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n_freebody
-22nd October 2013, 15:53
One of the many problems I have noticed with my fencing is that I am very tense. My tense shoulder is affecting my blade work (I have lost count of how many times I have been told to relax my shoulder and my claw like back hand by various coaches). Also when doing high speed footwork, my quad muscles (more noticeably on my back leg) tense up and go solid meaning they tire quickly, are slow to respond and affect my entire fencing posture.

On top of my fencing I also dance, do a bit of yoga to stretch out, occasionally swim, go to the gym once a week (where I usually run or cycle for a set distance, do some core work, some weights and then row) and go get shouted at by an ex squaddie during a circuit training class.

Essentially what I want advice on is: What part of my weekly exercise could I improve on to help stop my legs and shoulder from tensing up? Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough? Is circuit training developing the wrong kind of muscles? What exercises that I am doing are bad for me in a fencing sense? Are there any gym based exercises I could add into my routine to help increase the springiness of my legs and relax my shoulders? Should I just invest in a sports massage?

Thank you in advance.

Cyranna's Father
-22nd October 2013, 20:29
One of the many problems I have noticed with my fencing is that I am very tense. My tense shoulder is affecting my blade work (I have lost count of how many times I have been told to relax my shoulder and my claw like back hand by various coaches). Also when doing high speed footwork, my quad muscles (more noticeably on my back leg) tense up and go solid meaning they tire quickly, are slow to respond and affect my entire fencing posture.

On top of my fencing I also dance, do a bit of yoga to stretch out, occasionally swim, go to the gym once a week (where I usually run or cycle for a set distance, do some core work, some weights and then row) and go get shouted at by an ex squaddie during a circuit training class.

Essentially what I want advice on is: What part of my weekly exercise could I improve on to help stop my legs and shoulder from tensing up? Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough? Is circuit training developing the wrong kind of muscles? What exercises that I am doing are bad for me in a fencing sense? Are there any gym based exercises I could add into my routine to help increase the springiness of my legs and relax my shoulders? Should I just invest in a sports massage?

Thank you in advance.

you mean you get tense just because someone is going to attack you with a sword and possibly hurt you repeatedly within a 3 minute period? Good heavens, how odd ;)

It could be your mind you need to relax not your body so I would suggest you think about that, yoga may help but it's probably a question of just letting go.....find some relaxation techniques for your mind - you might even look at hypnotherapy if you are that serious

TomA
-22nd October 2013, 23:17
Nicky, I have/had the exact problem you describe with your shoulder - my understanding is that it's due to an imbalance of the muscles in your back (classic fencer syndrome). Basically you need to maintain good posture when you fence, keeping the shoulders and hips level.

There's an exercise I've been doing which has helped: Lying flat on the floor, raise your legs directly up, keeping your back flat on the ground and your feet together. Then, still keeping the feet together and the back flat against the floor, rotate your legs over to one side,then the other and then back to the centre. That's one rep. 3x8-10 a day.

Note the usual disclaimers about anecdotal experience, not being a doctor etc. But basically it's likely that any physiological explanation will be a result of posture, so anything you can do to improve that (towards the ideal of hips and shoulders level at all times) will probably be of benefit.

purple
-23rd October 2013, 07:20
On top of my fencing I also dance, do a bit of yoga to stretch out, occasionally swim, go to the gym once a week (where I usually run or cycle for a set distance, do some core work, some weights and then row) and go get shouted at by an ex squaddie during a circuit training class.

Essentially what I want advice on is: What part of my weekly exercise could I improve on to help stop my legs and shoulder from tensing up? Am I doing too much? Am I not doing enough? Is circuit training developing the wrong kind of muscles? What exercises that I am doing are bad for me in a fencing sense? Are there any gym based exercises I could add into my routine to help increase the springiness of my legs and relax my shoulders? Should I just invest in a sports massage?

Thank you in advance.

You're doing all the right things already. If you've been doing it for so long, there's a worry that it's down to muscle memory, which you'll have to unlearn and relearn. That's down to you and your coach.

Yoga, swim, core, weights, row. All bilateral movement, so I don't think it's a muscle imbalance issue. My two cents would be it's an expectation issue - you're expecting to have to put the effort in, and as such you're tensing the muscle. Slow exercises with the coach, looking at controlling the muscle during the execution, rather than correcting the end result, should make a significant difference.

