2017, Volume 13, Issue 1

The ability to correct an on-going action: Accuracy and correction time in elite fencing

Linus Zeuwts1, Katrien Koppo2, Greet Cardon1, Matthieu Lenoir1

1Sport and Movement Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium
2Department of Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology Research Group, KU Leuven, Belgium

Author for correspondence: Linus Zeuwts; Sport and Movement Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium; email: linus.zeuwts@ugent.be


Background and Study Aim: Performing an attack in fencing takes fractions of a second implying that there is little time to correct an on-going movement to anticipate the opponent’s action. Studies in the lab evaluated correction times in artificial tasks but stand in shrill contrast to elite sports where via extensive training, motor programs are mastered and perfected. This study aim was knowledge about the capability of elite fencers to correct an on-going attack to a central target, when the target suddenly changes position at random time intervals.

Material and Methods: Eight elite fencers (7 males, 18.3 ±4.66 years) performed a fente at a target as fast and accurate as possible. In 80% of the trials, a new target light was lit during the fente and the fencers had to adjust their movement to hit the new illuminated target. Correction times were set at 100ms, 170ms, 240ms, 310ms or 380ms before the estimated epee-target contact. The number of successful adjustments and the radial error were reported.

Results: With increasing correction times (p<0.01), radial error decreased. Based on the correction times, the inflection point was determined at 277ms. It was demonstrated that correction time influenced the number of adjusted trials (p<0.01). Fencers were able to adjust more trials when correction times were set at 310ms and 380ms (p<0.01).

Conclusions: Correction times in humans, which are often measured in laboratory settings, appear to apply for sports situations as well. A quarter of a second is sufficient to correct an on-going movement in which the whole body is involved subtle but effectively when the target unexpectedly changes position. Fast and adequate responding on sudden changes in the game situation is also for other sports an essential characteristic for successful performance.

Key words: foil, fente, feint, epee, motor control, on-going attack, prise de fer