These drills come from Craig Harkins of Fencing Net. They were originally posted on the University of South Carolina's listserve.

Conditioning Footwork

While most of us do some amount of footwork drills, how many make footwork into an aerobic workout? Not too many is my guess.Generally, we are taught to approach footwork drills on a strip length by strip length basis, not a time basis. This lets the faster fencers finish their sets quicker and get more rest than the less experienced, or slower fencers. The "I need to do 3 strips of footwork" mentality also hurts many younger fencers who let their form get bad so that they can finish their sets quickly and then "go play".

While all fencers need to do that repetition for a few sets, we also need to increase our ability to continuously perform footwork over a long period of time. With that in mind, here is a great footwork conditioning workout.

Each set of footwork is to be done continuously for 2 minutes, then take a 1-minute rest. When you reach the end of the strip, turn around and continue. These sets are to be done in series, so you should do all 7 sets in one session. As your conditioning improves, add another session or try to get your speed up a little more.

1. Advance/advance-lunge/on guard

2. Advance/appel-lunge/on guard.

3. Advance-lunge/redouble/on guard.

4. Jump forward-lunge/redouble/on guard

5. Advance/jump forward-lunge/on guard.

6. Jump forward/advance-lunge/on guard.

7. (F&E) Appel-lunge/cross lunge/on guard.

8. (S) Appel lunge/redouble/on guard.

I hope that you find these drills useful. As always, if you have any suggestions, please email them to me at craig

Thank you,

There has been a discussion started on the newsgroup on the different types of exercises one should do in order to be in the best shape for fencing. I thought I would take a different tack and suggest some footwork exercises that I have used in the past. These come from drills that the team at UNC-Chapel Hill did on a regular basis and are taken from the Olympic Footwork Exercises our national teams have used.

The idea behind the footwork drills are to get your body used to doing simple and then complex series of footwork exorcizes so that you can use them better in a bout. Just like you would practice a beat-disengage as one unit and not two, so you would practice an advance-lunge as one unit. With that in mind, here are 12 drills that you can do. It helps to have a small group doing these with one person the designated reader. Keep a close feel on your body balance and make your steps short - they will get bigger in a bout.

If you would like to see more suggestions for drills, etc. Please let me know. If you have other subjects you would like to or like me to comment on, just email me.

Key: /=slight pause, -=continuous, :=new action

1. Lunge/on-guard: advance-lunge/on-guard: double advance-lunge/on-guard: triple advance-lunge/on-guard: lunge/on-guard: lunge/on-guard-retreat: lunge/on-guard-double retreat: lunge/on-guard-triple retreat:

2. Advance-retreat: lunge/on-guard: advance-lunge/on-guard-retreat: double advance-lunge/on-guard-double retreat: advance-fleche/on-guard-retreat (sabre fencers do triple advance-lunge):

3. Retreat-lunge/on-guard: advance-lunge/on-guard: double retreat-lunge/on-guard: double advance-lunge/on-guard:

4. Jump forward-lunge/on-guard: advance-lunge/on-guard: jump forward/jump forward-lunge/on-guard: advance/advance-lunge/on-guard: (remember the timing differences here!)

5. (The killer) Lunge-on guard: lunge/on-guard: lunge-redouble/redouble/on-guard: lunge/on-guard: lunge/on-guard: lunge-redouble-fleche-on guard: (sabre do jump lunge instead of fleche)

6. Jump forward-lunge/forward on-guard: jump forward-lunge/forward on-guard: jump forward/jump forward-fleche-on guard: 4 retreats-lunge/on guard:

7. Triple retreat-fleche-on guard: triple retreat-fleche-reprise fleche-on guard:

8. Lunge/on guard-retreat: fleche (or jump-lunge)/on-guard-retreat: lunge/on-guard-retreat: retreat-flech(or jump-lunge)-on guard-double retreat:

9. Jump forward-lunge-short fleche/on guard: jump forward-lunge-redouble/on guard:

10. Advance/advance-fleche-reprise fleche: retreat/retreat-fleche-reprise fleche:

11. Fleche-on guard-double retreat: fleche-on guard-double retreat: fleche-reprise fleche-on guard-4 retreats:

12. Jump forward-fleche-on guard: advance-fleche-on guard: triple retreat-fleche-on guard:

As you can see, these drills emphasize quick changes in direction, what we call "turning the corner". If you are good at making these fast, quick changes in direction, you will be able to take advantage of those fencers who can't.

The best example is when you are being attacked. You and the other fencer are going at full speed: you backward, them forward. Once you catch their blade, if you are faster at turning the corner than they are, you have a much higher chance of getting the touch.

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