As the former coach of the US Women's Foil Team that won the Silver in Beijing, Mike Pederson's comment that to achieve the Olympics one has to be willing to commit 10 years and 10,000 hours of training has great credibility. He made a number of key points:
... active defense is critical in all weapons - if all you do is retreat you will be hit - actively search for the opponent's weapon far out.
... the proper extension is critically important to making the hit.
... he teaches a hand up position for the non-weapon arm. This balances the front arm, keeps the left shoulder out of the way, opens up the chest and shoulder girdle and increases air flow.
... if I start the action you have an obligation to stop me. He teaches bent arm attacks designed to control the opponent's blade. He noted that referees at the national and international level are tightening up on this, and that there is an increasing tendency to apply the sabre rule that the attack stops when the front foot lands.
... there is a lot of use of the lunge ending with an extreme forward lean to reduce the available target area. Doing this you must keep the head up to avoid a call for covering target.
... the elite women's foil game is focused 70% of the time on the area between the on-guard lines - the elite men's game is back and forth on the entire strip.
... half steps are widely used, both forward and retreating - the half step works by creating the illusion of movement to collapse the distance or adjust the timing.
... it takes three people to award a warning - the fencer who commits the infraction, the opponent who notices it and calls it to the attention of the referee, and the referee.
... in addition to profiling opponents (individual and team) it is critical to keep written notes on referees.
... plan to do two parries against an attack combined with your footwork - one an active parry far out and one closer.