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NLSC Sabreur
-15th May 2003, 12:25
Clubs

Traditions can be the problem.

To get far in fencing you have to specialise. The top clubs in the UK are 1 or 2 weapon specialist clubs. But in the UK the general club is 3 weapons with some people doing a bit of everything and others only fencing the small number that fence their weapon.

What I'd like to see outside of the big cities is clusters of 3-4 clubs (operating on different nights) in nearby towns all teaching the same one weapon to all their beginners and don't teach them anything else in future. It may mean a reduction of choice of weapon but it means more opponents and standards will rise. As an sabreur I'd like to see sabre but foil and epeƩ are equally valid starting weapons.

Most small clubs teach steam foil with the timing that belongs to pre-World War II. Extend hand then lunge, point always aimed at target - may look nice but its not exactly modern foil.

Equipped with hopeless outdated foil technique fencers from small clubs then go into competitions and get turned into swiss cheese. They then go back into their club and say that everyone was far to good and its not worth going and it puts off others from going. Real problem wasn't that the all the other foilists were brilliant but that their little club has given them useless technique.

Modern flick hitting foil is very hard to teach and it requires that everyone has good safety equipment. But because most clubs can't afford top gear and over-plastrons etc they can't teach flicks safely. The solution to that lack of money is to teach another weapon. If you can't teach modern competitive foil properly then don't give people some handicapped version.

I have repeatedly heard that foil is the beginners weapon. Why I ask? Because its the beginners weapon that everyone starts with. Why? The only reason is that this is how its always been done. Foil as a starter weapon made sense in the 19th Century when sabres were like cleavers and epees likely to kill but not now.

Is foil a very simple weapon with no subtleties compared to the advanced weapons? Absolutely NOT.

To initially teach epee you can put foil blades in epee guards. The basics of epee are much simpler than sabre or foil and its clear that same epeeists use 2 or 3 techniques at most.

Sabre may look dangerous but its by far the safest weapon. Once you have calmed down any overexcited beginners then you can proceed. Sabre is fast, exciting and people can easily take hitting with an edged weapon.

Last person to die in fencing was a French Junior squad foilist. Modern foil with flick hitting can be very dangerous. Properly equipped and supervised modern foil should the beginners introduction to modern competitive foil teaching them. Ancient steam technique will just give them a timing that they will need to unlearn.

Cyranox11
-15th May 2003, 13:34
Hi Sabreur

In South Africa, most of our clubs (especially in Gauteng and the Free State) specialise in epee. We start the beginners' training with foil (for pedagogical reasons) and VERY quickly switch them to epee (usually within 3-4 weeks).

This does result in people having more people of similar ability to fence against. It also cuts down on the need for referees in training, as well as speeding up a fencers progression from lessons to free bouting (there is no need to explain right of way, target etc).

However, it also results, imho, in a relatively high turn-over of fencers: epee is not suited to all people and people who drop out MAY have stuck around had there been other options open to them.

This startegy also results in the relative decline of the other weapons in the region or country.

I would say that this strategy is a viable one for a country with a small number of fencers and a relatively low standard of refereeing and limited opportunities for international competition (it is vital to be up to date with the current refereeing conventions for success in foil and sabre: epee obviates the need for this).

However for a country with a large number of fencers, access to regular international competition and adequate refereeing diversification will result in better results, more fencers and a stronger fencing community.

As far as your opinions re foil go, I can only disagree. Foil is still a very good tool for teaching fencing to the beginner: it is more easily manipulated, thus speeding up the learning process. Hits with the foil are typically not as hard as with the epee (an important factor for many beginners who may be afraid of getting hurt or hurting their opponent) and hard slashes are minimised whereas the beginer sabreur is likely to make these quite often (how many people may flee before you have calmed down the overzealous 'bully' in the group).

I wouldnt say that you should MASTER foil before moving on, but it is a valuable tool. I would prefer to use the foil until the student has learned the lateral and circular parries, as well as the disengage and the double. Then fencers can start to specialise.

Additionally, the classical foil actions are the basis of all fencing actions they are necessary to learn the basics of distance, point control etc, true they cant be slavishly adhered to but they are nevertheless vital to a fencers development.

