Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Why are fencing private lessons so short?

Why are fencing private lessons so short?Lately we’ve had a few new parents asking me why fencing private lessons are 20 min INSTEAD of 1 hour as they are accustomed to in other activities – like tennis or piano for example. It seems to many as though private lessons that are so short can’t possibly be as effective as those that are three times as long – longer is just better right? More is more?

There are some great reasons why fencing lessons are shorter, and it’s very much worth explaining why they are necessarily different than the lessons that happen in other sports or activities. Here are 6 reasons why to help offer some clarity.

1.  Stamina

Fencing lessons are difficult physically and very intense intellectually. We are working a wide variety of muscle groups and pushing the body and mind quite hard during these bouts. And we like that intensity, finding that it’s important to push students during their private lessons. Young fencers simply don’t have the physical and mental stamina to go for an hour in a fencing lesson. That’s not to say that these young people aren’t marvelous or that there’s something wrong with being able to keep that intensity up for twenty minutes instead of an hour. What it boils down to is that we are meeting our students at the level that they’re at in order to help them to get the most out of their fencing experience.

2.  Focus

Your children not only need to perform great footwork, but also understand the new moves, technique and timing. In a twenty minute lesson, there’s time to focus on just one or a few skills, to really zero in on those things that need to be fixed rather than moving through a long list of skills that will quickly be forgotten. Think of these twenty minute lessons as being targeted teaching time, a magnifying glass that pulls all of the effort into one spot so that we’re able to achieve the progress in the skills that we’re looking for. Longer lesson times would mean a loss of that focus and the fine tuning of skills that are necessary in order for fencers to become better at the sport.

3.  Spaced out practice

When we’re practicing something, doing it all in one go isn’t nearly as good as spacing it out. Spending an hour practicing the same movements again and again doesn’t dig it into the brain as well as doing it for twenty minutes now, twenty minutes later today and then twenty minutes tomorrow. That’s how we develop good habits that have staying power – by replaying the same physical and mental actions again and again over time. Sometimes when parents demand one hour lesson for their kids,  I smile and ask them  to go home, stand in front of a mirror in a proper low fencing stance and move back and forth in a good foot work nonstop. It is hard, right? But by doing it in a lesson, then later in class, then at home, we find that those good habits are come easier.

4.  Imitation of competition

Can you imagine a fencing bout lasting for a half hour? Or an hour? That’s pretty ridiculous right – fencing bouts last for nine minutes, with three time periods that last for three minutes each. Contrast that to a tennis game, which goes for a half hour to an hour or even longer depending on how good the players are. Our fencing lessons are about twice the length of a fencing bout, where normal tennis lessons are about twice the length of a tennis game. So really, they’re not that different!

5.  Fencing level

Fencing lessons cannot be one hour long, at least not before the child has progressed to the international level of fencing. Sometimes a coach that trains competitive fencers will progress to double lessons that are 40 minutes long if the fencer is training for high level competitions. However it’s also incredibly common for those double lessons to revert back to twenty minutes  if the coach sees that it’s no longer effective, or if new information shows that it is too heavy for the fencer. Just as in fencing, flexibility and openness are key parts of getting lessons right.

6.  Effectiveness

The bottom line here is that fencing lessons are twenty minutes long because we’ve found that it’s effective through years of trial and error. Fencing bouts that last longer have been tried with novice fencers and for all of the reasons listed above, they just didn’t work nearly as well as these short form lessons. This also just isn’t something that’s true for our club – these short lessons are the standard throughout modern fencing. The twenty minute lesson length is the what fencing has moved to because we see the wonderful results with fencers.

Recognizing the cost

We do want to take a moment here to recognize that that private lessons, while necessary, are an additional cost that parents have to consider. It can also take a long time for fencing lessons to add up to real products on the other end that parents can see, and those months in between can understandably leave parents asking “is this worth the investment?” The answer is certainly yes.

Fencing clubs offer lessons at this length not in an effort to make families pay more money, but because these lessons have proved to be effective for fencers, an effectiveness that has been shown to be true over a long period of time and through many fencers. Be patient with the process and trust that the rewards are going to be on the other end eventually. You don’t be disappointed because the refinement in technique and skill is fantastic with private fencing lessons.

There is truly nothing to match the improvements that fencers can see through targeted one-on-one lessons in addition to their class time. That goes for both competition and for personal growth!


Warm-up routine before competitions for young fencers


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  1. L Mao

    To anyone who is still not convinced, I would suggest asking your kid how they feel about the length of the lesson. A productive session usually results in a kid who is drained from the physical and mental concentration required to perform at their peak for 20 minutes. As much as my son enjoys his lessons with the coach — it’s fun to be challenged and master new skills — he has never bemoaned the fact that they are too short. Whereas on the rare occasions when he has had back-to-back lessons to make up for missed ones, there was much griping about the lesson being too long.

  2. Anonymous

    And the most important thing, the cost of 1 to 1 lesson too. Short lesson costs less.

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