Postulation And Study On Innovative Techniques And Training In Fencing: As Applied In Falcon Competition

In my previous article, “Sports Innovation: A Fencing Perspective”, I postulated the efficacy of innovativeness in techniques and training methodologies in fencing. My ongoing study, albeit an anecdotal one, on this aspect has taken me and my fencing club GA to “Falcon Young Fencer Invitational” in Bangkok. This competition attracted sabreurs or sabre fencers of various age categories from countries including Singapore, Japan, Phillipines, Malaysia and Thailand.
The organizers of this competition rightly and ideally put much thought towards recognizing top eight placings with medals and diplomas. This is good motivation for those sabreurs who are still early in fencing to win medals even if not the conventional higher tier of top four placing.
The GA fencers’ target for the competition was that those fencers who had fenced  for more than two years would endeavour to get top eight and the younger fencers to gain exposure and experience. It is heartening to say that the targets have been achieved especially among most of the senior fencers.
In the ‘career’ path of a sports person in general and in fencing in particular, one would be shaped by the coach to reach efficiency in performance and achievement in that order. As I have been involved in preparing wheelchair fencers for the national team, a fencer will go through a full year of conditioning, strenghtening of the physical and technique. Any outing for competitions during this one year period will be strictly performance based, not yet achievement. Then beyond the one year performance, a fencer is expected to begin to achieve results to at least to be in the top eight bracket and gradually over the years to win medals.
Similarly the above together with the innovative techniques and training methodologies can be applied to the able bodied fencing. What the GA fencers achieved during the Falcon competition was inspiring.
I need to emphasize here that this study may or may not have the significant bearing or be part of the nationa agenda or aspirations in fencing development. This can, however, be seen as among efforts to develop fencing among the young.
Eleven year old Resha Sabaratnam, who has been fencing for two years is the current champion of the National GP U12 Girls Sabre and for the 2016 GP of the same has won three series consecutively. Resha won silver in U12 Girls 2016 Falcon competition and this year she is again in her element as she excelled by winning silver for Girls U12 Individual, bronze for Girls U14, and gold for Girls U14 Mixed Team. She narrowly missed getting the gold in U12 and silver in U14 with both scores at a heartbreaking 14-15 losing to the same sabreur from Singapore.
Resha’s sterling performances in the individual bouts had won the admiration of those present and earned her an invitation to fence with a combination of two other Thai clubs for a Girls Mixed team. Her competence was further compounded when she was given the honour of being the anchor or lead woman where she justified the title by scoring the vital points each time her team mates floundered and fumbled until she scored the winning point.
The GA Boys U14 Team A comprising Zul Arif Zul Adenan, Ahmad Shahmi Ahmad Shalimin and Niklas Azrol Faizal ‘waded’ through an ocean of competent fencers to win the third spot and, hence, the bronze medal. Their opponents, some of whom were in sports school had to deal with our unique and innovative techniques which could overcome those opponents with speed and longer training hours. Bear in mind the fencers from sports school train twice a day compared to our training of at least twice a week.
Zul Arif, thirteen years old, is another ‘beneficiary’ of innovative training and tecniques has been fencing for a year and his progress has been impressive within a relatively short time. He recently won bronze in the FT Open sharing the podium with national fencers like Syed Adam and Adam Nicolas who won gold and silver respectively. Zul Arif, as anchor person in the Falcon competition’s Boys U14 team event displayed deceptive attacking prowess to get the vital points. His performance was inspiring during the individual event which earned him the sixth place among twenty-seven participants and was awarded with a medal and diploma. The Falcon competition acknowledges and recognizes top eight placings with subsidiary or supplementary medals.
10 year old Zul Aidan Zul Adenan’s enthusiasm and passion for sabre is legendary among his fencing buddies and parents. He has been fencing for a year. In the recent Sabah Fencing competition he won silver for U10 and bronze for U12. In last year’s Falcon competition he was lost in the crowd of more experienced fencers. But this year, he secured sixth place among nineteen participants from various countries and like his brother Zul Arif was awarded with medal and diploma.
In the Girls U17 Team event GA was represented by Resha Sabaratnam, Elysha Ghadzali and Alina Shazana Shalimin. Except for Resha, the two girls were fourteen year olds. They narrowly lost 43-45 to opponents bigger and older than them. Our girls were sound technique wise but for the difference in size and fencing years. From looking at this particular bout, and Resha’s contribution in the Girls U14 Mixed Team, our current and future female fencers have everything going for them and have great potential for team event.
The rest of the sabreurs also did well and showed progress. As for the younger and new fencers, the aim is to get the experience and exposure to further enhance their perspectives and confidence in the long run. It is all about the building blocks in fencing in order to become a good fencer.
I reiterate, this study may or may not have significant bearing or be part of the nation’s agenda and aspiration for fencing development. One thing for sure, however, is that these young fencers could taste victory early in their fencing years, sharing the podium with among the best in the region in their respective age categories winning medals. It can be surmised that innovativeness cuts the learning curve and these young fencers have the psychological edge by the knowledge that they possess techniques that no one in the world has. Nothing beats self-belief in something. Another aspect is that innovativeness gives the competitive edge.
The term competitive edge must be accepted as part of sports development. The term itself of which the nomenclature may even be alien or non-existent among some units in the country’s sports ecosystem or practitioners of sports development is sad indeed. There can also be detractors for proposals of progressiveness and innovativeness as they would prefer the status quo.
GA will continue to further upgrade the techniques and training methodologies. As young fencers nowadays no longer dream to win medals, they expect to win them!
Zulkifli Ahmad
Fencing Coach
GA Fencing Club
About the Author:

Coaching Qualifications: Level 2 Sport Specific Fencing Diploma, a FIE and NSC (MSN) collaborative certification.

Sports Science Level 3 from AKK, ISN.

Fencing Coaching Experience

1989 – National fencer SEA Games

2004 – Coach for Wilayah Persekutuan Paralympiad Fencing team (achieved best overall team)

2005 – Coach for wheelchair fencing Malaysian Paralympic Council (won gold for Men Sabre team and silver for Women’s epee individual at ASEAN Wheelchair Games)

2006 – Head Coach cum Manager Wheelchair Fencing for FESPIC at Malaysian Paralympic Council

2008 – Fencing Coach at Touche Fencing Club

2011 – Fencing Coach at Trinity Fencing Club

2013 – 2016 – Fencing coach Paralympic wheelchair fencing at NSC (MSN). (won bronze epee team at IWAS Asian  Championship wheelchair fencing)

2017 – Fencing coach at GA fencing club. (Since 2015 as part time sabre coach won numerous medals and awards at club, national and international levels for Under 12)

Founder and consultant for SportsLifestyle

Others:
– Wrote for New Straits Times for seven years as social and arts critic.

– Wrote for Malaysian Business Magazine for a year with an own monthly column Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

– Trained under a Hungarian coach-master in foil and sabre for two years 1985 to 1987 in London while studying in Ealing College Of Higher Education (now University)