As you say 'the basics of epee are much simpler than sabre or foil and its clear that same (sic) epeeists use 2 or 3 techniques at most'. This is the problem with teaching epee to a beginner too soon: they learn a few actions that work well against their peers, get to a level and then consistently get beaten by people who are more rounded fencers. They then have to unlearn old habits or leave the sport as they are disillusioned with it. I have seen this with students I have coached (those who have switched to epee despite my reservations) as well as with fencers coached by others.

In my experience the fencer who has learned sound foil basics and then moves to epee is a far superior fencer to the one who learned epee from the begining (or switched too soon). I have very little sabre experience to draw on so I won't pass comment on that.

I cannot agree that 'Modern foil with flick hitting can be very dangerous'. The worst misdirected flick that I have received was no where near as sore as the worst wild slash from a poorly trained sabreur.

lazy_cat
-15th May 2003, 14:44
At their very best the three weapons, are as distinct as three different sports. I've always used the analogy, of tennis, table tennis & squash. An outsider would see three sports where you hit a ball with racquet of varying size, if you do one you must do all??? But you wouldn't expect Pete Sampras to win against Peter Nicol on a squash court??? As much as you wouldn't expect Golubitsky to win against Pozdniakov in a sabre much!

Of course there are generic skills (footwork, hand-eye coordination), but then ultimately the weapons are very different, you only have to look at numerous other threads through out this forum, particluar in the referees section to undrestand that!

Depending on what you want to get out of fencing, there's no really point of only competing in foil competitions, but then fencing all three weapons at club, and then complaining that you no good. As you've fallen in to that jack of all trades, master of none trap. If the social side of fencing is more important to you, then that may of be no concern. But to really progress spealisation is the way to go. As to which weapon that is in, that's down to personality rather than anything else.

Why not teach all three weapons at an early stage and then letting the pupil decide what he/she wants to do? Rather than saying you will fence this weapon, or you can only fence Epee and Sabre after a year of being confused by rights of way in foil!!

Cyranox11
-15th May 2003, 15:02
Lazy Cat,

You are of course correct regarding specialization. At the elite level the three weapons are indeed very different, yet at the (very) basic level they are almost identical, the issue is how best to achieve the best result at the highst level. To teach all 3 weapons at the begining would, imho, be of little value, rather choose the weapon that gives the best introduction and then introduce the other weapons to the students.

In SA we are unfortunate/fortunate (?) enough to be able to specialise in one weapon but fence all 3 without hurting our results in the other weapons. 2 of our top 4 epeeists are in the top 4 of foil and sabre as well: indeed, given the small number of fencers in SA the more weapons you fence, the more you fence, the quicker your results improve.

Our top epeeists ONLY train epee and fence foil/sabre at competitions only.

NLSC Sabreur
-15th May 2003, 15:04
Originally posted by Cyranox11
Hi Sabreur

However for a country with a large number of fencers, access to regular international competition and adequate refereeing diversification will result in better results, more fencers and a stronger fencing community.

There are a lot of fencers in the UK compared to far more internationally successfull countries like Spain but the talent in the UK is spread over the entire country and most fencers are of the casual recreational type. In a club with 9 competitive epeeists the competition and variety of different epee styles will lead improve the epeeists greatly. If you have 3 competitive epeeists there will be much less improvement and the danger from fighting such a small number so often they pick up bad habits.

As far as your opinions re foil go, I can only disagree. Foil is still a very good tool for teaching fencing to the beginner: it is more easily manipulated, thus speeding up the learning process. Hits with the foil are typically not as hard as with the epee (an important factor for many beginners who may be afraid of getting hurt or hurting their opponent) and hard slashes are minimised whereas the beginer sabreur is likely to make these quite often (how many people may flee before you have calmed down the overzealous 'bully' in the group).

I fight fence at North London Sabre Club, which is not surprisingly Sabre only. We have never had a problem with out of control fencers or bullies. Problem individuals do exist but you make it clear from the beginning what is acceptable and if they don't keep to that they can't fight.


