Types of Lesson

Because a coach has to develop a pupil is area other than technical fencing skills, e.g. physical abilities (hand strength/dexterity, leg strength/explosive power, core strength/balance/flexibility); cognitive abilities (perception of movement/depth of movement/changes in speed and rhythm, analysis of opponents intentions/capabilities and tactical/strategic planning various distinct lesson types are evident:

1. Teaching Lesson

New moves or concepts are introduced and their execution is perfected. The coach will follow the mnemonic IDEAR to structure the session. I = Introduce the material. E = Explain why it is important. D = Demonstrate the move or concept, full speed, in sequential parts noting important points to be noted, at full speed again a couple of times to help consolidate the move in the memory of the pupil. A = Action is performed by the pupil a  few times. R = Repeated attempts to perfect and consolidate the movement by the pupil. Positive feedback is provided by the coach that’s limited the scope to the major issues to be resolved in turn (don’t over load the pupil), move on to less important issues once the major issues have been resolved.

2. Coaching or Perfecting Lessons

Using moves or concepts that the pupil already knows the aim is to increase the level of effectiveness under variable conditions and higher levels of physical stress (raised heart rate). Effectiveness can be measured in terms of technical perfection, speed and correct tactical application. The coach or, later, the fencer may initiate the ‘phrase’. The action may be practised with no reaction from the coach and in ‘blocked’ form. The coach may react in one simple form to which the fencer has to complete the phrase in the appropriate way. Alternately the coach may react in a range of ways requiring the fencer to react with a choice of reaction. As the fencer progresses this type of lesson may be extended so that the fencer meets a series of ‘decision points’ during the phrase.

3. Tactical Lessons

Using moves and concepts already known to the pupil the aim is to get them to employ these in the correct tactical sense, i.e. in accordance with the short and long tactical wheels. At first under low stress and only increasing this as their decision making and application improves. Starting with few options and moving to more options being used.

4. Check-Up Lesson

This has two applications. A) To see if a topic taught in a group lesson has been learned correctly by members of the group (if only 1 or 2 didn’t get it they need more help, if most didn’t get it then coach need to review lesson given). B) When a fencer returns from a competition it is likely they have had an ‘escape of technique’ due to the stress of the event, they will need re-educating with good technique, timing etc. This lesson will help in making a plan for future lessons.

5. Warm-Up Lesson

Prior to the first bout of a competition/round/direct elimination the coach can usefully give a short lesson. Depending on the fencer’s reaction to the stress of the event the aim can be to either invigorating the fencer or alternatively calm them. Either way the required result is to bring the fencer to a state in which they can performance optimally.

6. Bouting Lesson

The coach performs the role of the opponent in a bout like situation. The coach will have to have the ability to simulate opponents who have varying tactical styles. A coach who can fence with either hand is at an advantage in this respect. The book Theory, Method and Exercises in Fencing by Ziemek Wojciechowski covers this topic very nicely.

7. Capacity Lesson

The lesson might also seek to increase the fencers resistance to fatigue. If the main objective is to work on the physical resistance to fatigue the range of move used can be limited but with much physical activity used. If the main objective is to work on the mental resistance to fatigue lower the physical demands but require more complex decision making (high number of options to be considered). It is important that the lesson is delivered in short sharp bursts as a mirror to the competition environment.

8. Left Handed Lesson

Only c.10% of the population are left handed and a club might have a similar ratio. You may not have a left handed fencer at your club but the last place to learn the differences in distance, target displacement and timing are on the piste at a competition. Your coach must be able to coach and/or fencer left handed to a reasonable level to give you the necessary experience. If your coach is naturally left handed they must learn the opposite hand too although, the opportunity to practice against right handers isn’t such a problem.