Easy on the Eyes

Michael Jordan “made it look easy”. Pete Sampras “made it look easy”. Tiger Woods, Katarina Witt, and Jose Torres have all made what they do “look easy”.

People who perform an activity at some level of excellence are often said to make that activity “look easy”. In sports, you do not make something look easy because you are excellent; you are excellent because you make it look easy.

One of the most important qualities of effective execution of technique in fencing is effortlessness. Every movement, every action must be learned to be performed with ease–without any unnecessary tension or exertion.

The majority of fencers–even those who have been fencing for many, many years–exert themselves far too much when performing fencing movements. They make the movement look difficult. In order to have the quickest movements, the greatest degree of control, and the most adaptability, a fencer must be relaxed and his movements must be smooth.

Although it sounds oxymoronic, a competitor must make an effort to make his fencing look easy. If, when assessing his own movements–with a mirror, video recording, or kinesthetically–a fencer judges his movements to seem difficult or forceful, he must look to improve the execution so that it becomes “easier” (by which, I certainly do not mean “sloppier” but, rather, more relaxed; looser execution will, in fact, result in higher quality technique).

Coaches should focus on ease of execution as being a fundamental element of technique. A common exercise that many coaches misguidedly like to do is to have their students do dozens and dozens of lunges in a row. I have heard of coaches telling their students to go do 100 lunges. This sort of practice results in a fencer becoming more and more fatigued and executing his lunges more and more poorly–and more and more tensely. A fencer can gain a lot more from doing 3 lunges correctly than from doing 300 badly.

When the coach and fencer begin to make effortlessness a key factor in every movement (the coach, too, should look to make his own movements in a lesson relaxed and effortless), the range of possibilities for technique and footwork expands dramatically. Further, as a fencer gets used to the ease of fencing movements, his confidence and belief in his abilities will increase. Smooth execution combined with heightened confidence will give him and his fencing a professional look which will, in turn, have a psychological impact on his opponents.