I wouldnt say that you should MASTER foil before moving on, but it is a valuable tool. I would prefer to use the foil until the student has learned the lateral and circular parries, as well as the disengage and the double. Then fencers can start to specialise.

Lateral, circular, disengage, double these don't sound like the key modern foil techniques to me. It does sound like you are teaching epee techniques with a foil blade which is also how I think epee should initially taught to reduce bruising to fencers.


Additionally, the classical foil actions are the basis of all fencing actions they are necessary to learn the basics of distance, point control etc, true they cant be slavishly adhered to but they are nevertheless vital to a fencers development.

I don't see where classical foil contains basis for flick shots to the back (which seem to be the prefered attack for many foilists).

Foil, epee and sabre have different distance. There is no reason why you can't learn distance and point control with sabre or epee. With epee you will need arm plastrons for anyone working with beginners. Do any of the following countries start fencers with classical foil: Russia, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy?


As you say 'the basics of epee are much simpler than sabre or foil and its clear that same (sic) epeeists use 2 or 3 techniques at most'. This is the problem with teaching epee to a beginner too soon: they learn a few actions that work well against their peers, get to a level and then consistently get beaten by people who are more rounded fencers. They then have to unlearn old habits or leave the sport as they are disillusioned with it. I have seen this with students I have coached (those who have switched to epee despite my reservations) as well as with fencers coached by others.

I understand your point but with specialisation of clubs they would have more epeeists to fight and so are far more likely to have to use a greater range of technique.

In my experience the fencer who has learned sound foil basics and then moves to epee is a far superior fencer to the one who learned epee from the begining (or switched too soon). I have very little sabre experience to draw on so I won't pass comment on that.
From all that I've heard it is standard practice in the highly succesfull international countries to start with the weapon that they always use. (In Germany (other countries?) they might have to do 6 weeks foot work before they can pick up a blade.) Learning footwork maybe the key (UK epeeists footwork is often poor or near non-existant)

I cannot agree that 'Modern foil with flick hitting can be very dangerous'. The worst misdirected flick that I have received was no where near as sore as the worst wild slash from a poorly trained sabreur. [/QUOTE]

(I have to admit that my statement 'Modern foil with flick hitting can be very dangerous' is exageration.)

Before running was outlawed sabre in the UK could certainly be violent but still far less dangerous than epee. Poorly trained sabreurs are a problem and the key is to stop them chopping from the beginning. In club it should be clear that if someone starts to chop you can immediately refuse to fight them until they cut correctly. Any competitor hitting hard at a competition should be carded. Choppers with sabre allow attacks on their preparation, hard hits at epee are just part of epee. Foil flicks landing flat are extremely sore but not dangerous. Flicks need to be delivered with power to make the blade bend (alternatively you can have a very flicky blade but that makes other control very hard). Current epee blades are designed to break with non-dangerous flat surface, foils no matter what the shape of the broken end. Epee primary target is arm and even a bad penetration will not be too dangerous. The danger of the foil is a broken blade hitting top of the chest where lungs are vulnerable. The big threat in epee use to be penetration of the mask, through or under the bib but I believe modern 1600N are good protection.

randomsabreur
-15th May 2003, 15:21
In France, they usually start with foil, for children at least. The only U9 competitions are at foil. Sabre starts at U11 for competitions and epee at U13. The club where I was started the small (5 year old) children with size 0 foils and there was footwork, admittedly basic and game based from the start. Some kids did sabre as well.

This club was small(ish) for France (approx 120 members in all age groups) and I don't know if it was typical

Cyranox11
-15th May 2003, 15:23
Hey Sabreur,
Interesting points.

I am of course writing from my experience in SA, you from GBR...

Most SA fencers are also recreational, but we do have a fairly high concentration of competitive senior fencers in Johannesburg with a few more in Cape Town (1 200kms apart), where the majority of competitive juniors are based.

So I do know what you mean...

I still say that the UK is probably better off with divesification...

