Two experiences this week prompted this train of thought and something that I wanted to share. The first was in Shay’s Thoughts for our upcoming practice (March 19, 2020) and the other was a video Sigmar posted to BAND. Here was Shay’s Thought:
“We are going to work on intentional movement. There is so much going on in fencing that it is fundamentally important to preserve time for your self, with intentional movement. Some historical sources call this tempo. They focus on the concept of ‘why do something in 2 steps when you can do it in 1?’ That sort of thing.
What we are going to work on this week, is doing what we are doing on purpose. I’m not as concerned about the actual tempo of your actions, as I am that you’re doing them on purpose. I want you to be able to say what you’re doing out loud, coherently. (That is going to be a fun game. Tee Hee!) We are going to answer this question too: ‘what was I doing that resulted in that outcome?’ This very much goes along with what we were working on last week with post fight analyzing.
These activities will go as well, and be as useful to you, as you want them to be. I strongly encourage you to come willing to engage deeply in thinking and conversing. Please remember this is a community. When everyone contributes, we all get better. Stone Soup my dear ones!”Shayen Locke
While the focus will be on Intentional Movement, the mention of Tempo made me think that I should refresh on the subject and so a quick Google search brought me to this article that discussed the idea from an Olympic fencing coach. It was pretty wordy, but there were some really good nuggets like these:
“This concept of the tempo is so elusive that many coaches don’t even mention it. It is a concept that defies description, because it is not rooted in a fixed distance or motion. It is so variable, so transitory, that anything written of it doesn’t quite describe it; in fact, any description can be shown to be wrong under certain circumstances. Often coaches avoid the issue all together and hope that the student learns it on the strip.”Maitré Gary Copeland, of Northern Colorado Fencers Club
Teaching the student to understand the relationship of distance, time, speed, technique, and surprise—tempo—is the difference between teaching a student fencing “things” and teaching them “fencing”.Allen Evans
And here is the video posted by Sigmar. It’s a video breaking down the footwork of a champion boxer and how his use of space, footwork, and technique gave him a significant advantage in his fights:
What’s the point?
These two experiences got me thinking about how important it is to stretch my brain and continually push my thinking in new ways.
Neither the article nor the video conveys absolute truth when it comes to fencing, but rather an original perspective into ideas that might be applied to my own experience as a fencer. From those ideas, if I dedicate time and mental energy, my own perspective can grow and broaden which will help my fencing.
Early on the path of swordsmanship, every fencer relies on the experience of others. We look to our teachers and our mentors to teach us how to fence and what it means. We learn to regurgitate that wisdom and how to apply it to ourselves, but at a certain point, that changes.
Somewhere along everyone’s path, leaning on the experience of others isn’t enough. You have to start formulating original ideas, your own perspective, and an understanding of fencing that is all unique. If that transition doesn’t happen, our fencing journey can stagnate or even stall completely.
So how do you prevent that from happening?
Well, I believe stretching your brain is the key. Pushing your mind to comprehend more and more complex ideas then translating them into your own words and thoughts. This can happen during every fight, at every practice, or during the week while you watch YouTube.
I know that, after reading up on a challenging subject like Tempo and learning about techniques in a completely different sport, my brain bristling with ideas. I tried not to just take them word for word, but to push my understanding into applications that I hope to experiment with at practice this week. I’m hopeful this will open new opportunities for me and lead to more and more ideas.
Wherever you are in your journey, I’d encourage you to stretch your mind in new ways. It can be tough at first because you’re pushing your mind into new boundaries and a state of flexibility. Thankfully, with practice, you will notice your mind becoming more flexible and it will become easier and easier to stretch in all sorts of directions.