Rock, Paper, Scissors for Fencers

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The Tactical Wheel is a progression of actions commonly used to teach tactics to fencers. Although there are significant issues in the use of the wheel in all three weapons, as a previous article of mine pointed out, it does serve to get fencers thinking about how to choose the right tactic at the right time to score a touch. But how does an instructor get the beginning or intermediate fencer to understand the relationships in this tool? One approach I have successfully used is a modification of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The first step is to make sure your fencers know the elements in the wheel. As a standard part of our warm-up we recite the wheel out loud as a group. I want my fencers to know the flow of simple attack, defeated by the parry and riposte, deceived by the compound attack, intercepted by the stop hit, and in turn defeated by the simple attack.

The second step is to assign numbers of fingers to each action: 1 for simple attack, 2 for parry-riposte, 3 for compound attack, and 4 for stop hit. Instead of the balled fist, flat hand, or forked fingers of rock, paper, scissors, the fencers will throw out one to four fingers.

The third step is to define which action beats which other actions. To some degree this depends on your evaluation of the wheel and the weapon the fencers fence. For example, 2 (parry riposte) beats 1 (simple attack) in all three weapons. However, 4 (stop hit) will lose to 1 (simple attack) in foil, but might result in a double hit or success in epee or sabre sometimes (a coin toss can be used to inject this level of uncertainty).

Finally you are ready to fence. This drill can be done as a pair of fencers, a team of three versus another team of three, or as two lines opposed to each other with fencers rotating from one line to the other as they are defeated. If the intent is to use the drill as a warm-up activity, the number of repetitions should be limited. One solution in the rotating format is that the winner of a touch stays up and loser rotates. However, it can also be used in 5 touch (bout), 10 or 15 touch (direct elimination), or team formats. The longer formats allow fencers to start to analyze opponent patterns (although the 4 option structure probably prevents application of pure iocaine powder logic), and for team mates to observe and share that information. Use the standard commands „on guard,“ „ready,“ and „fence,“ with the fencers throwing out one to four fingers on „fence.“ The level of stress on decision-making can be increased by reducing the interval between commands to fence.

It might seem that you could achieve the same training by actually fencing, but the isolation of the decision as to which action from the variable of fencer ability to perform it emphasizes the choice of technique. The drill does not require equipment, and so fits well in warm-up or cool-down activity. It is faster than a bout, but maintains a high degree of competitiveness between the fencers. We have found it to be an effective training tool in our efforts to improve our fencers‘ tactical sense.

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Source by Walter Green

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