I often refer to fencing techniques during instruction. I spent a good part of my youth in a fencing school, practicing advances, retreats, lunges and other techniques. My teacher was the father of one of my high school friends. Maestro Meudt had a small club in Maryland called the Olympic Fencing Club and we would go there and train a lot and go to local competitions. Later, I signed up for the team in college and I got to compete throughout the mid-Atlantic and once in Canada. Those were great days and we had a lot of fun. I got to train with some seriously good fencers and I got to see some incredible bouts. Of course, I was never that good. I was slow and lead footed unlike my teammates who could compete at Pan-Am level. But the training soaked in none-the-less. I soon moved on to more pugilistic pursuits. Now, after more than 35 years since first picking up a foil, I find myself revisiting techniques and training methods.
How is this relevant to Escrima? Well, Escrima is fencing, albeit a different form, but it is sword play. The other day, I was reading a piece by Tim Morehouse, Olympic Silver Medalist, and I was really inspired by what he was saying! He was emphasizing footwork and fundamentals. He said (I paraphrase) that fencing is a game of position and footwork is what gets you into position to execute. What fencers do better than anyone, I believe, is maintain distance and position. I remember hours and hours of training in Maestro Meudts club, advancing and retreating up an down the strip; sometimes with a partner and sometimes without. This became the foundation of every single training session. Not only is advancing and retreating important but it is the ability to quickly and effectively shift from advancing to retreating or vice versa that is the key to success, and Morehouse espouses this as well. Being quick on your feet and making rapid changes in direction gets you to the position you need to execute your technique. You don't have to move in a straight line, confined to a 3 foot wide strip to play Escrima well or take from fencing its most significant gift. But, if you make footwork the basis of every single training session, I am certain you will be a much better fighter, a much better escrimador.