170205 Leverage

One of the four types of preparations is the Prise de Fer, or Taking of the Blade.  Instead of percussion (the beat or press as Attacks on the Blade) or getting the opponent to do all the work of moving their blade (the Compound Attacks), takings of the blade are based on leverage.  The four basic forms are the:

Opposition – there is considerable variation in the terminology of lateral takings of the blade by opposition.  We have the glide, glizade, filo, coule, presa di ferro, opposition, etc.  When you study the detailed technical descriptions of these terms, there is considerable variation and narrow shading of differences, with the same definition being used for different terms and different definitions being used for the same term.  However, all are executed in essentially the same way – dominating the opponent’s blade and moving it laterally with opposition in either the high or low lines.  Opposition can be done against bent or straight arms.

Bind – a diagonal taking of the extended blade, moving from high line to the low line on the opposite side, or vice versa.  There is some danger with this action as you are transporting the blade across your target.  The term bind is used differently in many European texts to indicate what American usage calls an engagement.

Croise and flanconade – vertical takings of the extended blade from high line to low line on the same side.  The French croise has come to be executed only against an attack to the inside line, but the equivalent movement against outside line attacks can be useful in clearing a well raised arm and the bell in epee.

Envelopment – a circular taking that gains control of the blade moving it in a circular track to return to hit in the original line.  Envelopments are probably the most difficult of the takings to do well, and require considerable practice to develop a smooth motion that can continuously control the opponent’s blade.

Because all of these actions move the blade in distinctive patterns the Europeans often term them “transports,” an accurate and useful description of what is happening.  You take the blade (gain control of it with leverage) and transport it to move it to the desired location for you to execute your attack, generally by straight thrust.

The keys to effective takings of the blade are actually fairly simple:

(1)  establish a dominant blade position with your forte against the opponent’s foible.

(2)  stay in the distance – do not allow the opponent to withdraw out of the action.

(3)  rapid, progressive, forward movement of the hand and blade along the opponent’s blade.

(4)  control of your point and blade so that you hit the opponent – the blade should stay in the target box to exploit any opportunity to hit.

(5)  control of the opponent’s blade so that it does not hit you.

(6)  readiness to counter any attempt by the opponent to execute a ceding parry and riposte.

Three of the four takings depend on the opponent to present the blade with a straight arm.  This was a practical design feature when opponents extended completely before lunging in the attack or executed feints with a complete extension.  The problem in modern foil and epee is that full extension is found only in the later stages of an attack or in a point in line.  And anyone who presents a point in line and is not prepared to derobe or execute a ceding action against a blade taking probably deserves to be hit.  That means that the takings of the blade become quite useful in the parry and riposte combination.  The parry establishes the required dominant blade position, and the remaining five key elements described above read very much like what you would want out of any riposte.

In sabre there are really only two possible takings of the blade in the modern game, the cut with opposition and the point with opposition.  Like their equivalents in foil and epee both work on a bent arm or as an opponent starts to retract the blade in a recovery, and both work best when you have the opponent’s weak well down your blade on the forte and the guard.  The distance must be relatively short, and the execution must be lightning fast, maintaining the opposition, and not allowing the opponent to detach.  The objective in this case is equally to control the blade and to prevent a two light outcome in the phrase.

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