190623 Blade Takes

There is a whole class of attacking actions termed “Takings of the Blade.” This suggests that you use your blade to take control of the opponent’s blade. European usage is to term these actions as “Transports.” I vacillate back and forth between the two terms because both are accurate descriptions of what goes on between your blade and the opponent’s. There are blade actions that are more like takings and others that are more like transports. That makes understanding the entire category an interesting exercise; so let’s get to work.

First – the objective. The objective of blade takes/transports is to hit the opponent. All the fancy taking and transporting in the world comes to naught if your point or blade (sabre) does not make scoring contact with the opponent’s target. Make it work!

Second – these are all leverage actions. It is possible to simply overpower a physically weaker opponent with the application of arm power and a rapid closing of the distance to amplify that force. However, the brute force approach is vulnerable to deception and ceding. The techniques work best when, at the ideal moment for each type of action, you control a weaker portion of their blade with a stronger portion of yours. When the foible of their blade is at the base of your forte and the guard, you can apply maximum leverage.

Third – these all count on hitting by controlling the opponent’s blade by the combination of leverage, speed, the correct distance (which influences the efficiency of the combination of leverage and speed), progressive execution with no dead time, and some measure of surprise. The more of these factors present, the better the chance of success.

Fourth – they all can be countered. An opponent with a light hand, a good understanding of your range of techniques, and quick response time (the combination of reaction and movement times) can (1) hide the blade to deny the ability to attack, (2) cede to parry, (3) derobe or roll-off to counterattack, or (4) simply pull distance to defeat your action. Like every other technique, their employment is not a magic talisman against all opponents.

Fifth – these are inherently one-light actions. By controlling the opponent’s blade and deflecting it from your target during the attack you eliminate or make a two light result very much harder to achieve.

Sixth – there are two groups of blade actions with different characteristics. I am going to separate them and use the two common descriptors of taking and transporting to describe the groups.

Two Takes can be executed against an opponent with a bent arm in your simple attack: the opposition and the glide. I am terming these takes because they are essentially lateral displacements of the blade in the same line in the course of the attack. I differentiate between opposition and glide to account for seizing the foible at the start of the action (glide) and closing the line in the progress of the action – these require different timing and have different applications. These are the only two actions that make sense in modern sabre.

Three Transports require an extended arm to be able to perform as intended: the bind (American terminology – a bind is a different action in European usage), croise or flanconade, and envelopment plus the two double versions of the envelopment and bind. I am terming these transports because they transport the blade from one line to another.

If we think about when an opponent gives us an extended arm, the opportunities boil down to when the opponent has point in line or when the opponent launches the blade portion of an attack. Successful transports against a point in line would seem to be difficult to achieve – the opponent is waiting for any attempt on your part to attack or transport the blade.

That leaves the presentation of the extended blade in the attack. This suggests that in modern foil and epee fencing the bind (diagonal movement), flanconnade or croise (vertical movement), and envelopment (circular movement) and the two double actions to capture attempts to escape (double envelopment and double bind) perform a combined role of parry and riposte (remembering that the parry is preparation and the riposte is the attack). In this role they significantly complicate the opponent’s response to the riposte.

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