My Lesson? No, Your Lesson…

In one of my foil lessons last night 1, my student was supposed to fade back in the face of my attack and set up a parry riposte. I confess that my attention was wandering during one of the repetitions of the action. She must have noticed and ignoring the action I wanted her to do, she caught me flat footed with an attack in the preparation instead.

Coaches should live for the time when the student takes over the lesson and surprises the coach. I think she was surprised how pleased I was by her “mistake”.

Many fencers learn fencing at the plastron of a coach, who becomes responsible for their primary education in the sport. Many students, however, take on a coach and neglect to bring themselves to that relationship. They have a coach now–their work is done! They take lessons well but fail to bring to the lesson the things that are ultimately going to make them successful as fencers: initiative, creativity, and a sense of when the expected action is called for, and when it might be a mistake to do the expected.

It is sometimes very difficult to convince students that they have an active, creative role to play in a lesson. Many coaches don’t reward this in a lesson. It is no coincidence that skilled fencers understand when they have to take the lesson, improvise in the lesson, and sometimes–but only sometimes—punish the coach when he or she is not paying attention.


  1. This entry was originally posted in my blog and dates from 2007