I have seen people getting away with murder in sabre simply because no-one was willing to fight back or card them, then when they come up against some-one who does it gets nasty :eek:

I think you are generalising way too much regarding flicks and modern foil fencing. A friend who recently returned from the UK has said that UK foil is VERY 'flicky' and probably more so than you are likely to see at most world champs etc...

I use doubles, disengages, lateral, circular and semi-circular parries as well as the full array of flicks and flick defences. Having the classical repertoire is hugely useful in modern foil... At least in my admittedly limited experience... Anyone who ONLY flicks will not last long. The flick is another tool to be used at the right time and place.

Interestingly, the worst injuries seem to be mainly from epee: the worst inhury I have witnessed occured when an epee broke on the fencers forearm. The blade 'flicked' on to the other fencers chest, fracturing a rib and this resulted in the puncturing of a lung. The blade was a maraging blade and the fencer was wearing FIE kit...

BTW maraging foils also break with a flat edge.

I have had a foil break on me: I was fleching he did a conter-attack with a lunge (messy but what can you do).

The blade broke, tore my lame and damaged my 800 N jacket BUT I didnt even feel it: foil hits are much lighter than epee hits (in my experience).

Muso440
-15th May 2003, 18:08
Originally posted by NLSC Sabreur


Most small clubs teach steam foil with the timing that belongs to pre-World War II. Extend hand then lunge, point always aimed at target - may look nice but its not exactly modern foil.


As a beginner, and having been taught precisely that, I'm quite disturbed by this! Am I doing it all wrong? :confused:

What should I be doing instead?

Mongoose
-15th May 2003, 18:16
Personally I wouldn't be particularly interested in joining a club which fenced only one weapon.

I know I will always be jack of all trades and master of none, but thats the way I like to be. I don't aim to be able to out fence a top class foilist with his chosen weapon, I would much rather be able to give a good account of myself with any weapon I pick up, be it foil, sabre, epee, longbow, shotgun, rifle, pistol. All have their unique charms and requirements, and yet also all have their similarities.

Laurence
-15th May 2003, 22:21
you said that the last person to be killed was a junior foilist, i'm just thinking that may be an advantage of foil, that it kills french foilists. too many of them i say.

Cyranox11
-16th May 2003, 07:05
Laurence,
The real problem is that too many of the buggers survive!
We need to do something about these pesky safety requirements...

ceprab
-16th May 2003, 12:11
Originally posted by Muso440
As a beginner, and having been taught precisely that, I'm quite disturbed by this! Am I doing it all wrong? :confused:

What should I be doing instead?

If you are doing what you have been taght keep at it. I can't agree with Sabreur on the basic foil techniques being medieval. The first things you need to know how to do are the traditional attacks. You can only really begin to move on when you know the basics. Possibly traditional foil techniques are more useful for epee the way foil tends to be fought in the UK, but you still need those techniques first. If you think you know those bits and need to move on ask your coach about flicking. Trust the coach's judgement. They've been in the business a lot longer than you have.

randomsabreur
-16th May 2003, 15:22
Hand before foot is an essential cardinal rule in fencing

It often needs to be exaggerated at the beginning, otherwise it will get forgotten in the excitement of a match.

It is better that the hand is a little too early than too late!

Muso440
-16th May 2003, 18:17
Phew! All that practice wasn't for nothing...

Rdb811
-17th May 2003, 00:32
Specialisation smacks of relying on mere hard work rather than effortless superiority.

Steam foils are nice soft and bendy, the effective target area is big and there are lots of coaches and othr beginners; the point control applies to epee, the footwork and right of way to sabre. Also some people enjoy 'the conversation of the blade' and achieving technical excellance rather than competiitive skill.

Learning all three weapons long enough to get a genuine understanding of them does give some feedback into one's 'home' weapon.

The problem is to encourage beginners to do this early on, before their foil tehnique becomes engrained.

The comments about the technique being taught being old fashioned are in fact a comment on the poor qualiy of foil presiding, not of the tuition.

(And I said 'effective' target area, not actual target area).

Marcos
-5th May 2006, 15:32
personally I totally agree with NLSC's arguement that success is gained more readily where you have specialisation in a club.

say a club has thirty people, it is far more competitive within the club to have them all fencing the same weapon rather than having 10 of each.

if you are training in an environment where you have to be in good form to even be the number 1 in your club, imagine how much more competitive you will be in competition.