Last bit to look at is grip. A tense grip in the hand will extend through the forearm and the rest of the body. A relaxed hand will usually promote a relaxed arm. If you're death gripping, it's time to look at your grip and finger control technique - again, see your coach for details.

Rudd
-23rd October 2013, 14:03
Some other

A few essays on Alexander Technique and Fencing. Start with this one (http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeegyz6/id1.html).

Intu flow joint mobility. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1aLdYgfr3M) Practiced by some of the US national team.

Mediation and progressive relation. (http://www.mindtools.com/stress/RelaxationTechniques/PhysicalTechniques.htm)

cesh_fencing
-23rd October 2013, 14:08
You're doing all the right things already. If you've been doing it for so long, there's a worry that it's down to muscle memory, which you'll have to unlearn and relearn. That's down to you and your coach.

----

Last bit to look at is grip. A tense grip in the hand will extend through the forearm and the rest of the body. A relaxed hand will usually promote a relaxed arm. If you're death gripping, it's time to look at your grip and finger control technique - again, see your coach for details.

If you lean forwards when you fence you are more likely to suffer from these issues. Suggest looking at your en-garde position to see if starting from a more upright position decreases the problems.

Also on the grip. If you are using a bigger handle than you need then it is harder to relax your hand. I use a 9.5 glove and still use a small pistol grip. This allows me better bladework as my fingers can work without me having to grip the handle to much..

Far better to try to identify the cause of the problem and resolve those issues, rather than paper over the cracks of the symptoms.

n_freebody
-23rd October 2013, 15:01
Thank you for everyone’s help. Chris you are right the problem needs to be identified properly before I can fix it but the problem is likely to only be solved by working with my coach for proper technique and figuring out what else in my usual exercise routine is wrong.

The problem with my shoulder/arm seems to start in my shoulder and then affects everything else in my arm not my grip affecting my shoulder. Even with no sword in my hand, I still can’t seem to raise my arm to practice the movement of attacking without being told to relax my shoulder (but FYI I also fence with a small handle). I am fairly sure as Tom said my shoulder issues are a result from a non-bilateral imbalance of muscles in my shoulders and I have (sorry I don’t know the proper names) strong muscles in the top part of my shoulder and neck but weak ones at the bottom of my shoulder bade.

With regards to my legs I start off in the right position but the more tired I get the more my muscles tense and I end up leaning/hunching over. It has been so long now it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, and I have no idea what came first, poor technique or imbalanced muscles but I am working on the correct technique with my coach even if it is an uphill battle to fight against my muscles wanting to do it wrong.

I guess the solution is to do all that you suggested. I will check out those links and try to relax. As I am afraid it’s all muscle memory now I shouldn’t give up anything but just slog on. I need to force against how my shoulders want to work and force myself to engage my lower shoulders when doing ALL shoulder based exercises (not just blade work) to develop the muscles and improve my posture. And for the legs…… footwork, lots and lots of footwork. Deep Joy!

CaptainCommuter
-23rd October 2013, 15:25
Do also make sure you warm up and stretch properly before and after training (and fencing). If the muscles are not warmed fully before fencing then they will tighten and tire prematurely. After training the quads can tighten, especially after cycling/spinning so they need stretching too. If you don't I find they get used to this and adapt in the wrong way.

I happen to know you do lean a tad too much forward when fencing so as mentioned before concentrate on the body position and footwork. I also suffer from similar shoulder issues so I change technique during fights to conserve energy. However I am surprised with the training you mention you have such an issue. I would check your hand position during actions as you may turn your hand over too much?

Harryscott
-15th March 2014, 10:32
If you lean forwards when you fence you are more likely to suffer from these issues. Suggest looking at your en-garde position to see if starting from a more upright position decreases the problems.

Also on the grip. If you are using a bigger handle than you need then it is harder to relax your hand. I use a 9.5 glove and still use a small pistol grip. This allows me better bladework as my fingers can work without me having to grip the handle to much..

Far better to try to identify the cause of the problem and resolve those issues, rather than paper over the cracks of the symptoms.

Using a smaller pistol grip is interesting. I spent ages trying different types and sizes and I always found the medium too small and the large too big. I finally stumbled on an old, large Allstar which was just right - but they don't seem to make that particular design any more, so I have only one (which is a pretty useless situation for obvious reasons).

I would never have thought of trying something smaller.

