA, and more money means the more likely realising JohnL's pipe-dream of Centres of Excellence.

SoulTripper
-11th November 2003, 14:36
To play nice,

The harshest criticism can often lead to the greatest determination.

This does bring it back to my original topic, in that, to assess your ability, it seems it is based on the person assessing. The evidence from this post, is that an assessment of the coach is crucial to the assessment of the student.

The alternative is to compete and assess yourself in respect to your peers through rankings getting what coaching you can.

Due to lack of expert tuition that JohnL wants, I think the latter is my best bet as I don't have nearby access to coaches of international fame and stardom . So whilst, in theory, my coach could be seen as mediocore in some peoples eyes, if, in theory, I was to progress to top 50 say, then is it my coach, or is it me who needs to perform even better to progress further? Which coach is the right coach to listen to?

Somebody somewhere will say our best coach is not the best. Or someplace somewhere will not have the best of coaches. It won't stop them from teaching, it won't stop someone from learning. But by removing them, it will. And what good is that to those who want to learn, even just for fun (to support Peanut's and Co's ideas)?

JohnL
-11th November 2003, 17:54
Sorry if I've upset the "fun" fencers. Well actually I'm not.

The problem with the system I'm suggesting is obviously funding. It needs help and some people with imagination.

To concentrate the effort enough, take an area with 3 large schools which are within a 4 mile radius. Use those as the basis for the pupils and the facilities. Find 3 headmasters with an imagination (interesting concept) and sell the idea to them. Use the gyms in the evening which are a donation from the 3 schools. Take 10 pupils (to start with) from each school. Rotate the evening training sessions between venues.

Give lessons during the day at each school. Each pupil gets say, 3 20 minute lessons a week to begin with. (that's 30 hours of the instructors time.)
Evening sessions, directly after school, are for 2 hours. That's another 10 hours)
Fitness sessions are run early morning and fitness assessments done every saturday morning to ensure improvement.

Equipment - get an initial donation. ????

The 30 students pay $750 for the year - Gives a working commitment of $22,500
The fees can be paid monthly, but if the kids quit before the end of one year, the parents are responsible for the full years payment. Hey, they took up someone else's spot otherwise.

Sell local industries and get sponsorship that as an elite center will get publicity.

After the first year, drop outs and new pupils will increase the numbers by say 50%. Add a coach part time.

Let the system perpetuate itself.

It is still based though on the premise that fencing standards in their current state are not worth saving. I still argue that point.

Yes I don't doubt there are flaws, and I'm sure you'll point them out, but what is the alternative. We remain a second rate fencing country.

Yes, I also know that what I'm suggesting is extreme. But, if you want to bend metal you need extreme heat, to break metal, extreme cold. Nothing good ever came from mediocrity.

By the way Soul Tripper. If you haven't already, try the Norfolk open. It was the first final I ever made (came 6th). Who knows, it could be the start of great things to come.

Pointy stick
-11th November 2003, 19:18
Person A is worried that the sport is 'elitist', and Person B seems to hold 'fun fencers' in contempt - proving Person A's concern is justified.

Is it a sport or is it a game? A sport is just a game that's taken more seriously. It all starts as fun, and - although the nature of the fun changes as you mature as a fencer - it should remain fun. I can say that with great confidence despite my lack of fencing experience because I have taken other sports/activities to a high level. The initial "Wayhay! Look at me, I'm fencing" style of fun develops into the "Wow! Look at me, I'm fencing quite well", then the "Great, I beat so and so for the first time..." style of fun, and so on.

I plan to become as good as I can manage. To that end, I'm taking lessons, attending 2 club nights a week (so that's three nights of fencing), and practising skills at home. But I hope I never stop being a 'fun fencer'. Why else would I fence?

A tall heap needs a broad base. We can't all be top of the heap, and we don't all want to be. That doesn't make us Bad People.

Rdb811
-11th November 2003, 23:51
I'd like to know of a sport that doesn't have a 'grassroots'.

Roberts costs are way too low - by a factor of three (not fogetting the fact that all the people running the sport would have to be paid full whack as well).

Jambo
-12th November 2003, 07:56
I would like to point out that we currently have one of the best (the best?? wait and see....) rugby teams in the world. Every single one of those players will have learnt at school with a bored PE teacher. They have become good enough to gain attention and get more and better coaching and eventually have become good enough to beat most of the world. Tell me how fencing is different?

