Fencing Foil: A Practical Training Guide for Coaches, Parents and Young Athletes


Fencing Foil: A Practical Training Guide for Coaches, Parents and Young AthletesAfter the American Fencers success in the 2008 Summer Olympics, fencing has grown in popularity. Finally, there’s a complete book- from the history of fencing, to technique, injury prevention, and sports psychology- for the purpose of training young athletes. The general information applies to all weapons, with emphasis on foil. The book is for parents, coaches and fencers.

You will discover:

How to develop a program.
Learning styles of children.
How to achieve fencing fitness.
Foil techniques from basic to elite competitive level.
How to remain calm, yet alert when competing.
Numerous games for quick decision-making, agility and speed.
How fencing is challenging mentally, physically, and it’s fun!

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Book Reviews

“Important” and “Comprehensive” are two of the adjectives that came to mind when I read this book. It is a long-overdue comprehensive text for training young fencers. It is written with a sabre emphasis, but only about 30% is weapon-specific. The vast amount of information on the mental, physical, technical, and tactical training of young fencers is just amazing. If you are a coach of any weapon, a fencer who wants a deeper understanding of your sport, or a parent who wants to really know what should be going on in your child’s fencing program, get this book.”
Cole Harkness, Maitre d’Armes
I just got the book. It’s great, one of the best books on teaching fencing I’ve read. It’s along the lines of the “Big book of Fencing” with way better pictures. Now if they created a DVD version? First, your book is great. It’s one of the best books I’ve read on teaching fencing period. Why? Because it’s clearly written. The drills make sense and there is enough pictures of high quality to help all us visual learners. Via Fencing.net big daddy–Senior Member Join Date: Mar 2004
Big Daddy | Senior Member

Longer Reviews!

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Submitted from Fencing.net

Once upon a time it was a novelty to encounter a competitor under the age of 18; things are quite different today. We live in a world where junior fencers earn high rankings in the world cup competitions. It has become quite common to see 8 year olds committing themselves to learning this demanding sport and quickly progressing to competition on the National Level. A broad spectrum of issues emerge as a result of this fundamental change in the genesis of the modern fencing athlete. Until the publication just 4 years ago of Fencing: A Practical Guide for Training Young Athletes by Rob Handelman and Connie Louie, there was virtually nothing written on the topic of Fencing to address the specific needs of our growing population of Young Fencers. Handelman and Louie’s first book which provided a long overdue update and extension of the Saber Literature may have escaped the notice of a large segment of the non-saber fencing community. That is unfortunate since a large portion of that book is directly applicable to the same information deficits that exist in the point weapon literature. At the same time, the release of their first book broke new ground by addressing not only the needs of Coaches, but also the Parents who support Young Fencers and the Fencers themselves. With the release of Handelman and Louie’s latest volume, Fencing Foil: A Practical Guide for Coaches, Parents and Young Athletes, this unique treatment of fencing will at last reach the larger audience.

Fencing Foil reprises the comprehensive review of the physiological, emotional and intellectual development issues facing young athlete and their Coaches that made the earlier book Fencing: A Practical Guide for Training Young Athletes a paradigm for all future books on fencing.

Hundreds of pages are devoted to foil technique along with the essential tactical insight that is the foundation of modern training for early and sustainable success. The technical development goals are well supported extensive notes covering proper cueing, student and coach initiated drills, go/no-go decisions, distance and footwork variations in context for both individual and group lessons. I particularly like the discussion on page 313 outlining the value of advancing students to non-verbal lessons which compel the student to recognize and intelligently assess visual and spatial cues to guide their actions rather than merely executing verbal commands. Youth Lesson Concepts on page 347 offers important insights to the Coach who has exclusively run adult programs and is adding a youth program. The up to date approach of Fencing Foil to the multi-lateral development of conditioning, technique and tactical efficiency through Option Lessons is well presented and goes a long way to enable the formation of a capable competitor regardless of age.

