Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fencing: Evolution of Strategy

As I try to get better at this sport - I realized that there is an evolution in skill and thinking in fencing. I am sure this evolution is in all sports, but in fencing it seems to be much more apparent. Here are the levels.

  1. Complete confusion. At this point, you really don't know what is going on. You try to apply lessons you just learned only minutes ago, and you fail miserably. In foil and saber, you are doomed to being murdered and embarassed by attacks and parry-ripostes that never seem to work. Worse, you will never have a call go your way. In epee, you are actually kinda dangerous. If a fencer doesn't perceive your lack of experience, he will offer cues you will miss - and he might actually open himself up to your wild flailing about and actually get hit.
  2. Nervousness. Here the lessons are starting to take hold. Lots of defense, not much attack. Attacks will often fail, although sudden direct attacks might work. At this stage you may take the lead in a bout, and then lose suddenly because you are not experienced enough to notice adjustments in an opponents tactics.
  3. Anticipation. After a lot of experience, and many lost bouts, you will start to notice patterns and trends. With fencers at or below a certain level, you can anticipate how they will attack, or how they will defend against your attack, and you can use that information against them. For example, if Fencer A consistently uses a parry four then riposte, you can feint to four, then attack in sixte, with a parry four after to make sure there is no double touch (esp. in epee).
  4. Manipulation. After a ton of experience, and many lost and won bouts, you will start to notice a lot more patterns, trends, and styles. Once you recognize a fencer with a certain style, you can manipulate him into a set of patterns and tactics so that you aren't chasing him any more with your tip or edge - you need only direct him to where your tip or edge is going to be. For example, if you see a fencer who enjoys going for the toe, you can fence in a lowline guard for much of the bout. At the right time, raise your guard and step an extra half advance out of distance. This will direct your opponent to the opportunity he has been waiting for, and as he goes for your toe - you can nail him in the face.

I will let you know if I make it past #4.

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