I agree with the idea of centres of excellence with more funding and perhaps a more specific goal in mind but you can not isolate the fencers there from the rest of the country.

As Rdb says all sports have a grassroots, you can't create a team of fencing superstars from scratch like bl**dy stormtroopers!

plewis66
-12th November 2003, 08:35
Originally posted by JohnL
Sorry if I've upset the "fun" fencers. Well actually I'm not.

It's not so much about offending the fun fencers, as offending the vast majority of the users of this bulletin board.

How much respect do you expect from people here, now? Because I suspect if you only expect none, then that's more than you'll get.

Muso440
-12th November 2003, 08:48
Originally posted by JohnL
Sorry if I've upset the "fun" fencers. Well actually I'm not.

Oh, you have such a charming way with words, John!



To concentrate the effort enough, take an area with 3 large schools which are within a 4 mile radius. Use those as the basis for the pupils and the facilities. Find 3 headmasters with an imagination (interesting concept) and sell the idea to them. Use the gyms in the evening which are a donation from the 3 schools.


Donation? You don't work in education, do you? Unless you mean private schools - and finding 3 large private schools within a 4 mile radius seems a bit Utopian.


The 30 students pay $750 for the year

Er, what planet are you on exactly???? You're making them pay 750 quid a year for something they've never yet tried, might not like, and (according to one of your previous posts) they'll get thrown out if they're not good enough AND their parents would still have to stump up the rest regardless?!?!?!?!??!!

Hello, John, wake up to reality please!!!!!!

Maybe we're back in private-schools-all-close-to-each-other Land, whose parents are evidently so rich they're not going to care about chucking such money around. But I would have thought even this were a tad optimistic.



Yes I don't doubt there are flaws, and I'm sure you'll point them out, but what is the alternative. We remain a second rate fencing country.

I'll go with the alternative, thanks. What ultimate difference does it make to world happiness if Britain remains a 2nd rate fencing country? Yes it would be nice to be top in fencing (or any other sport you might mention) but at the end of the day it doesn't *really* matter. It's not going to change the everyday reality of Britain's citizens.

Pointy stick
-12th November 2003, 17:10
Originally posted by Muso440
Yes it would be nice to be top in fencing (or any other sport you might mention) but at the end of the day it doesn't *really* matter. It's not going to change the everyday reality of Britain's citizens.

Burn the heretic!

(Heretic. noun. (1) Person prepared to expound controversial views - typically common sense. (2) Meat dish, traditionally served flambé.)

(For the avoidance of doubt, I'm agreeing with you!)

Muso440
-12th November 2003, 18:21
Originally posted by Pointy stick

(Heretic. noun. (1) Person prepared to expound controversial views - typically common sense. (2) Meat dish, traditionally served flambé.)


Serve me as a flambe if you like ;) I'm not sure I'd be very tasty though.

(I may regret saying this...)

Cheetara
-12th November 2003, 18:40
Isn't JohnL's idea basically how the Soviets trained their gymnasts... Picking children with potential and then training them intensively, just to win rather than enjoy the sport.

Muso440
-12th November 2003, 18:47
Originally posted by Cheetara
Isn't JohnL's idea basically how the Soviets trained their gymnasts... Picking children with potential and then training them intensively, just to win rather than enjoy the sport.

Yeah, sounds like that to me too. He is of course overlooking the fact that we don't leave in a communist dictatorship...

plewis66
-13th November 2003, 07:24
Originally posted by Muso440
Yeah, sounds like that to me too. He is of course overlooking the fact that we don't leave in a communist dictatorship...

...And the future lives of the children who were treated this way.

Pointy stick
-13th November 2003, 16:46
Just wondering, and perhaps JohnL will answer a direct challenge: have we all been drawn in by a deliberately controversial post - reacted naively to the feint, so to speak - and John's merrily chuckling at how we fell for it, or was JohnL straight down the line serious?

(They have rays which make you paranoid you know... but they keep them secret.)

Rdb811
-13th November 2003, 17:22
But how would we know if he was telling the truth ?

Tarmac
-13th November 2003, 17:31
who cares?
maybe we should solve this argument by combat... sabres at dawn anyone?

aao
-13th November 2003, 17:38
well he's a foilist (and an older generation one!) so you do have to take everything he says with a pinch (or in his case a packet ;) ) of salt!

