Monday, April 14, 2014

Fencing as a Sport of Physical and Mental Conditioning

Fencing is a sport that is one part physical and one part mental. Conditioning both helps to ensure that you are at the top of your game. The process of conditioning is through practice and experience. Conditioning is not found through only fencing practice but also in complementary activities. It has been argued that fencing during practice is 95% physical and 5% mental while in tournament it is the exact opposite (1).

It is first beneficial to understand what physical and mental conditioning means.  Physical conditioning requires the preparation of the body for rigorous aerobic exercise and ensuring the muscles are both tone and have endurance. Mental conditioning includes learning a variety of movements, ensuring quick reaction, and perceptive within the game.

Physical conditioning requires the ability to engage in aerobic, stamina, and physical strength (2).  Fencing requires heavy clothing and lots of speed and can get most athletes winded quickly. The body must be prepared to take on these jumps, movements, and leaps or you will simply lose from being out maneuvered. Engaging in sprinting, swimming, tennis, weight training, and other activities conditions the body as well as ensures coordination of movements (3).

The concept of physical conditioning in fencing is not new. Dating back as far as 1400 instructors like Vittorino da Feltre stated that fencing “required as a correlative to a fine intellectual humanism a standard of physical excellence and personal bearing to match (4)." His argument was that fencers needed to wear the right clothing, handle the elements of nature, and need to be conditioned for the sport.

In addition to the body the brain must also be conditioned. A person must memorize, internalize and use the various movements that act and interact against an opponent. This requires having a thorough understanding of the sport and judging the body mechanics of the opponent to maintain a leading edge. Without the mental conditioning overreaction, slow reaction, and sequence failure is likely to occur.

Fencers should understand how their personality impacts their performance. Fencer personalities can be categorized as active, passive, risk oriented, risk averse, cautious, offensive and defensive (5).  A person’s personality will determine their overall style, what movements they should focus on, and their weaknesses within the sport.

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