Innovation in sports, which is one of the elements of gaining competitive edge, is becoming increasingly emphasized especially after the Rio Olympics. There is the realization that countries which practiced innovations in its various forms have the competitive advantage over other countries. Every point obtained, every centimeter gained and every second shaved off due to innovativeness count significantly and makes the difference between winning and losing.

Innovation in its various forms can be technological, organic (non-technological), innovativeness in training methodology, techniques and processes and improvisation. We are familiar with ergogenic aids that help increase the competitive advantage of the various sports through technological innovations. The sport of cycling with the aerodynamically designed helmet, among others, that helps to fight wind resistance comes to mind. Specially made suits for swimming are designed to resist drag for the swimmers. One of the most revolutionary organic innovation in sports was the Fosbury Flop in high jump by   American athlete Dick Fosbury, whose gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics brought it to the world’s attention.

For technology-sensitive cycling, aggregation of small margins is key to competitive edge. Other sports can benefit from adapting such principle of gaining the competitive advantage.

Innovativeness in training methodology, techniques and processes are creations which provide the positive desired results as compared to current results. These are created by coaches for the benefit of athletes. Improvisations are adapted from existing training or techniques to enhance the performance of athletes viv-a-vis the opponents.

Stages of Technique Adaptation For Fencing

 In the business world there will be stages to go through when creating a new product viz, screening, testing survey and finally commercialization. In scientific discoveries there are problem identification postulation, test-tube experiments and finally the result. In creating new fencing techniques there will be several stages involved before full adaptations. Depending on the aim of technique adaptation, it shall arise out of either through observation or postulation.

Below is the several years I went through in organic innovation for both able-bodied and wheelchair fencing. Fencing is an open skill sport that provides a wide avenue for innovativeness. It is hoped other sports especially the open skill ones can duplicate the principles in innovativeness for gaining the competitive edge.


Studies are made where either fencer’s fail to make effective attack or defence thus the need for creation of a new attack or defence move. More studies are made to ensure the efficacy of such moves. Are the moves practical, effective with the desired results, delivered with speed?


 There will be a time when postulation will be done to introduce new technique adaptation. Instead of creating technique out of attempt to resolve a specific problem, a technique is created to add to and existing repertoire of techniques. This is an ongoing exercise to have optimum number of techniques.

Technique Creation

When it has been identified what technique is to be created, several tests shall be conducted. The coach will try out several moves with a fencer that best fit the desired technique.

Are the moves practical, effective with the desired results delivered with speed and accuracy? After several trials and errors, a ‘prototype’ technique is validated for further tests in sparring and competitions.


Since a new technique is selected for further validation it will go through rigorous tests during sparring to iron out any difficulty or weakness. If possible video recording will be done to get accurate feedback.

Full Adaptation

Once all the above stages are fulfilled the technique is endorsed and it is used fully and consistently.


Monitoring will be done in order to get optimum effectiveness.

Sports Innovation Involving technology goes through similar processes but will include other aspects including getting the perspectives of stakeholders.

Having a vibrant sports innovation culture will bring much benefit for the country especially in its preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.


Zulkifli Ahmad
Coach Wheelchair Fencing

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

– 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).