Currently, I don’t fence my students much. When teaching 2,3 or 4 at a time I like to make sure that the students get as much chance to fence, during the time allocated to free play, as possible. This often means that I stand aside to observe, especially with even student numbers.
I am an aggressive fencer and some of the more timid opponents seem to be discouraged by this and don’t enter measure or attack when in measure. I try to give them the space to fence others of their level in the hope that they will learn how to be more aggressive. On the other hand, I use a 42″ blade and have long arms for my height (6′) forcing me to attack and then counter attacking can be a winning strategy.
Perhaps not sparring with me, does my students a disservice. Free play with one another may be reinforcing poor technique and conversely fencing me may discourage poor technique. Here is what Marozzo says on the topic:
Still I say, that you must never let any of the company’s new scholars play if you are not present so that you will be able to amend their mistakes. For in playing with others other than with the master they will learn bad habits which are hard to amend. Do not forget that they should not practice with different scholars who are not your students. This makes it more difficult. So, practice for more days that they may learn good practice that comes from God that has much theory, therefore I give it to you (Libro 1,Cap 4).
Another issue that makes me reluctant to fence my students, and other beginners I face, is the effect it has on my own training. Finding the balance between fencing with consistent good form and intent, and giving my opponent the chance to successfully effect a fundamental technique is proving consistently difficult, for me. Everard mentioned recently that I gain the blade effectively but fail to regain it when my opponent has it; this may be a teaching artifact.
Given that my aim at the moment is to make my fencing cohesive and competitive and I am not getting the tournament wins that I expect to get given my performance at training (perhaps I too am a victim of opponents in ‘teaching mode’). I need to find a way to fence students that includes the complexity that they can’t yet do and is slow enough to allow them to use the fundamentals they have been taught, successfully.
Read all that? Have a video: