Relearning Fencing

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The day Hurricane Sandy made landfall, I was involved in an accident that knocked me unconscious. Hours before the hurricane struck, I went to move my car away from a tree. En route back to my apartment, the forces of wind and gravity played their part, and a 15-20 pound tree branch struck me in the head. When I awoke, I was in George Washington University Hospital, unaware of how I got there and completely discombobulated.

“No fencing for a month,” they said. Naturally, the warrior in me disregarded their medical advice, and I was in Virginia Beach fencing in the NAC one week later (we took Gold in Senior Men’s Epee Team, so that was cool).

Little cracks began to escalate. A college teammate I was rooming with handed me a key. Nearly one minute later I asked him where the keys were.

“In your pocket dude. Just handed it to you.”

I checked. Sure enough, it was there.

Time went on, I never rested, and the effects of the concussion began to catch up. Small children would attack me, and I couldn’t do as much as parry their blade until seconds after they hit me. I felt slow on my feet, and I had no depth perception to assess the juxtaposition of my opponents. I was turning into Forrest Lehfeldt.

My follow-up neurologist appointment confirmed my fears. I was indeed far behind recovery due to my stubbornness and was told to avoid Fencing until January.

Injuries are a pain, to say the least, and for people like me, I have spent my life shrugging them off as minor inconveniences. Unfortunately, when it comes to the brain, these are the kinds of things we cannot ignore.

While I could wallow in self-pity, I intend to take this injury and consider it an opportunity to improve my fencing. As fencers, we often learn so many complex actions, that as time goes on that we forget about the most basic fundamentals of the game. Because I am prevented from physical contact, I have devised the following regimen to “relearn Fencing,” which I will share with you. I have been doing this 2-3 times per week:

Warmup

  1. Four 4 minute jump rope rounds with 30 second rest in between. Double jumps for final 30 seconds of each interval (This is to move for longer than the typical 3 minute period and to rest shorter than the 1 minute break)
  2. Stretching (no need to bore you with details)

Footwork (All done with blade in hand)

  1. Small slow advance followed by accelerated advance
  2. Double advance to retreat with changes in tempo
  3. Double advance to retreat to advance lunge with changes in tempo
  4. Small advance, quick advance to lunge (variation of double advance lunge)
  5. Advance, half retreat to fleche
  6. Advance, half retreat to lunge with redoublement
  7. Advance, half retreat to lunge with continuation in fleche
  8. Shadow fencing for 3 minute intervals (This is where you pretend an imaginary ghost fencer is bouting against you. You essentially do high speed footwork for 3 minutes as if you are fencing a real bout.)

Target work (If available)

  1. Extension to body (focusing on extension with tricep and not shoulder)
  2.  Extension, advance to body
  3. Extension, lunge to body
  4. Extension, advance lunge to body
  5. Advance with flick to top of hand (ideally done while plugged into machine to ensure hit. Focusing on using fingers and not wrist to initiate)
  6.  Beat 8 flick to wrist with advance
  7. Beat 8 flick to wrist followed by taking 8 and continuing to body
  8. Beat 8 flick to wrist followed by taking 8 and going to foot
  9. Beat 8 flick to wrist followed by taking 8, changing line to four and continuing to body
  10. Tip over the bellguard with lunge to the body
  11. Tip over the bellguard with 8 lunge to the knee
  12. Tip over the bellguard with lunge to the foot
  13. Tip over the bellguard with lunge to the foot followed by preme riposte to leg
  14. Six opposition lunge to the body
  15. Six with touch under the wrist
  16. Six with touch under the wrist followed by continuation to the body in 6
  17. Six with flick to outside of the wrist

Concluding Actions

  1. Ab work with medicine ball to get my 6 pack back (never gonna happen)
  2. One three minute jump rope round to cool down

This is a good routine for refocusing on fundamentals, and I hope to come back in January rested and stronger and ready to compete again. Thank you all for reading.

-Damien

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