Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Red Riding Hoods – Fleche and Other Footwork Training

This drill can be done by a fencer with their parent or friend. So it can be assigned as homework or it can be one parents can adopt to do with their fencer.

One of the big things with training the fleche is to be able to execute from any point in your movement without telegraphing that you're about to. The fleche should explosively take an opponent by surprise. They should not have the time to realize the fleche is happening or to respond.

If an athlete has to fully settle their feet before beginning a fleche, they lose the moment in which it would be effective. If an athlete has to load the body and set up the weight to be explosive, they lose the element of surprise.

This exercise is a fun one. My youth fencers love it – despite it being strenuous. I originally started using it for my college fencers to help teach them to fleche suddenly from light footwork movement. The team of beginner fencers who first adopted this drill went on to win their conference's foil title three years running. Obviously, this drill was not the only element of their success – but their ability to make sudden bursting attacks, counters, and attacks in prep, helped set them apart.

It is also adaptable. You can change the footwork involved, or even dispense with footwork altogether.

It's pretty simple. The leader tells a story. While the leader is telling the story the fencers “float” or maintain a dynamic guard (they bounce back and forth lightly or shuffle constantly between their feet, if they have trouble with this an advance-retreat in place pattern is fine).

Certain types of words trigger certain responses. Usually you only want two. You could work it as a recognition and choice drill by adding more than two – but this can be difficult and those are better as visual drills.

For example, we tell a faery tale and every time an animal word is used the fencer's fleche, every time a color word is used they do a burpee.

Number words can be an option also. Or the name of a character. Faery tales are the easiest to use, but we used The Death of Superman once. One of our youth athletes likes leading the drill and makes up stories. The important parts are
  1. Keeping the story fun and interesting so athletes enjoy the exercise despite the work
  2. Embellishing the story in the extreme – partially to keep it interesting; in order to add the trigger words as much as possible.

Your chosen responses can vary.

For footwork we commonly use fleche, flunge, double advance-lunge. You could use a distance pull-lunge. You could add an explosiveness exercise and do a scissor jump lunge, or a squat lunge.

For conditioning we typically use burpees or sit ups, but you could use jumping squats, or sprints, or even sit ups. It should just be a small number, or even only one, so that they can reset to their constant movement quickly. You'll also be making them do it several times throughout the story so they don't have to do a lot each time the word is said since you'll say your trigger words several times.

If you want to focus on creating a work out instead of focusing on footwork then you might try three or four cue words. You can increase the cue words in this instance because they don't have to worry about quick reaction on a precise or correct execution of a fencing movement, they are just doing a simpler exercise movement which should be more natural to them. Then set all trigger words for exercise movements. So colors trigger a burpee, numbers trigger a jumping squat, and animals trigger a sprint.

If they get the cue wrong, give them a jovial reminder of what the cues are. It's not a choice or decision drill so the error doesn't really need any firm correction – they just need to get on track so they get the most out of the drill.


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Red riding hood image found on pintrest by Edli on Deviant Art, classic fleche image taken from Sydney Sabre

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