Thursday, 7 May 2009

Does this sound familiar?

This is unabashedly cut and pasted from the Schola Gladiatoria forum ( One poster, a certain Colin F. posted:

"Have any of you ever had a point during your training why suddenly, as if out of no where, you suddenly seem to lose any ability to fight/fence properly, where nothing comes off and everything you try to do just turns to crap? I feel like I'm having one of those times just now and it's really frustrating. Everything I am trying is going wrong and my reading of other people is just gone to hell. Even my distance perception, which used to be pretty good is now absolute shite If any of you have been through something similar, how did you get out of the rut and back on track? I suppose I'd just like to hear some ideas or suggestions, hell even small anecdotes and a thread drift about how you improved your training."

This rang bells with me and probably every fencer I know who hase been training for several years. Continuing to cut and paste from the same thread, one excellent answer and certainly food for thought, was posted by a member called "scholadays". Here it is, read it, memorise it, use it!

"It's a common symptom that I have heard, usually from intermediates, for years. There are a couple of observations and possible solutions I have on this phenomenon, for it somethimes preceeds folk giving up altogether.
Firstly, I've found that it's not their fencing that has become worse, but their perception of their perfomance that has raced ahead of their ability. Now, there's nothing wrong with a bit of self confidence, but sometimes folk get in a rut when they believe that they should have prevailed against someone they regard as beatable, but for som reason just cannot.
Furthermore, do remember that other people are training too. They too are improving. If you're not managing to pull off repertoire that you used to be able to, it may be because they are getting better. Conversely, I once had a student who boldy proclaimed in the pub after training that the entire club was getting worse and that we had to do something about it urgently. I had to explain to him that this observation was simply the result of him getting a little better.
Finally, I've watched intermediates beaten by beginner after beginner, and the more they are beaten the worse they get. Sometimes this is because they are actually trying harder, more complex repertoire. And the more they lose, the more complex technique they try to employ to rectify the situation. Now, simple, basic repertoire can beat clever, technical machination if it is executed quickly and from a relaxed and unexpectant player. Simple, reflexive repertoire executed quickly by a beginner whose mind may be uncluttered by much else can be rather tricky if you're trying out more complex technique.
Thus, intermediates can get into trouble when they start to attempt more sophisticated technique - for this technique may be rather slower than the simple reflexive repertoire of the beginner. Hence the intermediate feels like he's fencing in treacle against a beginner who's not really doing very much - but repeatedly doing it quicky and competently. And the more he's beaten the more clever the intermediate tries to be, and the slower he gets, and the more he's beaten.
My advice is not to change your training, but to change your perception of your performance. Any or all of the above may be taking place and so a step back from how you think you should be performing to how you are are performing. So, start taking some losses. Take your lumps. I often advise those in this situation to start playing to lose. Lose every single match you engage in for the next couple of months. However do fight for the repertoire. First, concentrate upon technique that is well well behind you. Simple stuff. Stuff that works. Now and then throw in the occasional clever technique. But don't ever exepct it to work. Just give it a go, try it out, don't expect anything, take little steps. But in the main simply try to maintain rather than improve and you'll improve. Play to lose. Be the biggest loser in the club. And you'll fight your way out of your rut."
Brilliant! What a well written and concise post!

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