Tarmac
-13th November 2003, 17:50
i think your signature has particular relevance in this discussion:)

srb
-14th November 2003, 12:57
Originally posted by aao
well he's a foilist (and an older generation one!)

I would hazard a guess that he is about 10 years older than me. He was an GB international foilist, but never quite made the squad. i.e. he fenced in 'A' grades, but never got picked for the Worlds, Commonwealth, or Olympics etc.

Probably not competing anymore as he doesn't appear in the American rankings (yes I've looked - I know I'm sad). Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing to make us the best critics it the world.

srb

Prometheus
-14th November 2003, 13:11
I would hazard a guess that he is about 10 years older than me.

I didn't know Noah was on this forum!!! :tongue:

JohnL
-14th November 2003, 13:33
Hi Guys

Never thought I'd be accused of putting forward communism.

While the thrust of my argument has been an elitist one, I believe the effect could be felt more at the grass roots level in a positive manner.

If enough young fencers can be taught correctly, it could gradually infect all people entering the sport so that even fencers who do not succeed in competition, fence well.

Having fenced in many countries, my experience is that even
"fun" club fencers in highly rated countries, are good fencers with solid basic technique.

Unfortunately, in the UK, these same fun fencers generally have poor technique, crud footwork, and wave their weapons in the general direction of each other with no understanding of what they're doing. It's a miracle that they ever manage to actually hit each other without depositing their weapons in unseemly places.

No, I don't advocate communism, and I still believe fencing should be fun, (I enjoyed it) but I think the manner in which it is currently taught needs a serious re-think.

James
-14th November 2003, 13:40
"The isolation I see as essential. It is the only way to prevent the perpetuation of the current problems. To run them alongside a "fun" club would infect the purist solution I am proposing."


"If enough young fencers can be taught correctly, it could gradually infect all people entering the sport so that even fencers who do not succeed in competition, fence well."


Now this sounds like contradicting yourself to me.

James

Prometheus
-14th November 2003, 13:43
Actually, in a sort of defence I agree with johnl

imo good technique breeds a better quality of fencing and a far more cerebral contest. This can only be attained through the foundation of good technique.

Unfortunately in this country we have an anti-elitist streak which seems to make many, otherwise in their own careers, successful people see elite sport as a bad thing, a winner/loser situation.

Why not try to do something well instead of just the minimum effort.

In fact, it isn't hard to know how to do fencing well, perhaps it's just the hardwork that it requires is the problem in the UK.

No income/no point........??

If we raise the target will people not aim higher or is every one just going to give up trying?

Answers on a postcard, please....

Pointy stick
-14th November 2003, 15:58
Now if JohnL's motive is to see more people enjoying fencing more, and doing it better, then none of us can disagree with him. Fair enough, but, commendable motives or not...

Fencing is a minority sport, and is likely to remain so forever. The simple principle of 'natural selection' has ensured that certain 'accessible' sports have become well established; money has flowed into those sports; those sports are now in a virtually unassailable position in the hierarchy.

That leaves fencing competing for the attention of the type of person who goes for an 'interesting' minority sport. Fencing is competing with, for example, archery, judo, kendo, kick boxing, kayaking... and so on, rather than with, say, football, rugby or cricket.

This 'constituency', like all groups of people, displays a mixture of attitudes. Some will come into a sport, knowing that it is something they want to take further (perhaps they have a family connection with the sport); others will give it a try because there is a local club, or because a friend does it, or they see a night school class advertised.

Most of the people will be in the 'give it a try' category. So fencing has anything from one night to about 6 weeks in which to capture that person's commitment. We live in a society of easy choices.

The 'traditional' approach to teaching fencing was based on the premiss that anyone who started *must* be serious about it. We hear legends of fencers who did 2 years of footwork before they were allowed a brief glimpse of a foil in the distance... But those were the days when there was less leisure time, there were fewer choices, and no one 'drifted' into fencing by accident.

But today, a beginner expects to have his/her first real sword fight in the first session. Even with restraint on both sides, most club coaches are likely to have beginners trying a bit of 'free play' within a very few weeks of starting. Music teachers these days need to get their students playing a tune as early as possible; gone are the days of learning scales for weeks before attempting the simplest tune.

