There are three ways to put an opponent’s blade in motion (thereby increasing the probability that he or she will be exposed to your hit): (1) by convincing the opponent to move the blade to react to a perceived attack (a feint or provocation), (2) by percussion (attacking the blade itself with impact or pressure), and (3) by leverage (by taking the blade in what the European’s term a “transport”). This week we focus of the general category of takings of the blade.
The European term transport is actually a good explanation of what we are trying to do – to move the opponent’s blade from one place to another, thereby creating an opening. More than just creating an opening, the transport gains control over the opponent’s blade for a relatively extended period of time. If this time is used wisely, in other words with progressive forward movement while maintaining a leverage advantage, the attack is fast, controlled, and difficult to react to in time to prevent its success.
There is a grey area when talking about transports, as one category, the glide, coule, or glissade, is often described as either a taking and an attack on the blade. This action is taken by quickly grabbing the foible of an opponent’s blade in the guard position (with the arm bent) with the forte and bell, and sliding down the blade with opposition to clear the line and hit. The difference between this and any thrust or cut with sustained opposition to a present blade (as opposed to simply closing the line against a potential reaction) is hard to discern, suggesting that we have different terms describing essentially the same action. The key that makes this a leverage action is the sustained contact maintained (ideally) to the hit as opposed to the transient contact found in beats and presses (the two primary attacks on the blade). The glide can be done in all three weapons, in sabre either as a thrust or cut. In sabre this cut with opposition has the significant benefit of being a one light action.
The other takings of the blade all work against an extended blade, preferably with some rigidity (although it seems as though a loosely held blade would offer less difficulty, the reality is that loose blades are difficult to control). These takings all work to move from one line to another, diagonally, vertically, or circularly, and are applicable to foil and epee.
The first is the easiest to perform, the bind or liemont. A bind takes the opponent’s blade diagonally from high line on one side to low line on the other. Although the common perception is that the reverse is too dangerous to attempt, watching Coach Iosif Vitebskiy do it flawlessly shows that it can be done from low to opposite high line with considerable practice and exquisite timing. Ths theoretically the following are possible:
- blade contact in 6th, transport to 7th
- blade contact in 4th, transport to 8th
- blade contact in 8th, transport to 4th
- blade contact in 7th, transport of 6th
Today, the most likely scenario in which the required blade contact is present with an opportunity to bind is a parry of the extended blade in the attack, making the bind, and the following takings of the blade useful as ripostes.
The second is the envelopment, sometimes referred to in older texts as the double bind, although the blade movement is not at all similar to that of a bind. In the envelopment the opposing blade is picked up, and then rotated in a circle as the fencer’s blade moves progressively forward to hit. The movement must be continuous and progressive to deny the opponent the ability to roll out of the movement or to simply withdraw the arm. As a practical matter, this action would appear to be limited to the envelopment in 6th. The envelopment is sometimes repeated in a double envelopment, although this would seem to offer the modern opponent too many opportunities to escape.
The final option is the croise, in which your blade crosses over an opponent’s blade in your 4th, and shoves it down vertically to hit in the low line under the opponent’s arm. In epee you must be quite careful that shoving the blade downwards does not accidentally impale your thigh or knee.
Although all descriptions of the croise focus on taking the opponent’s blade in your 4th, an identical action can be performed to deal with an extended blade held at shoulder height in 6th (making a riposte over the arm difficult). Pivot the blade over the opponent’s arm and shove your blade downward to the inside of the opponent’s bell to hit on the chest (a thrust reminiscent of the smallsword thrust carte over arm).
Takings work, but there are conditions that must be met:
- The taking and forward movement of the blade cannot be two things; they must be one swift, smooth, progressive movement that denies the opponent the ability to roll out or withdraw from the leverage.
- You must maintain control of the opponent’s blade.
- Taking and forward motion of your body must be synchronized to avoid impaling yourself on the opponent’s blade.
- Your blade must not wander widely about in the action; keep blade deviation from the line of the attack to the minimum needed to position the opponent’s blade with your point (or edge in sabre opposition glide cuts) directed to target. Having to bring the blade back in line may result in detachment and loss of leverage.