Fencing classes and training sessions commonly have a need for a drill format for warm-up, review of skills, and for the first stages of a new skill. The simplest format to meet this need is the preparatory group drill.
Preparatory group drills work the fencer as an individual, not as a fencer working with an opponent. The fencers may be disposed in any formation that allows for effective control by the coach, although a line formation is the most commonly used. Because fencers are not facing or working with an opponent, masks and jackets are not required, although fencers should have them readily available in case the coach wishes to demonstrate with a partner or do a short corrective check lesson. The drill moves in one axis (typically forward and backward) with all fencers moving in the same direction, thus maintaining a safe separation from each other.
This drill pattern is suitable for situations:
… in which a partner is not required because of the nature of the activity (for example, group practice against wall mounted lunging targets),
… where fencers are responding to instructor movement or commands (for example, footwork drills led by the instructor), and
… when the drill involves practice of parts of skills that will be practiced as a complete skill in paired drills (for example, having the students practice the blade movement of a circular parry before having them execute exchange drills of a circular parry and riposte against a disengage attack by the partner).
The use of the drill to practice parts of skills has two potential positive outcomes. First, for the fencer who already knows the intended complete skill, this allows isolation and perfection of a part of the action without the distraction of an opponent and the rest of the skill. For those learning a new skill, this approach can be used to develop familiarity with the concept of the skill, to teach the names of the parts, and to automate the basic flow of action through an initial set of repetitions. The main body of new skill acquisition is then developed using paired drills.
This drill format may be particularly effective in introducing fencers to visualization as a practice technique. Fencers can visualize a threat and execute actions against the threat. From this they can be taught to visualize both threat and action, and start to use this technique for mental practice.
Although the preparatory group drill is a simple and basic drill format, it can be used with students at all levels of performance. The addition of visualization, increased speed, use of tactical problems, ideomotoric drills, and other techniques make this an appropriate training tool for even advanced fencers.