Most fencing drills focus on performance of one skill, or a single skill for each of the two fencers paired for the drill. Technical development of the skill is the objective. However, it is possible to use drills to develop tactical decision-making. One such drill is the Analysis/Commitment Drill.
As the name implies, there are two components to this drill. The analysis component consists of observing and analyzing the drill opponent’s actions. The commitment portion is based on deciding on a course of action and executing it without hesitation and with full speed and power.
The process requires both fencers and the coach to be engaged:
(1) The coach assigns a pair of actions to the fencer who will respond to initiating fencer’s movement. For example, the responding fencer might choose either a lateral parry of 6th or one of 4th.
(2) The coach assigns a pair of actions to the initiating fencer that logically will defeat the responder’s actions. For example, the initiator might choose between a straight thrust and a disengage.
(3) Without conversing with the other fencer, and based only on their best assessment of what that fencer’s action will be, the two fencers choose the action they will execute. When the choice is made the fencer announces “ready.”
(4) On the command “fence,” both fencers execute their chosen action at full speed with full commitment to the action. The fencers may not change the action in mid execution – for the responder, the choice is either correct, defeating the opponent’s action, or incorrect, resulting in a hit (or at least a well delivered miss for those who are accuracy challenged). The reverse is true for the initiating fencer.
(5) The fencers then analyze what they have observed in this trial to determine their actions for the next repetition of the drill. Initially, choices will be largely guesses. However, as the two fencers repeat the drill, they will eventually detect tells or patterns that reveal the opponent’s course of action. Vincent Bradford, who first described this drill, suggests 7 to 10 repetitions before switching roles. I suggest that you run a complete 15 repetition cycle, based on one side of the direct elimination bout, to give ample chance for analysis to work.
For a fencer executing an attack, this drill rewards full commitment to the attack. Obviously a choice based on a correct analysis of the defending fencer’s course of action will hit easily. However, a correctly executed full commitment attack may also defeat a defense that should be successful but that is poorly executed.
At the simplest level, this drill can be executed from an essentially static position with the fencers only employing a lunge. A more realistic and more challenging drill introduces footwork preparation by the initiator, with appropriate footwork choices by the responder.
The advantages of the analysis/commitment drill lie in its two primary components. Fencers receive training in executing the skills, much as they would in any drill. However, at the same time they are learning to study the opponent’s actions and make predictions of future actions. And based on that observation and prediction they are learning to make tactical choices and full commit to the success of those choices. This drill format will help you develop better tacticians with enhanced fighting spirit.