Foilling Around
-15th March 2014, 11:08
Fencers have a habit of tensing the shoulder and neck, which results in lifting of the weapon arm from above and slows down movement. Rather you should be carrying the arm from below using the muscles bow the shoulder blade and the lats.

As above the disclaimer that I am no expert, but I have suffered from shoulder stiffness problem throughout my fencing. It also gives away you intentions to your opponent. To move, you have to relax a stiff shoulder and this involuntary movement can be picked up by you opponent either consciously or unconsciously.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

coach carson
-15th March 2014, 11:13
Also, don't think about the white bear!

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-mishaps/201009/dont-think-about-it

Better to work on the solution (core stability, spine alignment, mental approach to the game), than worry about the symptom (tense shoulder).

ChrisHeaps
-15th March 2014, 19:14
Hi!

I suffered from this problem for so long and still do and have had coach after coach saying "relax!" Easier said than done. I was helped with some great advice from Yves Carnac, and am now getting better. The problem for me was twofold, leaning forward as Chris said and poor execution of arm movement in the lunge. The key for was realising that at the end of the hit my hand needs to be as high as my head and my sword arm shoulder should be the same level as my non sword arm shoulder. To do this you must relax. Check out this video to help you realise what it should look like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY0LwH47n6Y

Look at where his hand is when he completes the hit and look at the equal level of his shoulders. I'd say this visualisation (and mental internalisation) of your movement will help you much more than exercises away from the piste. Everytime you lunge for real perform a quick self critique, how was my form? was I approaching the ideal? What goes for the lunge I think also applies to anytime we stick our arm out.

Hope this helps :D

pinkelephant
-15th March 2014, 23:09
That's my baby in that video! I've never seen him in kit that clean.

Foilling Around
-15th March 2014, 23:40
My comment on the video is that the demonstrations with and without the weapon are different. When James lunges with weapon in hand his hand is shoulder high, as it should be. The hand only rises above the shoulder after the hit has landed. When he does the demonstration with no weapon his hand goes above shoulder height before the lunge commences. Lunge in front of a mirror so that you can get an idea of what your form looks like to an opponent.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Pete Eames
-16th March 2014, 09:57
I too have the same problem, but over more years. Over the past few months I have been working on this. Perhaps practice repetitively hitting a lunge pad but with your total focus on doing it relaxed. can be done with both straight thrusts or after a parry / series of parries, then over time move on to doing it with footwork. Perhaps also use a mirror and watch for when your shoulder tenses as you extend, you might see how obvious it is (mine was) . Recognise when it doesn't tense and repeat until that gets embedded into your muscle memory. However don't suddenly start doing loads of hitting practice, as this can cause different problems. Increase gradually.

christopherwms
-17th November 2014, 05:09
I have had that problem and was only able to partially fix it due to a super strict coach.

The issue(for me atleast) is that the feet are too close together and that I wasn't sitting down low enough in my legs. Look up Peter Westbrook on youtube. Peter westbrook also said that to change direction from retreating to advancing you should lower yourself by atleast 1".

I will warn you. When I started out doing fotwork properly I had to take a break every 30-seconds to avoid re-enforcing the bad habits.

Harryscott
-17th November 2014, 09:51
I think the time when we feel tense,we can learn more.



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I spy another bot

Shivi
-17th November 2014, 20:36
I have had that problem and was only able to partially fix it due to a super strict coach.

Me too - fixed by a stern fencing master who threatened to whack me across the offending shoulder with the flat of his blade whenever I tensed up. I don't remember if he ever actually did it but I do know that whenever he raised his foil in a certain threatening way, I dropped the shoulder and 'relaxed' in a hurry.

I suppose muscle memory eventually takes over.

pcooper
-18th November 2014, 21:59
Some other

A few essays on Alexander Technique and Fencing. Start with this one (http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeegyz6/id1.html).

Intu flow joint mobility. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1aLdYgfr3M) Practiced by some of the US national team.

Mediation and progressive relation. (http://www.mindtools.com/stress/RelaxationTechniques/PhysicalTechniques.htm)

Do you have the link for the Alexander technique essay on Fencing?

Adam Blight
-27th November 2014, 11:20
I recall discussing this problem with the shoulder in a group session and a parent watching who had been in the army and fought in recent conflicts commented that when he had had to use his bayonet he had found the same problem, I didn't enquire about the details of this.