Fencing Foil also expands the previous compilation of games that are an indispensable part of engaging the young fencer’s sense of fun while developing the agility, focus, endurance and anaerobic ability that enable success in the sport. In this book you will find rarely discussed topics such as Starting a Youth Program, Coaching Men versus Women, Coaching Millennials, Strip Coaching, Guidance for Parents of Fencers, Motivation and Mental Toughness.

Fencing Foil: A Practical Guide for Coaches, Parents and Young Athletes, in 460 Pages offers an in depth treatment of Foil Fencing across the full spectrum of topics relevant to Coaches, Fencers and Parents Supporting Fencers. This book is a must-have for anyone in pursuit of success in the sport.

Via Fencing.net
the ancient one  – Senior Member
Join Date: May 2007
Location: SF bay area

As the Olympics continue in Vancouver and the Paralympics begin today, it’s time to start thinking about the 2012 games. With 26 sports being featured, breaking down into disciplines and events, there’s more excitement for athletes today than ever! If you’re still deciding on your sport, today’s review may help to shed some light on an activity that has been popularized in books, movies, and especially with light sabres. “Fencing: A Practical Guide for Training Young Athletes” by Rob Handelman, D.C. and Connie Louie, Ph.D. is the culmination of notes, training material, and seeing a need for young fencers to be trained properly.

Their book sets out to get people interested in fencing as a cool sport. Seriously, what other book is going to tell you how to fake-out your opponent (pg. 108) or the best way to chase a dude – or a dame! – with a sword down a strip and what eat afterwards (pg. 282)? I mean, you could take 40 years to learn this stuff or you could learn from two people who have spent a lifetime in the fencing world.

“The book itself is built on Rob’s knowledge of drills and technicalities in fencing and my background in psychology,” Louie said. The ‘knowledge of drills and technicalities’ that she refers to with Rob Handelman is his formal training he received during almost three years in Paris at the Institut National des Sports (INS) where he earned his Fencing Master credential in all three weapons (sabre, foil, and epee). He is one of only three Americans to ever graduate from the INS.

His students have been national finalists, national team members, and national champions. He has taught the varsity team at UC Berkeley, as well as coaches’ clinics for the US Fencing Association at the Olympic training center at Squaw Valley and training camps for the top junior fencers. Maître d’Armes Handelman is currently the chair of the board that certifies fencing instructors for the US Fencing Coaches Association. Well, if that’s not the coach you want, I don’t know who is!

Connie Louie rounds out the combination of know-how with her background as a fencing coach. She is also a licensed psychologist specializing in sports psychology, a member of the US Olympic Training Squad for three years, and she fenced with the US Women’s Foil Team in Europe.
Take up the sport today, and while you may not be Olympic ready come 2012, you can elevate your status at school. Instead of saying, “I run the 500-meter in track” or “I’m the midfielder on our soccer team,” it’s way cooler – and kind of mysterious – to say, “I fence.”

Did you know that after the Paris 1924 Olympic Games, the Italian and Hungarian teams settled a scoring controversy with a real-life duel? Yikes!

San Jose Young Adult Literature Examiner 3/12/2010 
by Barbara Bell

Last June at the USFCA Coaching Clinic in San Francisco I learned from Connie Louie that she and Rob Handelman were planning to publish a book on Saber fencing available for sale in the Fall. The release took a little longer than planned but I thought it is worth mentioning that the book is finally available.

36 years ago, when I started fencing, the English language books available on Saber were already out of date and in years since, not much has happened to improve the situation. I am really pleased to have this new book, as well as the recently appearing translation of Modern Saber Fencing by Dr. Borysiuk , together they are a real breath of fresh air.

This 303 page book is somewhat of a challenge to characterize, because beyond it’s stated purpose of training youth fencers and particularly in modern saber technique which it covers very well, much of the information presented is will be useful anyone who wants to coach, or coach better, regardless of the age group or weapon. The book includes sections on starting a club or program, child development, safety, injuries and their prevention, fitness, diet, games, footwork and drills, technique, group and individual lessons, competitive training, tactics, parents, mental training. The organization of the materials is logical and clearly presented. I counted at least 87 drills with variations set out in detail with breaks to discuss goals and motivations for the exercise.

