Basic footwork is one of the most critical and fundamental factors in becoming a strong fencer. Without the ability to hold your body in the right posture, move forward and backwards, or adjust to your opponents movements your fencing ability is going to be limited. The footwork is a basic building block in the triangle of footwork, sword play, and mental conditioning.
Footwork: The movement of the body back and forth. Leads to lunges, attacks, and defense.
Sword play: The ability to move your arm and swords in coordination with your footwork. The more agile your wrists and quick your arms the more likely you can create movements that attack and defend.
Mental Conditioning: The ability to attack in defend is based on the recognition of movements and having a battery of responses. The time it takes to condition the mind to integrate recognition and reaction will determine the natural skill that leads to pinpointed actions.
Professional fencers go back and review their footwork on a regular basis as this is the very foundation of their sport. New fencers hate spending time in this boring occupation of going back and forth but it is necessary to integrate the movements so they are automatic. Some instructors may allow for some swordplay to reduce the boredom. The goal is to integrate all of the actions together to create relaxed, fluid, and well thought out movements.