If you’re tired of always fencing the same people, you’re not alone. The reality is most clubs have a limited pool of training partners. Maybe you live in a place where fencing is not as popular. Maybe you’re in college. Maybe you don’t want to switch clubs. Either way, there’s a solution for your problem.
When you fence the same couple of people, getting the most out of practice and improving your fencing skills can be challenging. You know exactly what actions work on your clubmates and they know what works on you, too. Same actions, same footwork, same distance, same timing, etc.
If you want to avoid getting stuck, here’s an idea that will change your life forever: deliberate practice.
Simply put, deliberate practice is practicing at an optimal level of difficulty. Not too easy, not too hard. In other words, practice something that is challenging, yet achievable.
When you practice at an optimal level of difficulty, things that used to be challenging eventually become easier. When something becomes too easy, you step up the level of difficulty again. And then you keep repeating this process.
Below is a depiction of deliberate practice created by pianist Chris Donnelly, who is an expert in the subject.
What does this mean for fencing? If you know an action always works on your clubmates, stop doing that! Challenge yourself to score in new ways that are difficult for you. Step outside of your comfort zone. If you’ve mastered point touches, practice flicking. If your defense is super solid, focus on attacking. If your sixth parry is perfect, work on your first parry.
Deliberate practice is an intentional form of practice. It involves tackling your weaknesses so that you can turn them into strengths. It requires creativity and effort. By nature, it is not fun. Nobody likes doing something that they’re not good at yet – but that’s exactly why you should do it: so that you can improve.
Eventually, you might reach the moment where you’ve perfected all of the things you could at your club. At one point, you might realize that you’re the strongest person in the group. When you reach that stage, it means that it’s time to move on to something bigger. But, the philosophy is that you never stop. If you’re always challenging yourself, you’ll never stop growing.
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