This article is from the Fencing FAQ, by Morgan Burke with numerous contributions by others.
It is very easy to acquire bad habits and poor technique if you do
not have the guidance of a knowledgable fencing master, coach, or
fellow fencer. If you are serious about improving your fencing,
quality coaching is always your best investment. However, a
disciplined fencer still has options if decent instruction is not
available on a regular basis.
Firstly, a solid knowledge of fencing theory and regulations is a
must. Freelance fencers should study the FIE Rules of
Competition and a good fencing manual (see Section 3.3). They
should test and apply this knowledge by refereeing whenever
possible. An appreciation of good fencing style is also
essential, so that they can readily identify weaknesses in their
own and other fencers' techniques. Observation and comparison of
skilled or accomplished fencers will develop this ability.
Training videotapes and videotapes of high-level competitions
(see Section 3.6) are also helpful in this regard.
Freelance fencers must be open-minded and critical of their own
technique, so that they can recognize problems before they develop
into habits. Discussion of their weaknesses with training opponents
will help them clarify the areas that need work. If possible, they
should videotape their bouts and review them to spot defects in their
tactics and technique.
Fencers should seek out opponents who will strenuously test
their weaknesses. More experienced fencers, left-handers, those
whose tactics are particularly effective, and even those with
annoying (ie. difficult) styles should be courted on the practice
strip. When fencing less skilled opponents, fencers should
restrict their tactics to a small set that require practice, and
resist the temptation to open up if they should start losing.
The opportunity to participate in footwork and line drills should
never be passed up. When they can find agreeable partners,
fencers can do more personalized drills to exercise their weak
areas. (Of course it is courteous to indulge the needs of your
partners when they in turn work on their own training.)
Lastly, fencers should remain aware of their bout psychology and
mental state when fencing, and try to cultivate the mindset that
in their experience produces good fencing.