I have previously noted that there are a number of elements of different fencing actions that have common applications of the same mechanical process. For example, disengages vertically, disengages laterally in the high line, disengages laterally in the low line, and redoubles all use the same basic U shaped movement around the bell – the differences is the lines chosen and the tactical application. A straight thrust, a direct riposte, and a stop hit all share the basic technique. And the list goes on. In this week’s topic we will consider one action that can be used with no intent of scoring, as an invitation, as preparation, as a two different attacks, as a counterattack, and as two different parries. And that is taking your blade around the opponent’s guard and blade in a circle … let’s look at how.
First, the circular change of engagement. This moves the opponent’s engagement from one line to another. It may be done for reconnaissance, to simply annoy the opponent, or to establish a blade position with which you are more comfortable. Yes, few people engage in bouts in competition today, but given an engagement, the circular change of engagement gives you a tool to change the geometry.
Second, as a circular invitation. There is one simple attack that requires the defender to execute a circular movement – the counterdisengage. So, if you want to invite an attack by counterdisengage, executing a circular blade movement serves as an invitation.
Third, as a circular preparation. This is usually to pick up the opponent’s blade to draw a response that you can exploit (for, example a push back or a disengage). And, in an attack on the blade, the circular change beat clears the line for the following thrust.
Fourth, as the counterdisengage in the attack when the opponent uses a circular movement in an attempt to pick up your blade.
Fifth, as the envelopment in the attack. The envelopment is a taking of the blade which captures the opponent’s blade and takes it in a complete circle to position for the thrust.
Sixth, as a circular counterattack into an opponent’s attack. This can be in a more complex actions, as for example, as a circular response in feint in tempo against an opponent’s use of a change parry against a stop in defensive countertime.
Seventh, as a circular parry to pick up an indirect attack and return it to the original line.
Eighth, as a change parry to pick up an attack and move it to a different line laterally.
So, you can do a lot with a simple circle. In some cases the circle is different because it moves the opponent’s blade and therefore has a different form – the change beat and envelopment, as examples. But sometimes it is mechanically just a circle, even if that circle has different tactical applications, for example as an invitation, to move the opponent’s attack to a different line in a change parry, or to return the opponent’s blade to the same line in a circular parry. The last two can be exactly the same in terms of the mechanics of the action.
All of this means that when you learn how to use your fingers to move the blade in a tight, controlled, quick circle and can integrate footwork with that movement, you have gained an important tool for your actions toolbox. So practice driving the circle with your finger and then with your forearm (in foil and epee) or with your fingers and wrist (in sabre).