One of the best ways to train to fence bouts is to fence practice bouts, a lot of them. Therefore, it seems logical that one of the best ways to learn to fence fast when time is important is to fence fast bouts. I have found two approaches useful.
First, impose a time limit on practice bouts fenced without a referee. Instead of using fencing time, the time between the commands to fence and to halt, use an actual time limit the same as the bout’s fencing time limit. From the first “fence” to the last “halt” is 3 minutes, including time spent walking back to the on guard line, adjusting the mask, discussing whose touch it is, etc. Using an organized rotation, this can be made into the fencing equivalent of speed dating, moving fencers on to new opponents every 3 minutes.
When you first do this, the high score in 3 minute bouts will drop from 5 to 3, or even 2, especially among intermediates without tournament experience. However, the fencers will adjust to the reduced fencing time by fencing faster and eliminating time wasters that eat up practice time.
Second, fence for a maximum number of bouts in a set time period. My Salle runs Fence Til You Drop as a fun event each January 1st, with the rule that the winner is the fencer who fences the most bouts, won or lost, in 2 hours. Because the objective is to get people moving after the doldrums of the Christmas-New Year holiday season, we do not worry about the won-loss ratio or indicators. However, these would be easy enough to add to the equation to more closely model competition, and to eliminate losing as quickly as possible as a strategy. To increase throughput we fence dry – the record set in January 2012 is 75 bouts in 120 minutes.
These approaches may be useful as part of a training program. They should not be the only way in which your fencers fence bouts. The standard competition pool and direct elimination bouts have a tactical rhythm to them that depends on the interval between halt and fence to plan the next touch. Being able to manipulate that interval with delaying techniques has always been an important part of bout tactics. However, the speed bout prepares fencers for the specific case when time is limited and touch production must be rapid, and it may contribute to athlete conditioning and increase bout throughput in your practice sessions. As such it should be in the fencing master’s technical repertoire.