Practice Sparring and Challenge Sparring

Fencing competitively at all times is tiring and restricting. You cannot view every pass that you have with someone as a life or death encounter. If you do, you’ll never allow yourself to bring new material to bear. Experimentation without consequence is an essential part of opening up your swordplay. It is one of many tools you need to employ as you work to become a master of your art. For this reason, formal challenges are essential.

A formal challenge can take many forms. It can be a tournament in your school or outside of it. It can be an arrangement between you and a training partner to “fence in earnest” at a specific moment. It can be the decision to make your last pass “the real one”. Whatever your approach, this is the moment where you assess where you are at, where you bring your best fencing to the table.

Designating a time for the formal challenge to take place liberates all other encounters to be for fun, and practice, and experimentation. Scoring but not keeping score. If you’re a competitor, save it for competition. Instead, allow other fencing encounters of yours – and those of your peers – to be for your mutual joy and betterment.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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