For argument’s sake, let us say that you do everything right … your choice of footwork was correct for the situation, the parry is at the right distance, your riposte is correctly executed with no extra movement, timing is superb, speed is good, etc. But somehow the opponent sees what is coming and starts to recover or jump back or otherwise accelerate rearward movement so that you are going to fall short. Do you want to let them get away with this?
Well, of course not. You want the touch. More importantly, you want the touch while the opponent is still under pressure and is unstable because he or she is in movement. The combination of the psychological impact of the attack failing, the pressure of being under attack, and the instability introduced by movement means that even a well trained and psychologically tough opponent is to some degree vulnerable, especially if your choice of footwork in the parry was a surprise.
However, you must recognize that this is a dangerous situation. Your riposte has failed, making you vulnerable to a parry-counterriposte in the early stages of the next part of this phrase. To pursue the opponent you have to initiate additional forward movement, making you to some degree unstable. The possibility exists that you will so fixate on the target that you will miss a well timed counteraction or an easily deceivable parry. And the opponent knows that your are in the pursuit, and, if experienced and in good psychological shape, has initiated his or her plan to deal with pursuit.
So, you have to be alert – you have been warned. Now to the business of moving forward. In your riposte you either fought from on guard, fought from the lunge, stepped forward with the riposte, or lunged with the riposte (and we are going to exclude the possibility that you fleched or flunged with the riposte from this discussion). The footwork creates two situations. You are either in a lunge or in a position that is fundamentally a guard position. The guard position allows the greatest flexibility – the legs are bent to either lunge or to advance. The lunge position is fundamentally static – you have already gotten the most out of that movement (yes, you might be able to get another six inches with a gravity lunge or maybe even a foot on a lean, but that is not the range of the problem we are discussing here). If you are in the lunge you must recover forward into a guard position.
This is not a mechanical step 1, step 2, step 3, even if we start with teaching it that way to sequence the movement correctly. It is a flow. When the flow starts depends on when you recognize that the riposte will fall short. If it is in the lunge, the forward recovery to guard starts the millisecond the front foot hits, before it is even down. If it is with the front foot flat, the forward recovery must start immediately.
Now you have a decision to make – if you advance or lunge or advance-lunge, will your reprise of the riposte arrive where the opponent’s target will be? If so, do the reprise with a quick step forward, a lunge, or an advance-lunge. You want this to be one extended continuous movement with no clearly discernable interruption between the components: lunge-forward recover-advance-lunge. If at all possible you want the final action to be accelerating.
But what if your assessment is that the opponent will be further away? Then you have more work to do. There are two possibilities. You can introduce added steps as needed. However, this approach has the disadvantage that the opponent can match your steps – you are essentially betting that you can advance faster than he can retreat. What you want to do is close the distance.
And that means either of two options. You can change your step size. We teach a standard step size, and for most cases having that standard down pat is a good thing. However, this is a chase and you won’t catch the opponent with neat, short, quick steps. It was a revelation in 2005 when Ed Korfanty taught me that step size is essentially variable based on what you want to do with it. In this case you want to cover ground, so take a bigger step. A hint here, if you do not know what size step you take as your standard, it is much harder to take a bigger step because you have no frame of reference for closure rates. So, this is not a license to forget about the standard.
The other part of this is that now your attack becomes not a quick-step advance lunge but rather a marching step advance-lunge. And that is ideal for your second option, the patinando. Patinandos have been described in a variety of ways over time, but I am using the term as a distance stealing advance swinging immediately into the lunge. In the distance steal the footwork sequence is bring the rear foot forward so that it almost touches the heel of the front foot, followed immediately by the lunge. The movement is quick, flows, and is deceptive in terms of how much distance it covers. The patinando can be executed from your original lunge or from the guard position.
Now you are moving. Understand that the opponent may do two things that require you to be eyes-open. First, she may counterattack into your forward movement. Be ready with countertime – foil or sabre defensive countertime, in epee add counteroffensive countertime depending on the bout score. Second, he may endeavor to parry and counter-riposte. Here is where this series of articles all come together. If you have disrupted the opponent’s attack with a parry taking the blade into an unexpected line, he or she has already been forced into a new OODA loop. Your forward movement in reprise forces further OODA cycles. And if you employ a riposte by indirect action or taking of the blade, the chances are good that you will be well inside your opponent’s capability to manage the decisions required for a successful defense.