So you want to hit your opponent, but their guard or their blade or (in foil) a non-target body part is in the way. Simply launching your attack and hoping that the obstacle will remove itself is probably not very productive. And for that matter something else move to assume the role of an obstruction to your progress toward victory, So you have to get around it …
The answer is angulation. Angulation is the deliberate creation of an angle in how your blade is positioned in the attack that lets you get behind the opponent’s guard and blade to hit the target. In the case of attacks to the arm, angulation also increases the chances of a hit by reducing the chance that your point or edge will miss the target – instead of a relatively narrow target viewed from the front, you now have the length of the arm to work with.
This angle may be accomplished laterally by coming straight out from the shoulder with your arm parallel to the line formed by your front toe and the two heels if you are to your opponent’s inside line. Once the extension penetrates far enough a quick turn, controlled by the fingers and wrist, positions the blade at an oblique angle to the target for the final cut or thrust. However, if the opponent is still covered or you are on the fencing line itself, the blade must be delivered by carrying your arm to the side. Your attack winds up following a track similar to the two short sides of a triangle when the long side is the opponent’s arm.
The problem is different if you are angulating vertically. In foil and epee, angulation to the low line requires a full extension sloping downward from the shoulder with the blade pulled up when at the correct point in the attack. Depending on the grip you use, the hand may be positioned either in the thumb up vertical position or in pronation with the wrist pulled back. In sabre, a point thrust would be delivered as in foil or epee, and the cut may be delivered with either the front edge with a rotation of the hand or the back edge with a backward/upward pull of the blade.
Vertical angulation into the high line in foil and epee requires the thrusting arm to be raised and the point simultaneously lowered to maintain track to the target. In sabre this will probably be to deliver a vertical downward cut to the arm – the skyhook is an example.
These are angulation actions delivered as stand-alone attacks or ripostes. However, angulation is also important in closing the line for thrusts and for cuts, especially in the simple glide or prise de fer direct thrust. In both cases the objective is to deflect the opponent’s blade, clearing the line of attack while simultaneously hampering any counterattack.
A final form is the ceding attack. On an opponent’s attempt to remove your attacking blade with a held parry or sideways pressure, continue the attack by using the opponent’s blade as a pivot point. With the hand moving forward and in the direction of the pressure, the blade pivots in the opposite direction to arrive on the target.
Any angulation carries with it significant risk. Your bent arm and blade travels a greater distance to hit the opponent, paradoxically requiring you to be closer to the target. Because your blade is out of the direct line to the target, it is also out of the direct line of an opponent’s counteraction, exposing you and rendering defense more difficult. These factors suggest that angulation must be a tactical surprise to the opponent, must be executed with speed and acceleration, and must not be hesitant.