Training the Ranges of Your Ability

If you want to imagine your ability to fence as a rating out of 100, it would be impossible to pinpoint an exact score in any kind of meaningful way. To be able to say I’m a 75 and they’re a 70, thus I should be able to defeat them isn’t relevant because its impossible to say where you are truly on a given day and at a given moment. The score of your “game” on our metaphorical chart is never at any fixed point, you always operate on a range.

There’s your score when you’re really in the groove, feeling great, well rested, mentally sharp and on fire (the top of your game). There’s your score when you’re struggling, tired, focusing on a new technique, stuck in a rut, having a bad day (the bottom of your game). There’s your score when you fight your first pass after putting on your shoes (cold game), and your score after you’ve been fencing for 30 minutes and have gone through all your startup routines (warm game). Then there’s everything in between.

All of these scores are moving as you improve. The bottom of my coldest game is higher now than the top of my warmest game was 5 years ago. If I work more on fencing and combatives and less on drills and fundamentals the top of my game moves ahead, but the bottom of my game lags and the gap between them increases. If I focus only on drills then the bottom of my game creeps in on the top of my game but my whole score tends not to move forward. If I neglect the fundamentals of my bottom game I find that it gets harder and harder to push my top game forward.

If I’m regularly active and training everyday and looking after my diet, flexibility, and strength, my cold game starts off a lot higher but if I’m not focusing on pushing my fencing forward my warm game advances very little.

Bottom game training is about fundamentals and conditioned tactical responses. Top of game training is about mental focus and strategic ability.

Cold game training is about conditioning and mindset. Warm game training is about the meeting of fundamentals with creative problem solving.

When you are training and pushing yourself forward being mindful of where you are and what you’re training for is important. Every one of these levels of ability deserves dedicated attention to move forward cold and warm, top and bottom.

devonboorman 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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