Finally as a part of the Coaching Clinic, I had the chance to work first hand with Rob Handelman and Connie Louie’s 6 to 10 year old saber students, which was a delightful and eye-opening experience. Here was a group of kids that were clearly enjoying themselves and already among them a surprising number who were demonstrating remarkable progress in their fencing abilities.

the ancient one  – Senior Member
Join Date: May 2007
Location: SF bay area

February 2010

Via Fencing.net

I ordered the book sometime last week and just finished reading it.
This is an absolutely excellent fencing book. It would of no doubt be of use to creating a youth program but it goes well beyond that. There are great fencing specific games, stretches, strength & conditioning drills. This book has it all.

There are a great number of drills, a portion of them probably too advanced for youth fencers (though these are marked and there are notes about them) while it is saber focused a number of these drills would help a foil or epeeist as well.

The authors also note errors they see coaches making during USFCA exams, and give specific examples of how corrections should be made.

And best of all, it goes well beyond the teaching of technique. I was lucky that it got mentioned on Fencing.net. Otherwise I would have had no idea it existed at all.

Via Fencing.net
epeeslasher –Senior Member
Join Date: Apr 2007

Rob Handelman and Connie Louie point out quite accurately in the preface to “Fencing: A Practical Guide for Training Young Athletes” that there has been a dearth of writing on the subject of teaching fencing, particularly electric sabre fencing, to youngsters. This is ironic, considering the vast growth in popularity of sabre fencing in the U.S. and across the globe in the last fifteen years. In order to fill this void Handelman and Louie have attempted to create a complete guide for coaches and parents of young fencers. In my opinion they have succeeded and thus closed a huge information gap. The book is thorough, easy to read, and practical. Connie Louie’s photographs featuring young and obviously enthusiastic fencers effectively illustrate the concepts and the material is well organized in a very logical sequence.

As the owner of a fencing club (Cobra Fencing Club, Jersey City NJ) dedicated to the development of young fencers I think I am very familiar with the challenges of organizing a training program that attracts and keeps young people active in the sport of fencing. The first goal of any fencing coach who is training youngsters is to create and nurture love of the sport. From this wellspring, comes the student’s desire, dedication and work ethic. So it’s logical that the first chapters of the book address the subjects of Understanding Child Development, Sports Medicine as it relates to the young athlete, Fencing Fitness and, in Chapter 6, Making it Fun – Games. Of course making the training sessions fun for youngsters is a tremendous key and all of the games and exercises in this section are also geared for developing the body and mind of the student. Youngsters like to be challenged in interesting ways. A group of young athletes going through their paces really creates great energy in a club. The parents of the young fencers see their kids sweaty and happy at the end of a training session and they can’t help but become fencing enthusiasts themselves.

In most cases, when a parent takes his son or daughter to the fencing club for the first time they have little first hand knowledge of the sport. Many times it is at the urging of the youngster that they find a club and they really don’t know what to expect. The book makes the assertion, by its very title, that fencing is a sport for young athletes. I think this is a very important aspect of the first impression parents and youngsters get when they first visit a club. Generally, parents are not expecting their youngsters to be on path for the Olympic Games but they are interested in healthful, beneficial activities for their children. Once a club has established a serious, systematic training regimen for youngsters, every potential new family that enters the club can tell right away that there is something of special value going on. In this regard, this book can be a great help to a fencing club’s success.