Recreational clubs where 6W are taught are well and good - I teach in a university club where recreation as well as success is the ethos - but it leads often to a plateuing of standared - the top 2 or 3 in each weapon, unless especially motivated, reach a good standared (say equivalent to top 100 UK) but possibly not as high as they could (say top 40)

In Spain, to pick up on a country NLSC mentions, clubs, including university clubs, are often just one weapon - e.g

Madrid Autonoma University teaches just Epee (no soft foils). By the time students, men and women, leave after three or four years they are nearly all fencing to a UK top 40 standared.

gbm
-5th May 2006, 16:00
I was reading this thread, and disagreeing with all the things NLSC Sabreur was saying.
Flicks to back in foil being vital?
Lateral and circular disengages not being modern foil technique!
Then I realised Marcos has just resurrected a 3 year old thread.

I love the new timings :)

J_D
-6th May 2006, 09:51
Ditto GBM

I also felt that NSLC had some valid points regarding which weapon to start with. Certainly specialization is the way to go to achieve success.

John Rohde
-6th May 2006, 12:05
The only problem with specialisation is that one weapon has to fit all who happen to wash up at the club.
On the other hand, I think different weapons on different nights is a lot easier on the brain.

NLSC Sabreur
-8th May 2006, 09:21
A resurrection indeed.

New timings probably have changed some basic needs at foil.

I still believe that one weapon per club is the way to go for the circumstances in the UK. If you have a huge venue available most nights of the week with at least one good coach for every weapon and you can draw in large numbers of beginners and fencers from other clubs then a 3 weapon club can do very well. But imagine how good your club standard is going to be if have 30 competitive fencers fencing each other instead of 3 lots of 10. Higher numbers always create a better 'ladder' (I am not suggesting a formal one though clubs use that) where a fencer coming in can fence individuals around their level, above their level and occasionally much higher. As someone gets better there is no fun being able to beat all of one set of people easily and the only other set are the top fencers who you are years away from closely matching. With lots of people to fight there is more variety without having to mess up your rhythm with another weapon (so more fun and better progress).

Switching an existing club of 3 weapons to one is not going to happen if most members have been happily fencing two or more weapons for years. But for a new club its the way to go and a lot cheaper on set up costs too. If people say why don't we add a weapon the answer is no.

AMC
-8th May 2006, 12:11
As a beginner, and having been taught precisely that, I'm quite disturbed by this! Am I doing it all wrong? :confused:

What should I be doing instead?
Nothing get a solid grounding in the basic's, otherwise you will have problems later on.

cian
-8th May 2006, 13:13
A resurrection indeed.

New timings probably have changed some basic needs at foil.

I still believe that one weapon per club is the way to go for the circumstances in the UK. If you have a huge venue available most nights of the week with at least one good coach for every weapon and you can draw in large numbers of beginners and fencers from other clubs then a 3 weapon club can do very well. But imagine how good your club standard is going to be if have 30 competitive fencers fencing each other instead of 3 lots of 10. Higher numbers always create a better 'ladder' (I am not suggesting a formal one though clubs use that) where a fencer coming in can fence individuals around their level, above their level and occasionally much higher. As someone gets better there is no fun being able to beat all of one set of people easily and the only other set are the top fencers who you are years away from closely matching. With lots of people to fight there is more variety without having to mess up your rhythm with another weapon (so more fun and better progress).

Switching an existing club of 3 weapons to one is not going to happen if most members have been happily fencing two or more weapons for years. But for a new club its the way to go and a lot cheaper on set up costs too. If people say why don't we add a weapon the answer is no.
We're practically a one weapon club, but one of the problems you'll find, and this probably only applies to university clubs, is that everything is set up as if you fence three weapons. When we go to the varsitites, we're expected to field a team in all three weapons, which for a single weapon club is obviusly somewhat difficult, and leads to most of us at least dabbling in another weapon on the basis that we'll have to fence it in competitions anyway.

