Corrections in Individual Fencing Lessons I

The individual lesson on the plastron of the fencing master has long been the gold standard in the range of fencing lessons for the intermediate to advanced fencer. In this lesson format the student works one-on-one with his or her coach to learn a new skill, to understand its application, and to develop its execution in the bout situation. Because of this individual attention, there is a better chance to correct errors and to have those corrections be internalized by the athlete.

Corrections in individual lessons to a great extent depend on four elements: the intent of the lesson, the skill level of the student, the student’s level of correction response, and the closeness of the relationship between master and fencer. As a result the form of corrections is highly variable, both between students and even in corrections in different lessons with the same athlete.

The lesson objective determines the type and range of correction. In a teaching lesson, correction is similar to that in group lessons, with all of the corrective steps used in that type of lesson. In addition, student execution of the skill can be refined by continuous correction of that skill toward a desired range of performance.

The method of correction is different in the other common lesson types. In a training lesson, the assumption is that the student can execute the skill. As a result corrections are minimized and are only directed toward major deviations from the accepted range of performance. Correction now is mainly to increase speed and accuracy of performance, and is achieved by coach acceleration, narrowing of opportunities to hit, and by rewarding errors with a hit or serious threat of one. The same approach applies to bouting lessons. In training and bouting lessons those corrections not made by coach action can usually be achieved by reminding the experienced athlete of correct performance orally.

The warm-up lesson is a special case. The purpose of the warmup lesson is not to teach the athlete skills or tactics. Rather the objective is to get the fencer to a physiological and psychological state of readiness to perform at a high level in a competition. Corrections other than a reminder of one significant vulnerability and of tactical choices have the potential to confuse and even demoralize the athlete. The athlete is not going to learn and be able to apply a new skill by the pool round, and they are not going to fix major or even minor faults. The morning of the competition your fencer has what she has, and you job is to get the athlete ready to fight with that capability.

When you stand in front of your athlete to teach or to train or to prepare or to warm-up you must adjust your corrections to the goals and requirements of the lesson. Making the right types of corrections helps you teach a better lesson.