The chapters on Technique, Footwork and Drills, Group Class Instruction are geared primarily for sabre but these drills can be easily fitted or modified for use in foil or epee by a knowledgeable coach. The drills are extremely well thought out and are even designated for the appropriate skill levels of the fencers. For example, on page 184 there is a drill for five fencers. Two fence a bout, two strip coach and one referees. The roles are rotated after each five-touch bout. So all five fencers are fencing, thinking tactically and sharpening their reffing ability. All are, of course, very positive activities. The drills are quite varied and address all of the skills necessary to help the young fencer make steady improvement. There is tremendous attention to detail in the description of drills and the authors really want the intention of each drill to be understood and performed correctly.

Another strength of this book is that a young or inexperienced coach can take the information and greatly improve their ability to train young fencers effectively. The tactical drills can help young fencers gain confidence in their ability to fence. The book is totally current with the sabre game of today. I am not aware of any other English language fencing book in the market today as directly useful for the training of young sabre fencers.

The section devoted to parents should be required reading for all parents of young fencers. It has a common sense approach. Here is a sample paragraph on the benefits of fencing: “There are many benefits to participating in youth fencing. Children learn sportsmanship and self-discipline (i.e., accept and give compliments to other fencers, maintain self-control after a loss, and be humble after a win). They learn to compete independently as well as for a team; they learn the joy of winning and gain lessons from defeats while becoming physically fit and healthy; and, most importantly, they learn to make complex decisions, analyze problems, and think fast. These ideals help children reach their potential in many areas of their life other than fencing. More importantly, the primary reason youths enter sports is the desire to have fun, and fencing is fun!” The book even contains a 17 point Code of Conduct for parents. The information on motivation, mental toughness and nutrition is invaluable to coaches, parents and competitors.

To sum up, Handelman and Louie have taken their years of great coaching and competing experience and created a very valuable book that belongs in active use today by all coaches, parents and young fencers. In my own library of fencing books it will take a place right next to the great books of the past written by the likes of Szabo, Vass, Lukovich, Alaux, Kogler, Czajkowski, Wojeichowski, and others. And most importantly, I will have a copy at my club for ready reference.

Steve Kaplan, Head Coach
Cobra Fencing Club
U.S. Olympic Sabre Team, Montreal 1976
May 2010

Over the past few years I have been paid to review and edit numerous textbooks for colleges and publishers. Imagine my surprise and delight when I started reading Fencing: A Practical Guide for Training Young Athletes, and recognized in it a professional, educational approach to the idea of teaching fencing.

Fencing: is written by Robert Handelman, a US Fencing Coaches Association coach who is accredited in all three weapons by the Institut National des Sports (INS) in France, and Connie Louie, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and Prévôt de Sabre.

Each of the fifteen chapters is concise, well structured and easy to understand. Beginning with a short overview of how to start a youth fencing program, it quickly focuses on youth development, learning styles and sports medicine as it applies to different developmental stages.

“Fencing Fitness,” chapter five, is targeted to youth fencers, though I found the elements and drills appropriate for all ages. The next chapter is a nice collection of the types of games that young fencers love to play for warm-up and that help keep them engaged in the learning process.

As the book moves into techniques, footwork and drills, I especially like the format: first is the technique name, then the definition, the execution is then provided via a step-by-step procedure, the tactical application follows and then the pedagogy (how to teach it to a student). The drills are even coded by level of difficulty.

The book covers how to handle group as well as individual instruction, includes a chapter on competitive training, and offers a great chapter specifically for parents. The “Mental Toughness” chapter is unique; it not only addresses how to focus, how to relax, and the benefits of positive thinking, it walks the reader through a number of well-documented techniques, such as self-talk, self-hypnosis, visualization, and even EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

Chapter 14 offers a self-examination for the students, to allow them to develop their own point of view, and thus work from that perspective. The final chapter consists of short notes directed to the coach. The Appendix is filled with helpful flow charts and forms.

Because of how comprehensive the book is, and how well fencing is written and organized, this is a book that I would recommend to anyone. I personally plan to go back through the drills and techniques sections and pick out parts that might help supplement my training this summer.

American Fencing
Summer 2010, Volume 60, Issue 2
Product Review by Kathryn Schifferle