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6 Effective Techniques for Home Fencing Practice

6 Effective Techniques for Home Fencing PracticePracticing at your fencing club with classes and private lessons are the best way to progress forward in fencing, but working out at home is something that many students ask us about. There are some great techniques for working on specific fencing skills right from home.

One thing that we do want to emphasize here is that many of these skills are NOT good to practice at home for beginners. ALWAYS talk to your fencing coach before starting any home practice routine, as you could find yourself reinforcing bad techniques. If you practice footwork incorrectly a thousand times at home, you’re going to have a hard time breaking those habits. Make sure you’re doing any technique correctly before practicing it at home.

A final major consideration is space. The last thing you want to do is to knock things over or break things when you’re doing fencing practice. A large open space is a critical part of home fencing practice. Inside the house is completely possible, as long as the room is big enough to prevent a foil, epee, or sabre from hitting anything breakable. A garage is an ideal space – you can set up a home fencing practice area with everything you need.

1.    Mirror Footwork Drills

The footwork drills that you do at the club are perfect to do at home. Again, only do this with the blessing of your fencing coach!

What you’ll need:

  • A long mirror
  • Open space
  • Drills from your coach

What you’ll do:

  • Set up your long mirror horizontally to give you room to check on your lunge.
  • Use footwork drills that have the blessing of your coach.
  • Start off slow to ensure proper form – quality over quantity.
  • Vary tempo as you practice drills.

Working footwork for a few minutes every day can be incredibly helpful for fencers. Footwork is the basis of fencing, and it’s important for fencers to practice footwork with regularity. Ten minutes of footwork practice with a mirror every day for intermediate fencers and beyond supports growth in fencing.

2.    Still Target Practice

We know that actual fencers are a moving target, but working with a still target is still a great place to start for both form and accuracy. There are multiple ways to do this, and how you do it depends on the weapon you’re using and what kind of space you have.

Whatever target you use, you want to be sure that it’s not going to damage your weapon, so nothing too rigid. A practice dummy can be useful – you can find these through martial arts suppliers. Or a form like those used by seamstresses for making clothes, which you can find at fabric supply stores. You can also keep it REALLY simple and still get some effective practice by using a big piece of foam that you’ve marked spots on for targets. And of course you can purchase relatively inexpensive targets from your regular fencing gear supplier.

The point isn’t to have a fancy target – it’s to put the time in practicing.

What you’ll need:

  • Still target of your choice.
  • Your fencing weapon
  • Open space

What you’ll do:

  • Start off with touch only drills.
  • Move on to step forward touch drills.
  • Add more complex footwork in with time and guidance from your fencing coach.

The possibilities are nearly endless with even a simple target for fencing practice. It’s possible to work angles, tempo, footwork, and so much more with nothing more than a fixed target! Keep in mind that sabre can use the blade as well as the tip to score points, which means that a 3D target is a better option than a flat target, allowing fencers to strike just as they would in a match.

Target practice is great home fencing practice!

3.    Moving Target Practice

Though still target practice is wonderfully effective, moving target practice offers a whole nother dimension for fencing practice at home.

What you’ll need:

  • A ceiling hook (you’ll find these at hardware stores), or something sturdy to hang a target from.
  • A long thick string like yarn or twine.
  • A tennis ball or ping pong ball, depending on your preference.
  • Foil, epee, or sabre.
  • Open space.

What you’ll do:

  • Attach your hook to the ceiling per the instructions included, or whatever other hanging method you’ve chosen.
  • Tie your yard or twine to the ball of your choice. The smaller the ball, the more challenging the drill will be.
  • Tie the other end of the yarn or twine to the hook, with the ball dangling at about chest height of the fencer.
  • Drill sword control by thrusting towards the ball and hitting it with your sword.
  • Stop the ball each time you reset the drill.

The good thing about this drill is that it’s much more responsive than drilling with a stationary object. The movement of the ball means that this drill is much more challenging than a still object drill. It’s important for fencers to hone that ability to control the tip of the sword, particularly in epee and foil where that’s where the points are.

You can adjust the height and size of the ball to meet the skill level of the fencer. Keep in mind that opponents come in all shapes and sizes, and so should home drilling practice.

4.    Circle Drawing Drill

Another simple but effective method of drilling at home for sword control is to use spatial awareness in real space. In this drill, the fencer is going to practice drawing small circles with the tip of the blade.

What you’ll need:

  • Foil, sabre, or epee.
  • Open space.
  • Small targets – colored index cards are a great option.
  • Painters tape – it won’t leave any damage.

What you’ll do:

  • Attach a 4-6 index cards at various points around the room or on a wall.
  • Stand a sword’s length away from the targets.
  • Practice drawing circles around the cards in the air with the tip of the sword.

This sounds really simple, but simple is effective! Learning point control is a critical part of improving fencing technique. To make the drill more challenging, move farther away from the targets, make the targets smaller, or number the targets and practice circling them in random order.

5.    Video Drilling

All of us carry little video cameras in our pockets these days – it’s time to use them to help your fencing improve! This home practice technique can be done in conjunction with the techniques we’ve already reviewed – moving target practice, still target practice, and footwork drills. It’s a powerful technique!

What you’ll need:

  • Video camera – tablet, phone, or an actual camera
  • Open space

What you’ll do:

  • Set up your phone, tablet, or camera so that the full body is visible.
  • Press the record button.
  • Record movements for less than one minute (longer and you won’t be able to get the detail of your movement).
  • Review the video and determine what improvements should be made.
  • Repeat the process.

It’s often impossible to see problem areas when you’re looking in a mirror – there’s simply too much going on! Stepping back and watching video can cause “aha!” moments that you can’t get any other way.

One of the best parts about using this technique is that fencers can do it without assistance. Setting up a video camera with today’s technology is simple, even without help.

6.    Competition Review Drills

If you’re not getting video of your performance in fencing competition, then you’re missing out on one of the best methods for improving your performance.

What you’ll need:

  • Video of you fencing in competition

What you’ll do:

  • Review video of fencing matches – keep it in short batches, focusing on specific things to improve.
  • Use home drills that you already know to target issues you see.
  • Talk to your coach about other home drills to address issues you find in your fencing competition videos.
  • Implement the home drills that your coach advises!

This is a method of home practice that’s perfect for use during competition season. Reviewing tape of competitions performance is overall a great idea, whether you use it in conjunction with home drills or not. The sooner you can review video of your performance following a competition, the better. That’s because reviewing older competition footage is showing you how you used to fence – not how you fence right now.

Competitive fencers are very much intertwined with their coaches. During competition season especially, you want to make sure that any training you’re doing is in line with the advice of your fencing coach.

Some final thoughts on fencing home practice

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for fencers to work with their coach when developing a home practice routine. Working on fencing at home is a great idea, but only when done under the supervision of an experienced fencing coach.

Parents often want to help their children structure fencing practice at home so that they can see the most improvement possible. Here’s a blog post with video about home fencing drills that parents can use. This is a great way for you to get your young fencer off to a good start.

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1 Comment

  1. R

    3D targets are also effective for foil flick practice – and preferable to beating on your clubmate when you land flat. 😉

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