Group lessons can come in several forms:
- Where the coach teaches a topic to the class from one of the weapon gradings this could be new material or a re-cap of previous material to consolidate learning. Initially the class copies the move being taught. For example, the coach demonstrates how to advance on the piste, the class then copy the movement in time with the coach. Later the class applies the skill in a more fight-like situation, doing the opposite of what the coach does. For example, the class knows how to advance and retreat, so on the coaches retreat the class advances and vice versa keeping the same distance to the coach at all times. In such a way the performance of an important basic fencing skill is improved. This is a good way to pass information on to many fencers at once. But it’s difficult to monitor the progress of everyone in the class at the same time. Giving specific detailed corrective instruction to one pupil can waste the time of the many who have already ‘got it’. Additional ‘mini-lessons’ are also needed to make sure everyone keeps up with the group.
- Where the fencers are put into pairs and do drills, based on known moves. One fencer plays the role of leader/coach and their partner acts as the follower/fencer. This activity can be used as a follow up to the previous method or where a group of pupils have received the same individual lessons and need practice to help consolidate and perfect the move. This is a good way to monitor each fencer as they practice with their partner as the coach looks on. Good also for not interrupting the progress of the rest of the group when helping one fencer or a pair of fencers improve their performance.
The pairs drills can be used to consolidate new learning at one end of the spectrum right the way through to the tactical application of technique and timing in bout like scenarios. pupils must concentrate and apply themselves to these activities to make the best possible progress. However, the coach must pitch each part of the lesson at the right level to keep both partners engaged. Too easy or too challenging and minds will wonder after a short period. The ‘sweet spot’, where this process works well, will vary with the material being practised, the age and motivation of the fencers and also their physical and mental state.
It is important that the pairs are changed on a regular basis. This stops them becoming bored and stops the fencers become ‘locked’ into the others timing and distance. The ability to adapt timing, technique and tactics to new opponents is a fundamental skill in fencing.
From group lessons only so much can to gained, the finer points of fencing can only be acquired during individual lessons.