Rdb811
-8th May 2006, 15:26
[quote=NLSC Sabreur]A resurrection indeed.

New timings probably have changed some basic needs at foil.

I still believe that one weapon per club is the way to go for the circumstances in the UK. [quote]

If applied historically that would have meant no sabre in the UK and very litte epee - even if applied today you would end up with no more tahn a dozen sabre clubs (tops) and not much more for epee. (Assuming each club / coach concentrated on their main strength).

Marcos
-8th May 2006, 15:42
We're practically a one weapon club, but one of the problems you'll find, and this probably only applies to university clubs, is that everything is set up as if you fence three weapons..

good point

when DCU was set-up 2 years ago I suggested that it should be a one weapon club, given that you have a couple of excellent epee-ists, and two superb epee coaches...spending money on foil lame's seemed a waste but I only signed the cheque...you guys run the club!

in UK and Ireland university tournaments are 6W

but who says you have to enter them all ?

at the recent Irish intervarsities, DCU did very well in WE and had a reasonable ME result...but were decimated in the other weapons...

if, like in my Madrid uni example or NLSC's posts, you concentrate on one weapon, and do well in it, why spend money on foils and sabres , at least until you are more established.

let epee comps be your measure of success

and I would say that is a formula for other start-up clubs

Marcos
-8th May 2006, 15:49
If applied historically that would have meant no sabre in the UK and very litte epee - even if applied today you would end up with no more tahn a dozen sabre clubs (tops) and not much more for epee. (Assuming each club / coach concentrated on their main strength).


not necessarily true - fencing in the UK got a second wind when coaches left East Europe - clubs majored in the weapon of these coaches.

but what if the UK were foil only ? maybe rather than floating around L64 in A grades in 6W, the UK would be consistent L32+ in foil (or WS)

randomsabreur
-8th May 2006, 16:12
Uni clubs who want to compete in BUSA Teams, must, at present at least, be 3W clubs.

BUSA matches are all 3W, winner is team which scores most points over team relays to 45. One match per weapon, sexes separate.

Availability of second weapon also has major advantages that if you are getting stale/frustrated with first weapon you can go and do a weapon where you take yourself rather less seriously...

But for serious competitive fencers/clubs, the dilution of effort/talent means that it is better to be single weapon.

Quite liked being able to mess around with a foil/epee on occasion...

Rdb811
-8th May 2006, 17:11
Let's assume you have three clubs within a reasonable distance of each other, but not close enough to be able to merge and taht each club has equal numbers at each weapon and the quality of the coaching is equal - the goosd fencers in a weapon of any of teh clubs could then go to the other two to train three nights a week - which they wouldn't be able to do if the clubs were one weapon.

In effect, by having one weapon clubs, you'd need three times the number of clubs (or fencers) in a region.

dferg
-8th May 2006, 18:06
Single weapon clubs would be fine in areas with a decent population density, but up here in the Northern Wastes they would be no use. As it is, we generally have one small club covering a significant geographical area. in the case of the island clubs it would be even worse.

As it happens, we currently have no sabreurs at our club and only a couple of epeeists (plus me, who is just learning epee, but not given up on foil either).

From my point of view as a 'jack of all weapons' I quite like the idea of being able to train in all at one club, though I know I'll never reach any great level with any of them if I chose to go down that road.

I think having all three at one club gives you the chance to play about while you are still learning in order to find what's best for you, or to become a "try anything" fencer if that is your inclination. It doesn't stop people from picking a weapon and sticking with it. Single weapon clubs (in areas like this) wouldn't give folk a better tranche of opponents as you'd still be drawing from a limited pool of participants, but you'd end up with three clubs a third of the size, which in our case would probably be unsustainable. At least the way things are you have the other people who specialise in your weapon PLUS specialist in other weapons who are prepared to "cross train" a bit, and generalists to fence against.

Just my tuppence worth.

Phil_Abel
-8th May 2006, 18:45
Should we really be judging the worth of a club on the rankings of its fencers?

Remember there are a lot of fencers who do not compete and just train for the love of fencing, for people like that (myself included) 3W clubs are far better.