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Introduction to Fencing 114

Updated on September 26, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

I am retired and a former epee fencer at CCNY Varsity and USFA. I have achieved the rank of A and have competed in National tournament.

Introduction

This lecture is about the disengage and some other techniques. This is a basic move of fencing and used to avoid the opponent's blade. There are a few variations and I will describe them.

- Sept. 2017

Strategies for Winning...

Here are a few simple strategies.

  • avoid the blade by use of disengage
  • use faint attacks to draw out your opponent
  • expose a target to set up your opponent
  • change your fencing distance
  • change your timing and tempo
  • Use second intention to plan ahead

Disengage

A simple disengage is performed by using your thumb and index finger holding the weapon loosely. You can disengage clock-wise by raising the tip and then lowering it in a circular fashion or in a counter clock-wise move by lowering the tip and then raising it. The movement should be small and your wrist should be stationary. When performed correctly and in the proper timing, you can deceive your opponent and avoid a parry and score a touch.

A compound action involves doing two disengages back to back. You can anticipate a parry by disengaging and then wait for the second parry and disengage in the opposite direction and score a touch. All of rhis happen is a split second.


Exposing a Target

A simple strategy to draw out an opponent is to subtlely expose a target such as a forearm. By moving your guard slightly, you can reveal a part of your forearm to your opponent. If performed slightly, you are giving your opponent an invitation to attack. Knowing this give you an advantage. You are in effect choreographing the next move. By anticipating an attack from your opponent to the target area, you can defend it better and surprise your opponent.

You can practice by standing in front of a mirror. You can see how little you need to move your guard to expose a target area big enough to be inviting. You don't want to over expose since your opponent will recognize it as a set up.

Beating of the Blade

A simple action to engage your opponent is the beating of the blade. This is accomplished by a small, quick and forceful tap of the blade approximately 1/3 of the distance from the tip. This will usually invoke a reaction by your opponent. He could react by beating back your blade, or by parrying or by disengaging...

The response of your opponent will give you some feedback as to what your opponent is plotting or thinking. It also gives you a chance to set up the opponent for a surprise attack. One particular attack is a simple staight attack to the bottom of the wrist. You can attempt this move by first beating the blade from under and thus lifting the opponents hand slightly and exposing the under side. A quick short lunge and straight attack to the wrist follows.

If you fail to land a touch, you should quickly recover and be prepared for a counter attack by parrying.

What to do When Your Opponent Lower His Weapon

Occasionally, you come across an unconventional fencer who does not stand on guard with the weapon raised. This presents a problem for those who like to feel the blade. This also throws off your fencing distance calculation. This fencer most likely wants to be on defense most of the time. He wants his opponent to attack and he will counter with a stop. He is quick in his movements and will adjust his distance by retreating to allow him time to perform the stop thrust.

My recommendation in this case is to mimic his move. He will not expect this. By keeping your distance and lowering your blade as well, he is at a lost. In effect, you are forcing him to attack, or engage you. This is most effective at the start of the bout. Time is on your side. Be patient and force him to attack. It puts him at a slight disadvantage.

Fencing Against a Power Opponent

Another possible opponent is one who is much stronger than average. He tends to be large and bulky and muscular. He is usually very agressive on the strip and will attack with force. His beat can be strong enough to knock your weapon out of your hand. He will hit you with a force that can bruise. Like a steam roller, he will charge at you and run you down the strip.

I will admit this is not an easy opponent to deal with. I have encountered a handful of this type of fencers. Some are fast as well as strong. The few successes I had in dealing with them are the following.

  • Hold on to your weapon, tighter if necessary
  • avoid engaging the blade, use disengages
  • keep a longer distance
  • go for the surprise hits such as a wrist or a toe touch
  • stand your ground and keep your weapon in line and let him charge into your point.

Summary

In summary, fencing is a fun and varying sport. It can be adapted depending on your opponent's style and temperament. It is also a heads game. You want to beat your opponent both physically and mentally. You are playing a chess game of sorts. You are strategizing on the fly and hoping to catch him making a mistake. You can also psych him out by being confident and in control. Never underestimate the power of surprise.

© 2017 Jack Lee

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