Having tasted the pleasure of fencing 'for real', beginners will tend to split into three groups:

1) Those who have tried, it, quite liked it, and never got much out of it (because they did it at such a simplistic level). They move on to macrame, kendo, or water skiing.

2) Those who quite enjoy it, make a few friends, and continue fencing at a low level for a few ,months or years, then drop off.

3) Those who realise that there is more to it than meets the eye, and who decide to make a go of it, get lessons, work hard, and compete.

(Similar groupings will appear in any sport. I don't know much about fencing, but I've been in a lot of sports clubs. People are the same everywhere.)

So, what does fencing need to do to produce more *top* fencers? (Assuming that this matters.)

Well, having a few top fencers in the first place couldn't hurt. When Tim Henman does well, sales of tennis raquets increase, and so on.

But those top fencers need to become publicly known. The sport needs promoting. I've been fencing with some enthusiasm for months (by my categories, a slightly aging category 3) but I cannot recall ever seeing anything at all about fencing mentioned anywhere in the media since I became interested.

AND the sport needs as big an intake of new fencers as possible. That means beginners' courses, demonstrations at other sports clubs, displays at garden fetes, and all that. The sport needs to be made accessible and attractive. That gets more people in.

The more people you get in, the more you will find who are 'naturally' in my 3rd category: potentially good and serious competitors.

And the more people you get in, the more you will get in my 2nd category: those who stick with it at a low level - fun fencers.

BUT, if those fun fencers become alienated, they will leave the sport. If, on the other hand, they are made welcome, and they find themselves alongside category 3 fencers more often, SOME of them will become more committed. They will 'upgrade' to category 3!

And some of the Category 1s (tried it, liked it, time to move on...) may well become hooked and become 2s, and later 3s.

It's a simple numbers game. More in means more moving up.

Now, if we try to IMPOSE an elitist ethos on the sport, and somehow 'weed out' the 'time wasters' and concentrate our resources on the category 3s (our bright hopes for the future), then we will LOSE out, because the wobblers who might have been hooked are put off instead. Some of them will end up very good indeed at a similar sport (karate, taekwondo, Morris dancing...) where they have been made more welcome.

And with fewer people in the clubs, there will be less atmosphere, less buzz. The new category 2s and 3s will have fewer opponents. The clubs will attract less funding from the Sports Council, the Lottery, local businesses, and so on. The vital administrative functions will be shared among the keen fencers. In most sports, the keenest participants benefit hugely from the army of occasional participants who get their enjoyment from helping to run things.

So, to achieve JohnL's ambition of a larger number of good competitive fencers fighting at a high level, we don't need to weed out the bad coaches, the weak fencers, and the half-hearted; we need to get as many people through the doors as possible, and select the potential 'elite' from that bigger pool. More elite fencers will mean more leite coaches, and vice versa. We need a 'virtuous circle' to develop. The most powerful tornado is the one which sucks the most in from ground level - even though some of it is rubbish.

No one ever got anywhere by making decent well meaning people unwelcome.

JohnL
-14th November 2003, 17:47
Pointy stick

I note your response and disagree with most of it.

Your point though is based on your statement,

"That leaves fencing competing for the attention of the type of person who goes for an 'interesting' minority sport. Fencing is competing with, for example, archery, judo, kendo, kick boxing, kayaking... and so on, rather than with, say, football, rugby or cricket."

I agree, however;

In all the minority sports you list, Britain is seen as a highly competetive nation. We have numerous olympic medals in Judo and Kayaking. In kick-boxing we are respected around the world, if you include karate we are one of the top medal winners over the past 20 years.

Don't use other minority sports as a justification for British fencings pathetic performance over the years at world level. The other minorities seem to excell with similar problems.

Muso440
-14th November 2003, 18:19
Originally posted by Prometheus
Unfortunately in this country we have an anti-elitist streak which seems to make many, otherwise in their own careers, successful people see elite sport as a bad thing, a winner/loser situation.


I've heard this thing about fencing being seen as elitist time and again on this board. But to be honest I have never come across it being seen as elitist, myself, so it was news to me to hear other people saying it. Not that I'm doubting anyone, maybe there *are* people out there who think it's elitist, I've just never come across it. So maybe it's not as bad as is being made out, or alternatively maybe i'm just mixing with the wrong people. :confused:



perhaps it's just the hardwork that it requires is the problem in the UK.

