Managing your DE Bouts
ELIMINATION ROUNDS ARE DIFFERENT!
These are longer than pool bouts, so require more mental preparation and determination and there are a host of mistakes waiting to ambush you. Below are some examples of some of the most common DE bout issues.
When you are in the elimination table the biggest management problem you have is staying physically and mentally prepared to fence when you sometimes have to wait anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours between bouts. Overcoming this obstacle is critical to your goal of making a final.
Have a high seed because you rocked your pool round and have a bye? This is great, right? Not if you sit around and fail to prepare for a fight against a maybe(?) weaker opponent who is coming fresh from a victory. It is very common for athletes to drop the ball here.
Have to fence the #1 seed? This is your chance for an upset. The #1 seed probably expects an easy bout, especially if the event is large enough that they don’t have a bye. If you made some mistakes in the pool round and did not get the result that reflects your real skill and ability then you can get past this fencer, but only if you actually have skills and experience and you are ready to work really hard and stay tough. Keep in mind that the #1 seed out of the pool round is not necessarily the best fencer on the floor, just the fencer with the best pool result. Plenty of fencers have learned to win all their 5 hit pool bouts but lack enough game or ability to focus for a longer bout of 15 hits. If you succeed in winning this bout you will also cause worry to your next opponent, who now has to fence someone they weren’t expecting; the fact that you were victorious over a much higher seeded fencer means you have a psychological edge over your opponent.
Did you drop a pool bout or two that you should have won? No worries, just work hard and stay focused in your DE bouts. You will have harder opponents sooner, but that avoids the consequences of a first DE that is so easy for you that you have difficulty changing gears for your next opponent.
Have the lead? Patiently keep working the bout and resist the urge to finish the bout right now. Chasing after hits will allow your opponent back in the game.
Behind in the score? Work every step to make your next hit, the outcome will be whatever you make it whether you win or lose, so only concern yourself with what is in front of you to do. Trailing in the score is only a problem when you have a large gap and no time left. It is entirely possible to score 5 hits in less than 10 seconds in foil and even in epee; and in sabre that goes without saying. In effect, worrying about your hit deficit is unproductive and unnecessary, instead just concentrate on scoring your next hit, and then the next hit, until the bout is over.
Trading hits in a close bout? When you have scored the most recent hit your opponent will suddenly press you more and work harder to score. Turn your attention to preventing the opponent from getting something started by continuing to keep pressure on them with your fencing; use hindering tactics rather than relaxing because you are in the lead again. Work to open your lead a little with another point, then keep working to stymie your opponent.
Try to remember that whatever the outcome of the bout is, every hit you score and every hit your opponent scores is the basis for your continuing work at practice and at the next tournament you fence in. Once you are through either celebrating your victory or gnashing your teeth at defeat you need to evaluate your bouts critically, both good and bad moments, and decide what to focus on improving before your next event.