What Works

Earlier this week Kane published a great article Activities That Can Help Get You Out of a Slump. He talked about seven things that we can do to help us overcome obstacles in our fencing. I have effectively used all of them except forming my own Kata in my style. And I have now set a SMART goal to do that, after I finish my current goal. The goal I am working on now is ‘Get Back to the Basics” by working on better blocks.

Kane talked about how the longer we fence, the more we try to do new and fancy things. By doing that we progress, but in that push we neglect basics. Meaning that basic blocks, footwork, or blade work all suffer to the point that the new fancy things we are trying to do become impossible to do. He pointed out that “even though it sounds counter-intuitive, getting back to the basics will help push you forward.” And I totally agree. I’m doing this right now and I am learning so much.

Of the types of fencers out there I am definitely a charger. I like to dominate a fight and make my opponent react to me, rather than wait for them to strike. However I have noticed that as I have been pushing my ‘advanced’ ability to charge forward my ‘basic’ ability to block has suffered to the point that my charging is no longer effective, it is ‘impossible’. Most of my kills are double and if they aren’t I’m dead instead. This has been both physically and mentally bruising.

So with the analysis and advice of trusted peers and mentors I have started a study on the basic blocks. It has seemed counter-intuitive, and it has been frustrating. In his article Kane warned that, “It will be hard and you’re going to see a drop in your skill or win record for a time.” And that is true. But I can also see that it is working.

I’ve been focusing on basic blocks for almost a month now. I started on my own. Then I worked with some close peers and got a few ideas from them. I am doing the Winter Warrior 100 Day blocks challenge right now, and  I have been looking at the styles and techniques of the best blockers I know. (Thanks Evanlyn for letting me shadow you) I’m slowly adapting to being a better blocker.

I noticed a jump in my ability even in this same week. I had two practices this week. In the first one I was struggling getting my footwork to be a blocking style while my blade work wanted to continue on in a charger style. By the second practice I was able to do better blocker footwork and my upper body mechanics were better matching my footwork. It’s not perfect but it is better.

In Kane’s article he says, “By breaking down some of your habits or techniques, you’ll be able to build a stronger base that you’ll build upon later. With your added experience and perspective, you’ll able to dive deeper into those foundational lessons then when you first learned them.”

This is hard. Breaking down my charger habits and techniques is really hard, but I can see the value in sticking to it. I can see that this is adding to my perspective and that I am able to dive deeper into the foundations of what I have already learned about blocking. And I feel like I am learning effective blocking skills faster and better than I did the first time.

This actually works. It seems like a simple thing. But it really does improve our fencing. It is improving mine. And even though it is hard, I love it! It feels good to work hard and to see improvement. I invite anyone who is interested to come work on this with me. Or even to do it on your own. Getting back to the basics is well worth your time and energy.

I love fencing and I love how it empowers us. It can frustrate us, it can infuriate us, it can confound us and inspire us. It helps us become better people by challenging us and daring us to improve. There is always more to learn, and I love it!