Samantha Auty proudly sponsored by Fencing Imports Australia

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Final Post for 2013/2014 World Cup Season- Conclusions on What I Have Learnt

Hi All,
This post is basically a conclusion to my trip. It summarises all that I have learnt fencing wise as well as some general travel tips that I have found to be the most important on this trip. A lot of the fencing learning summary is sabre specific but I have also included a summary on what I have found to be the advantages of teams competitions at the World Cup level now that I have competed in one for the first time. Enjoy reading and if any of you feel that I should make the information in this blog available in another form or continue to blog throughout the national season please message me and let me know. This is meant as a tool for other fencers as well as a forum for me as fencer so we can help each other to our competitive goals.

  • Pack less, wash more. Having lighter luggage is easier on you when you have to move around.
  • If it's possible pre-book transport to and from the airport (it's cheaper!)
  • Staying in the official hotel for the competition is handy but there is nearly always a cheaper one nearby. Stay there and catch the bus to venue from the official hotel.
  • Stealing lunch and snacks from breakfast buffet's is easy.
  • Check whether your hotel charges a city tax per night in cash. Otherwise you may have an unexpected 10euro to pay when you check out.
  • Fencers are being carded for starting before 'allez'
  • Fencers are being told to fix their hair covering target an penalised for it.
  • Attack from the engarde line start with the feet, but if you do not finish with the hand properly or pull it back in anyway you will be caught with an attack in preparation if your opponent has a better arm action. In this way the difference between an attack and preparation is defined by the action of the arm.
  • A large step with hand movement is an attack no. This is called internationally and yet hardly ever recognised as the end of an attack in Australia.
  • Footwork needs to be more controlled. This can be done by using smaller steps and using the feet. What struck me the most about higher standards of footwork was how light the steps were, the use of the feet to control the movement of the legs was key to this.
  • Balance in defence A defensive stance must be in such a position that a fencer can change direction, counter attack, attack, or use blade contact. The defensive position overseas varies depending on the style of the fencers but their upper body is always still and they always have an excellent ability to change direction and accelerate backwards quickly.
  • HANDWORK IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. I feel that this is probably where I was most lacking technically. The ability to extend quickly in an attack is incredibly important as is the use of point attacks and quick attack on blade actions. Part of the problem with my blade work is that my weapon arm and shoulder is too stiff, relaxation of the shoulder and upper arm muscles is key so that the fingers and elbow extension can respond. This allows the fingers to control the action with maximum speed.
  • You must have confidence in your attacks. The knowledge that you can finish in the right timing and score against your opponent is crucial to this. I felt that I had less confidence in my attacks because I felt that they were technically deficient.
  • RELAX! Some people need to pump themselves up for me competing is all about relaxing and allowing myself to fence and move around the piste. When I'm nervous I mentally inhibit my fencing to actions close to the engarde lines and my arm and legs are too stiff to respond when they need too. Finding what mental cues and preparation works for you is crucial to competition performance. 
I as lucky enough to have two other Australians competing in Bolzano and so we were able to enter the teams competition. Unfortunately, now that women's sabre is a larger competition there is a 32 for teams, this means you have to win in the 32 to be able to fence an exhaustive teams competition from the 16 onwards. This has led to the perception that because Australia has a low ranking and teams competitions cost 400euro to enter it is not worth it, where if you lose in the 32 you will only fence one teams match. I have come to a different conclusion, and these are reasons why I would consider travelling and competing as team in the next World Cup season:
  • Travelling as a team is cheaper. Single rooms cost more than a triple room split between three (or two double rooms split between four). The same goes for taxis and competition entry.
  • You have more support. This includes simple things like when there are 3 flights of poules, if one person is fencing in the first and another in the third filming and supporting your team mate.
  • Even a finish in the 32 has an effect on the ranking of the team. Teams in the top 4 in the World have that ranking because they perform and COMPETE at every teams competition. Particularly in a smaller field like Women's Sabre competing in teams is worth it to move up just a couple of spots on the World Ranking. These were the benefits to the Australian women's Sabre team ranking after competing in one teams competition: We are now ahead of Singapore and Vietnam on the World Rankings. Usually if both these teams compete at Asian Senior Championships there are 9 teams overall. This means that 8 and 9 fence off to make the top 8. If both Singapore and Vietnam competed at Asian Seniors this year, Australia would therefore have a bye into the top 8. The Women's Sabre team has not made the top 8 for the past two years. Additionally, if there had been a team in another World Cup regardless of result Australia would also now be ahead of Japan on the Asia Zone rankings.
  • The importance of having a team in Asia Zone Championships is huge! This is the easiest way to get team ranking points and it's the reason we are ranked above GBR on world rankings.
With Women's Sabre getting bigger but still being a reasonably small competition fielding a team in World Cups is definitely worth it. It also makes the job the members of the AFT have to do at Asian Zone Champs and World Champs easier.

