In the last three weeks we have been talking about the use of blade preparations in the attack. Blade preparation sets the stage for the final action of the attack, and that final action is a simple attack: straight thrust, disengage, counterdisengage, coupe, and the rare countercoupe. Regardless of whether you use a feint, leverage, or percussion to set the opponent’s blade in motion to create an opening line, the finish is always a simple attack.
This means that your preparation has to have several characteristics:
(1) it must be designed to get the opponent’s blade in motion. You have to remove the combination of block and threat that a solid guard provides.
(2) the timing must allow for an opening line – it is very difficult to score on an open line with a stable opponent, and even harder to score in a closed line with a stable opponent.
(3) the preparation should not unduly expose your blade or attack to counteraction. There is always some element of risk, but you want to maximize the potential reward while reducing that risk.
(4) the action off the preparation must be progressive to minimize the opponent’s opportunity to respond and to get inside their OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop.
(5) in general the action off the preparation must be immediate and must be shortest distance to the target based on the final action selected. There are cases where you must introduce a very slight hesitation or slowed motion to allow the opponent’s blade to clear the line, but think in fractions of a tempo.
(6) you must synchronize footwork with your concept of the bladework, even if that synchronization is to be unsynchronized or multiple actions for one tempo.
(7) commit! A final without commitment is an invitation to fall short to be parried, to be successfully counterattacked – in other words, to be hit.
In the past two weeks, considering attacks prepared with leverage and with percussion, we have focused on a final direct attack off the preparation. The leverage or the percussion did the work of getting the blade in motion. If you have done that and been confronted with an opponent who does a parry of the final with riposte or who instantly counterattacks (especially in epee), it is a good question to ask “is that all there is?”
What if we apply the same rules to a leverage or percussion preparation that we do to the traditional compound attack? In other words, what if we use the percussion or the leverage as a feint to draw a habitual response? Let’s first consider the opponent’s likely blade responses to the preparation. There are three obvious ones:
… FIRST – an attempt to close the line of the preparation – pushing back against leverage, beating or pressing back against the percussion.
… SECOND – an attempt to execute a circular or a change parry to control your blade.
… THIRD – an instantaneous counterattack.
There is a fourth option against leverage – a ceding parry – which poses special problems that will require detailed consideration in the future.
To deal with the FIRST case, execute an indirect attack by disengage or coupe.
To deal with the SECOND case, execute a counterdisengage.
To deal with the THIRD case, execute a countertime action. Countertime is an action on the opponent’s time action intended to steal your time. The two obvious scenarios are DEFENSIVE COUNTERTIME – (1) you execute your preparation, (2) the opponent attempts a stop hit, (3) you parry the stop and riposte to hit – and COUNTEROFFENSIVE COUNTERTIME – (1) you execute your preparation, (2) the opponent attempts a stop hit, (3) you stop hit the stop hit. The counteroffensive variety is particularly suited to epee if you have a cool head and good point control. It also works in the right of way weapons because it appears to be one continuous action in the attack. Correctly done the referee sees no break in your forward movement.
These three options have to be practiced to the point of perfection. Against a same speed or slower opponent, they can be done eyes open; against a faster opponent you have to identify a habitual pattern that you can exploit and then run it as a programmed play. Adding the indirect action and countertime to the preparation increases the problems your attacks create for the defense and increase your probability of success.