I agree with this. I think most people just don't want to put the effort in. I came out of a coaching session yesterday with my brain positively hurting, I had been working / concentrating so hard. This is probably not most British people's idea of a good night out.

srb
-14th November 2003, 18:23
I think people lose sight that being a good fencer takes a lot of hard work, focus, and dedication. Just because your intentions are good doesn't make you good. The same logic applies to coaching.

I have been very lucky as I have worked with a number of very good coaches. However, I have also observed a couple of coaches that I think shouldn't be let anywhere near fencers as I think that they will do more harm than good.

Do not delude yourselves - good fencers, and good coaches do not appear over night.

Yes there does have to be grass roots, but my grass roots were bloody good! (the sort JohnL is banging on about) The ability of my first coach gave me the ability to spring board onto a higher level. If it hadn't been for him I would have never gone on to achieve the success I gained under future coaches.

The subtleties of timing and distance can only be taught by someone that has competed at a high enough level to understand them. Knowing how to sit on guard doesn't help teach you how to change the distance from your opponents attacking distance to your riposting distance for example.

The return from fencing is asymptopic. There must be lots of people with 'natural talent' that never make the grade. You have to be prepared to work very very hard. During my most successful fencing, I fenced 6 times a week at 4 different clubs, and was getting lessons from 3 coaches, 2 of which are arguably the best foil coaches in the country.

srb

Muso440
-14th November 2003, 18:26
Originally posted by Pointy stick

AND the sport needs as big an intake of new fencers as possible. That means beginners' courses, demonstrations at other sports clubs, displays at garden fetes, and all that. The sport needs to be made accessible and attractive. That gets more people in.


I agree. unfortunately i suspect that many club organisers just can't be arsed. (my club can't, for instance). They just hope that people will find us by themselves - which some do, but many more people who might have taken up fencing don't.



BUT, if those fun fencers become alienated, they will leave the sport. If, on the other hand, they are made welcome, and they find themselves alongside category 3 fencers more often, SOME of them will become more committed. They will 'upgrade' to category 3!

Having experienced a few clubs now, I think it is a general problem (maybe a British thing), that newbies (or even more experienced new faces) are not made to feel welcome. Not that anyone is actively unfriendly, they just don't make much effort to be friendly either. It's up to the new person to make the effort to say 'hello' and start chatting, otherwise you often get ignored. For people who are a bit shy in new situations, this is likely to put them off!

Rdb811
-14th November 2003, 21:40
Originally posted by Muso440
I agree. unfortunately i suspect that many club organisers just can't be arsed. (my club can't, for instance). They just hope that people will find us by themselves - which some do, but many more people who might have taken up fencing don't.


There are too many clubs like this. Thankfully they are compensated for by the clubs that are dynamic.





Having experienced a few clubs now, I think it is a general problem (maybe a British thing), that newbies (or even more experienced new faces) are not made to feel welcome. Not that anyone is actively unfriendly, they just don't make much effort to be friendly either. It's up to the new person to make the effort to say 'hello' and start chatting, otherwise you often get ignored. For people who are a bit shy in new situations, this is likely to put them off!

Never had this problem in any of the clubs i've been involved with. (Not just fencing)

Rdb811
-14th November 2003, 21:44
I agree wholeheartedly with what PS said - if you get a lot more fencers, then by weight of numbers, there will be more good ones.

And if you get rid of the grasroots, who's going to run the sport ?

haggis
-15th November 2003, 01:20
Fencing is viewed as an elitist sport.

British coaches, generally, are very lazy in their teaching of basic technique (footwork, blade position, simple blade actions).

As a result any pyramid structure aimed at producing international fencers is flawed because the base (i.e. new fencers) is far poorer than in other countries.

In Britain it is possible to be quite successful with pretty awful technique (no names but have a look around).

Eventually we have a relatively small number of fencers that are technically pretty poor. End result, we are generally pretty rubbish (a few notable exceptions aside).

Muso440
-15th November 2003, 08:47
Originally posted by Rdb811

Never had this problem in any of the clubs i've been involved with. (Not just fencing)

Then you must have a friendlier face than me! That people are just drawn to talking to...

plewis66
-15th November 2003, 14:25
Much as I hate (really, really hate) to admit it, even though I've only been (back) into fencing for a couple of months, I can see some of JohnL's point.

