The postings in the past two blogs have looked at simple tactical choices to defeat the attack and the defense. But what happens when the defeat is in turn defeated? Although this seems like one too many defeats, lets look at the two cases:
(1) you attack, and the opponent defeats your attack and ripostes with the intent of hitting you.
(2) you are attacked, you defeat the opponent’s attack and riposte, only to have your riposte defeated.
Now you have a problem. What you thought was going to be your successful hit is turning into the opponent’s weapon coming at your target. And you have a fight on your hands …
How you fight the remainder of the phrase determines whether:
(1) you are hit and the opponent learns something that will let him hit you again (your worst outcome),
(2) you are hit and neither of you learn anything of tactical value (not good because the opponent already knows how to hit you),
(3) you are hit but you learn something from the phrase that will help you score next time if there enough touches remaining (the best of the bad lot),
(4) neither of you are hit, the opponent learns something that will let him hit you (not a good thing because you will be hit the next time),
(5) neither of you are hit, and neither of you learn anything tactically useful (a waste of effort, unless you are ahead and have a reasonable chance of running out the time in your favor),
(6) neither of you are hit, and you learn something that will allow you to hit the opponent (a useful outcome),
(7) you score a touch, but the opponent learns how to defeat your action (you gain only a short term advantage unless you have a lead and either time is running out or the number of touches remaining is small and you can change your tactics),
(8) you score a touch, but you learn nothing of tactical value (dangerous ground, you may have a significant advantage and there is nothing to be learned, or this could be just luck),
(9) you score a touch, and you learn something that will allow you to score another (the best outcome).
This is a very different way to look at the tactical dynamics of the bout. It is grounded in the idea that a phrase (a continuous period of fencing action involving attack, counterattack, or defense) is an argument executed with the blades and feet. In an argument (not a shouting match or a “is so – is not” exercise in denial) people propose ideas and argue for them. Both participants learn about the other’s ideas and reasoning. Assuming open minded and fair participants, the winner of the argument continually learns in the discussion and convinces the other person of the value of his or her position. And that is exactly what you do in a fencing bout, assuming that you approach it as a tactical exercise, not just an attempt to bash the opponent into submission (an approach which is fundamentally a waste of time against weaker opponents and suicidal against better ones).
So, you first effort has been defeated. What are the possible outcomes from this? If you have learned in the process, you have three choices:
(1) give up and be hit – in the great majority of cases not a good course of action unless your action was a reconnaissance and you learned what you wanted to learn..
(2) stand and fight either from the lunge, static in place, or from the recovery.
(3) open the distance to end the phrase.
The interesting option is the stand and fight one. This is a considerably simpler problem than we faced when thinking about defeating the defense or defeating the attack. We can clearly define the characteristics of the problem as follows:
(1) you have an incoming blade to deal with, a threat that is faster than an initial attack because it covers less distance and because you may still be providing your forward movement at the end of a lunge to the equation.
(2) your solution to the incoming blade must create the opportunity for a hit.
(3) your action to gain the hit must take into account the opponent’s training and what they have learned.
So what are the logical tactical choices in this situation? If we consider the three primary categories of actions that are intended to result in a touch, we can take advantage of a fairly complex range of options.
First, COUNTEROFFENSE: The remise is a stop hit against the riposte especially useful against weapons with a forward target (epee and sabre). The remise with opposition closing the primary line of the opponent’s riposte is effectively a time hit against the riposte. Both are particularly useful against broken tempo ripostes.
Second, DEFENSE-OFFENSE: The parry combined with the riposte or first counterriposte is a reaction that we spend a lot of time developing in fencers. Most of these ripostes end up being direct ripostes or counterripostes in the original line. However, indirect ripostes should be used as frequently to defeat automatic parry-riposte combinations in the original line, and, if the opponent learns that you can do indirect ripostes, to complicate his or her defense. All three standard indirect attacks (disengage, coupe, counterdisengage) can be employed in this way, and the complete set can be done with opposition or transports to prevent effective parries. In some cases (although the opportunity will be limited by distance) it may be useful to do a compound riposte. If you have a strong, fast recovery, it may be possible to open the distance sufficiently to execute a parry by distance causing the opponent to fall short, opening the opportunity for a riposte.
Third, DEFENSE-COUNTEROFFENSE: Avoidances, the duck, inquartata, etc., can be combined with a remise or stop hit.
In each case your response must be based on what you have learned and an evaluation of what the opponent has learned in the bout and in pre-bout reconnaissance. This means that you must evaluate every touch in the period between “Halt” and “Fence,” and adjust your tactics. A competent opponent will be doing the same thing. If the action worked this time, you can only count on it working the next time if you have a significant speed advantage or your opponent is completely demoralized, asleep on the strip, badly distracted, or a beginner or low intermediate fencer.