Open Fencing

Open fencing is presently held at two locations on different days of the week:

  • Friday evenings from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Montclair Community Center
  • Sunday afternoons from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at Brownell-Talbot School lower gym

Open fencing is a chance to practice all those skills you have perfecting during classes. Not only is open fencing a chance to improve those skills, it is also a time to test your tactical flexibility and develop ways to win bouts. Open Fencing sessions are intended for foil, epee, and sabre fencers with some experience. It is perfect for anyone who wants to develop their skills further outside of class.

There is no need to sign up or register. Just show up. Equipment is provided during Montclair open fencing. Borrowed or your own gear is required at the Brownell location.

Even though there are no organized lessons at open fencing, the chance to polish your techniques under the pressure of a match is one of the best ways to improve as a fencer. You’ll get better just by applying what you’ve learned in classes. If you want to improve even more, though, try a few exercises:


Objective Match

In this match your objective isn’t to score the most points, but to practice some aspect of your fencing. Some of the best goals to work on are:

  • Using distance to just barely avoid your opponent’s attacks
  • Using the smallest parries possible
  • Just barely hitting your opponent with your attacks
  • Parrying at the last possible second
  • Keeping your muscles as relaxed as possible
  • Keeping classically perfect form
  • This is by no means an exhaustive list. If there’s something you want to work on, add it!


Evolutionary Match

This is a match where either fencer can ask the other to repeat an action.

Say Fencer X executes a diagonal 4-2 bind against Fencer Y. In an evolutionary match, Fencer Y can ask Fencer X to repeat the move several times, giving Fencer Y the chance to identify the move and learn how to defeat it.

To repeat a move, just reestablish the distance and positioning from immediately before the action, and repeat the move – remember, only the fencer asked to repeat an action has to use the same move. In the scenario with Fencer X and Fencer Y, Fencer X would repeat the diagonal 4-2 bind, and Fencer Y could try any action she wished to defeat Fencer X’s bind.

Even a very advanced fencer can benefit from fencing evolutionary matches, regardless of the skill level of the opponent. If an advanced fencer isn’t challenged, it is impossible for that fencer to improve. Evolutionary matches quickly teach beginning fencers how to defeat actions, forcing even advanced fencers to either improve the action or work on a different one.


On Guard Improvement

Work to advance, retreat, and lunge from on guard without any preparations or instability. Since the on guard is the basis for all other actions, improving the on guard improves all other aspects of fencing.

This drill is easy in theory, but challenging in execution. Start off by assuming a regular, stationary on guard, and then do an advance. The action should be smooth and stable, and you should be able to advance immediately from the on guard position. If your body rocked or bobbed, or if you had to change your on guard at all before advancing, try again for a smooth, steady advance executed without preparations. Practice, and modify your form, until you’re able to do it. Once you’ve mastered the advance, move on to the retreat and the lunge - once you can do all these actions from a stationary on guard without any instability or preparations, you’re ready to try them from a moving on guard. Start out with slow movements, and make them faster as you improve.

Getting rid of preparations is relatively easy. If you find yourself bending your legs before an action, bend your legs more in on guard to begin with. If you find yourself leaning backward before you lunge, lean back more to begin with. You get the picture.

Maintaining a steady stance through actions is a lot more challenging, and is largely a matter of timing. As your leading leg reaches forward or backward, your body naturally wants to fall; as you push off from the trailing leg, your body naturally wants to rise. By carefully timing the reach of the leading leg and the push from the trailing leg, you can balance the rising and falling motions into a smooth, continuous action.

As soon as you start to practice, try to keep your front shin pointed straight up and down, and shift your weight more toward your back leg than your front leg. Then, as you practice, make any changes that you need to your stance. (CAUTION: Nothing should ever hurt. If it hurts, stop doing it.)