Beginner Training Drills

NOTE: The phrase “Then have” denotes more difficult variations layered on the basic exercise.

Snatch The Pebble From My Hand…

In alternating pairs, have one person thrust at their partner’s hand. Have them touch only when the hand has stopped moving. Then have the target size reduced to two fingers, then the single thumb.

Equipment needed: One rapier and one glove (for the target hand).


In alternating pairs, students maintain distance between themselves. Have students face each other and raise their hand (Left or Right, respectively) making contact with two fingers, respectively. Have one person lead in movement forward, back and to the side as the other “follows” and maintains distance. Then have the follower blindfolded/eyes closed. Then have pairs engage with hands (or rapiers) lowered checking distance with “en guarde” called by someone (probably the instructor).

Equipment needed: None.

Slow Parry Drill

In alternating pairs, have one person thrust slowly with a deathstick while their partner parries with the rapier. Thrust must invade space and make contact with chest or shoulder if not parried.

Equipment needed: One rapier and one deathstick.

Walk the Cliff

Using a line of tape (or anything suitable as long as it’s straight and can be stepped on), have students inch along in correct stance, with correct footwork Reverse the direction occasionally. Alternate between forward stance and refused stance. Then have students invent combinations of the four types of step (Advance, Retreat, Sidestep Left, Sidestep Right) in both forward and refused stances.

Equipment needed: None. Hand up or sword in hand optional.

Blindfold Walk

Using bandanas or using an honor system, have students move forward and backward while blindfolded. Move side to side. Pivot. Skip. Do it some more. Then have students do it as duos and trios (with one person in the group sighted).

Equipment needed: None. Hand up or sword in hand optional .

Back-up Tag Team

Two lines are formed like this: >>>>             <<<<. Have the first fencer in either line engage with the first fencer in the other. Have that fencer defend while moving backwards toward their line (like this). >>>      > <             <<< . When they have retreated to their line they “tag” the next fencer. The tagged fencer now presses the attack until reaching the opposite line. THIS FENCER now defends while retreating and so on until both sides have attacked and defended.

Equipment needed: None (Use empty hand) if instructor calls the paces (On my mark…one…two…etc.). Masks if walking (with swords). Full padding if running (With deathsticks in place of swords for added safety).

Three On One

Have three students face one. In rotation have THREE make a simple thrust to the target named by ONE. ONE blocks appropriately. Then have THREE attack target of their individual choice. Then have ONE turn away while THREE decide non-verbally who will attack first, second, third.

Equipment needed: Three scabbards and one rapier(unpadded). Four rapiers (padded)

Follow The Leader

Have the entire class follow the instructor through a series of steps, pivots, skips and step throughs. Use all the available space and have students call out each step as they perform it.

Glove Games

NOTE: All glove games could be fought at 3 ranges

  1. Close Range
  2. In Range
  3. Out of Range

Hit on Hand

Have the entire class pair off, facing their partner. One partner will remove a glove, while the other will place their hands in front of them, palms down. Whoever has the glove will attempt to slap their opponent’s hand while their opponent tries to move their hands out of the way. The opponent should not move their hands until the attack has started.

Glove Drop

Have the entire class pair off, facing their partner. One partner will remove a glove and hold it in the air, while the other waits in basic stance. At instructors call, the gloves should be dropped and those with swords should thrust at the glove before it hits the ground. Repeat. Switch roles and then have students drop gloves randomly without instructors call at various heights.

Glove on Head

Each student should place a single glove on top of their head and take a basic stance. The entire class should then follow the instructor through a series of steps, trying to keep glove on top of their head without holding it.

Push Game

Have the entire class pair off, facing their partner in basic stance and placing their hands against their opponents hands. At the lay on, each opponent will attempt to push their opponent out of stance, without moving their feet.

Individual Drills

Point Control with a Tennis Ball

Suspend a tennis ball so that it swings freely and practice hitting it. Start with simple thrusts and when proficient (eg 75% accuracy), change distance, height, or angle of the tennis ball.


Practice advances and retreats while in forward and refused stance. Work in circles and straight lines. Keep in mind good body position, try to stay balanced.

Maintain your Stance

Stand in a basic stance and slowly lower yourself into a deeper stance (basically a lower squat). You may need to spread your feet as you deepen your stance. Maintain that position as long as you can.

Calibration with a Tennis Ball or Wall

When working with the ball, calibrate so that the ball does not move more than 3 inches after the thrust. When working with the wall, calibrate so that the sword does not bend when contacting the target. Start with simple thrusts and then work on parry-riposte and disengage thrust. Add footwork to the above when proficient