The art of fencing

Since fencing is a combat sport in which you use a tool in your hand to score a point instead of knocking down your opponent through force – and skill – it requires a lot of intricate movement in a very quick time frame.

Fencing is gaining popularity in India because of Bhavani Devi’s achievements.   -  Special Arrangement

Fencing has been a combat sport at the Olympics for a long time, but is only now gaining popularity in India because of Bhavani Devi’s achievements in recent world-level tournaments.

Let’s learn a bit about the sport and its fitness requirements.

Fencing has three disciplines — foil, epee and sabre, according to the targets on the opponent’s body — and originated in Europe. The sport is basically anaerobic in nature, with high-power, explosive movements through a full range of motion. Every fencing session is a full-body workout and challenges muscles right from the head to the toes. Fencing requires extremely high levels of anticipation, quickness, agility, explosive strength and mental sharpness.

A combat sport

Since fencing is a combat sport in which you use a tool in your hand to score a point instead of knocking down your opponent through force — and skill — it requires a lot of intricate movement in a very quick time frame. To get into that mode of physicality, one needs explosive speed and endurance training combined with work on agility. Hybrid training specific to fencing will get the best out of the energy system.

Fencers normally have very well-developed lower bodies because of lunging, the semi-squat position and from jumping both linearly and vertically.

Why fitness for fencing?

Fencing is a combination of a combat sport and a racquet sport, so one needs to prepare physically to face its challenges and hone one’s skills to the topmost level with increased fitness levels. Here, skill and fitness can be merged to create better results.

Since fencing is highly anaerobic in nature, it involves balance, stability, core strength, lower-body strength, explosive power, flexibility and quick reaction times with excellent decision-making abilities.   -  Special Arrangement

Components required

Since fencing is highly anaerobic in nature, it involves balance, stability, core strength, lower-body strength, explosive power, flexibility and quick reaction times with excellent decision-making abilities.

The aerobic component needs to be used as part of the recovery protocol and also as a tool for a good, regularised breathing pattern.

The movements are mostly eccentric strength based with steady isometric balance between them. A very important point to note is training for the strength component, where the eccentric and isometric tempo should be monitored. Each and every strength exercise will have a different tempo in training. One has to design that programme to perfection (like in any sport the programme has to be spot on and individualised).

Anti-rotational and ipsilateral (occurring on the same side of the body) movement pattern training also plays a crucial part in improved fitness.

Aerobic training, flexibility training, yoga, pilates and gyrotonic training can increase fitness levels on specific components for overall benefit.

Important muscles to be well developed

Calves: Fencing involves constant footwork. The ability to move quickly, demonstrate lightness and be flexible in feet movement are important. The calves take the brunt of any sudden explosive leg movements.

Core: The abdominal muscles are largely responsible for posture control, balance and stability. Abdominal and midsection need to be trained in an apt manner.

Quadriceps: When a fencer lunges forward, backward or to the side, he or she works the thigh muscles efficiently. During a lunge, a fencer staying upright becomes more effective in execution of the skill. In addition to this, the thigh muscles are activated in maintaining the centre of gravity during the dart in any direction or while performing a split-step movement.

Shoulders: The shoulder muscles are one of the most important when darting forward to jab or pulling backward to avoid an attack.

Lower back: Jumping is an essential part of fencing, requiring the fencer to wrap or brace the lower back to maintain balance and move well.