I don't like to say too much, because I don't know who might be listening. But recently, I had the oportunity to see a couple fencers perform at one of my clubs. Apparently one of them was some kind of finalist in some fairly important competition.

Now, either of these people could, no doubt, have filled me full of holes before I even knew they had moved. But watching them, it was plain that the basic technique was not being translated on to the piste.

At this club, on the beginners course, we have spent, so far, about an hour practicing footwork, and a couple of hours practicing basic attacks/parries/repostes etc. The rest of the time has been spent fencing (mostly) other beginners, often with the coach in absentia.

So I can see where Haggis is coming from...

On the other hand, to be fair, I'm learning a lot from the people at the club, who are all helpful and friendly. They are keen to pass on tips without being patronizing, quick to complement good effort, and I haven't met anyone who was 'deaf' to touches. It's an atmosphere of fun. It feels a bit like a tennis club.

At my other club, where admittedly I've only been once so far, I spent almost my whole first lesson in a one-on-one with a coach who was excellent at seeing how far he could push me, how quickly I could assimilate information, when I needed a minute to shake out my arm, etc.

In this Salle, the coaches and long-time students are friendly, in an efficient manner. The feeling is of hard work and striving to be better at the end of the session than at the start. It feels like a Dojo.

I suspect that JohnL would approve of this latter club. And that's where I agree with him. This club runs another class for 'advanced' students. It is on the same night I attend the other club. Now, I may never be goos enough to qualify for this group (very unlikely, in fact), but if I ever do, then I will not hesitate to give up my other club in order to attend.

Now, what bothers me about JohnL, is that he believes that I shouldn't be permitted to attend even the beginners class at the latter club, because I am not worthy, and he believes that the former club shouldn't even exist!

I think perhaps some middle-ground is called for.

To reduce the availability of fencing to newcomers is not realistic, and it's not socially desirable.

But to have newcomers coached by crap coaches (note: I am NOT saying any of my coaches are crap!) is not good either.

All I can suggest is that an effort is made to improve the standard of coaches.

If all club coaches could coach the basics at the standard of Salle Kiss, then there would be no need to remove all 'fun' fencing for fear of it contaminating the better fencers.

The important thing here is that in order to teach what I'm being taught at Salle Kiss, the coach does not have to be an international standard fencer. Rather (s)he needs to be a very good coach.

So, I think I know where I've been going with this now:

Come on JohnL, don't punish all us 'fun' fencers because our coaches a crap, punish (or even better, retrain) the crap coaches!

nahouw
-16th November 2003, 04:26
Originally posted by JohnL

If you now go back to your original idea, of correcting someone who held their hand in the middle of their target area as opposed to covering one line. I can name any number of international level fencers who used this hand position effectively. Just because the guy is a beginner doesn't mean he's got it wrong because it isn't what you were taught.

Before you start correcting people, you need to fully understand what you are correcting and why. With the level of experience you say you have, I do not believe you should be correcting others.

Here is an example of what John is trying to explain: I had a coach in college who repeatedly tried to change everything that I was doing, trying to enforce her understanding of fencing upon me. Years later as an adult, I picked up the sport again, this time with one of our National coaches. He spent much time correcting all the problems that my college coach inflicted upon me by enforcing her ideas upon me. Thankfully, since I am headstrong and I always knew what felt right for me, I wasn't harmed by the college coach and correction was made quickly. However, if you get bad habits instilled early, they can be very hard (or at times impossible) to correct, and a fencer with good potential can be ruined.

pinkelephant
-16th November 2003, 09:48
Plewis - Robert Kiss WAS an international standard fencer - he was in the Silver Medal winning Hungarian foil team at the Barcelona Olympics.

plewis66
-16th November 2003, 17:45
Originally posted by pinkelephant
Plewis - Robert Kiss WAS an international standard fencer - he was in the Silver Medal winning Hungarian foil team at the Barcelona Olympics.

Of course, but the point is, he didn't need to be in order to do what I was getting las tweek. And it wasn't actually him I was with, but Csabi.

SoulTripper
-17th November 2003, 08:36
Plewis

Say hi to Robert and Chewy from Sky :)

Been out of fencing for the week due to injury. :dizzy:

plewis66
-17th November 2003, 08:42
Originally posted by SoulTripper
Say hi to Robert and Chewy from Sky :)


Erm...Robert I get, but Chewy and Sky?