I hope you enjoyed reading! This is me signing out from Rome and about to fly home to Melbourne :)

Monday, 3 March 2014


Hi All,
Bolzano was my final World Cup for this tour and so this is my final post competition analysis. Up until this point I hadn't fenced well in any competitions at this level, and whilst I had learnt a lot about my technical weaknesses I hadn't identified any technical strengths. Whilst I didn't finish in the top 64 in this competition it was the first time I had actually made it beyond the poule rounds and qualified for a direct elimination match into the 64. More importantly this was the first time that I felt that I competed with my actual fencing ability and was not restrained my what I mentioned in my last analysis as a 'fear' on the piste of fencing at this level.

1st Match 5-4 victory over Sinigaglia, ITA
2nd Match 5-1 defeated by Reguigne, FRA
3rd Match 5-4 defeated by Pochekutova, KAZ
4th Match 5-4 victory over Bunyatova, AZE
5th Match 5-3 victory over Ruiz, ESP
6th Match 5-2 defeated by Pentek, HUN

  • I feel that based on the rankings of the fencers this was my hardest poule in any of the competitions on this tour.

Preliminary Tableau of 64 DE
15-10 defeated by Martin-Proteus ESP

My last analysis mentioned that I had identified that I was scared at fencing in these competitions. This translated on the piste to me limiting my fencing to very few actions close to the engarde line, rather than allowing myself to move on the piste and use a whole array of actions which is what is required at this level. I needed a way to relax myself during the competition.

Whilst warming up and during the competition I kept two things in my mind: 'F*** it and relax' and 'move'. The second mental cue was only required when I limited my actions around the engarde line but generally relaxing allowed me to a) move and use my ability to create and execute actions at a high level and b) observe opponents and implement a 'plan of action'. For example: against Ruiz I was able to identify that she wanted to attack in my preparation but w's unable to do so if I used two small fast steps to start my attack earlier.

These mental cues are something I need to further develop and practice so that they can be used regularly in high level competition to get me into a good competition mindset.

This competition reinforced my major technical weaknesses that I had identified before. These are:
  • My hand speed in attacks. This resulted in about 80% of the hits scored against me being attacks into my preparation (particularly off the engarde line).
  • Control of my steps including size and speed.
  • Lack of confidence to finish my long attacks (resulting from a perceived inability to use compound actions to my advantage)
  • Technical deficiencies in my parrying technique.
However, I was also able to identify technical strengths in my fencing resulting from performance in this competition. These were:
  • A good judgement of tempo and timing in the finish of attacks.
  • When I did finish a long attack a strong and fast lunge/ finish.
  • Good attack on the blades with a redoublement as a second intention action.
I am not going to fully analyse the performance of the Australian team in the team world cup against Canada. This is because we can only fully analyse our performance together as a team and it s a completely different competitive environment to analyse your individual performance against. However, I believe that for all three of us the Senior Teams competitions are a relatively new experience. I have only fenced in a team at a Senior competitive level once, and not in the role of the top fencer in the team. I think that we each took away technical weaknesses to work on, but more importantly a renewed motivation to fence as a team in the future. This competition, regardless of result, was a positive experience for us all and definitely worth it.

Thanks for reading my final analysis. For once there were positives to my competition results which not only have help defined my weaknesses but given me an idea of where I need to be heading in training in the next 8-10 months. Most importantly this competition has reinforced my decision to continue to strive towards competing at this level, because there has been progress n my performance even if it is small.