A critical part of executing any technique on the strip or in drills is to simply get all of the parts moving in the right order at the right time. The need to do this applies to even the simplest of actions. When techniques are sequenced correctly, they can be executed to achieve their tactical intent; when they are not they create jerky movement and introduce errors that allow an alert opponent to capitalize on what you intended to be your success.
To look at this, we are going to examine the attack delivered by advance-lunge. The rules of fencing state that in foil:
t.83.1. Every attack, that is, every initial offensive action, which is correctly executed must be parried or completely avoided and the phrase must be followed through—that is to say, coordinated.
t.83.1.3. The attack with an advance-lunge or an advance-flèche is correctly executed when the extending of the arm precedes the end of the advance and the initiation of the lunge or the flèche.
In sabre the rules are similar, but the timing of the start of the extension is different:
T.101.1. Any attack properly executed must be parried, or completely avoided, and the phrase must be followed through.
T.101.4. An attack with an advance-lunge is correctly carried out:
a) in a simple attack when the beginning of the extending of the arm precedes the advance and when the touch arrives at the latest when the front foot touches the strip;
b) in a compound attack when the beginning of the extending of the arm for the first feint precedes the advance, followed by the lunge, and the touch arrives at the latest when the front foot touches the strip.
Effectively what the rules do is to create the advance-lunge attack with the blade starting forward in the advance (foil) or before the advance (sabre) to be a one tempo action. Although epee escapes the strictures of right of way, the sequencing considerations are similar.
However, when we look at what you can actually do, a different picture emerges. The fencer moving forward to execute an advance-lunge has three moving parts relevant to the problem: a front foot, a back foot, and the weapon arm. Each of these is capable of independent action in terms of sequencing. To start with the advance:
(1) In foil, the arm extension for feint or final can start at any time prior to the completion of the advance. In sabre the extension must start before the start of the advance, but this can be just enough for the referee to see that movement is started.
(2) You have two feet. If we think of the advance as an actual one-tempo action (and ignore the artificiality of the FIE rules), the movement of the front foot and that of the rear foot are each one half-foot tempo in duration. And each of these half-tempos can be used for blade movement. This generates four scenarios:
Option 1 – commence the feint (compound attack) or final action (simple attack) on the movement of the front foot.
Option 2 – commence the feint (compound attack) or final action (simple attack) on the movement of the rear foot.
Option 3 – commence a first feint on the front foot and a second feint (for a three blade tempo compound attack with the final action in the lunge) on the rear foot
Option 4 – commence a feint on the front foot and the extension of the final attack on the rear foot.
Option 5 – no attacking blade action on either front or rear foot.
(3) And now for the lunge. Although a lunge is a one tempo footwork action, when you release full acceleration can divide it into two half-tempos. This also creates options:
Choice A – commence and continue the lunge with the final action to hit.
Choice B – commence the lunge with a feint in the first half-tempo followed by the final action to hit as acceleration starts.
When we analyze these options there are issues that need to be considered in how we put an advance-lunge based attack together. First, note that all of the examples that specify a feint could be done with other preparatory attacks on or takings of the blade.
Second, you generally want to reduce how long your blade is out toward the opponent, and thus exposed to some form of counteraction (either counteroffense or defense), to as great an extent as possible given the referee’s interpretation of right of way. Option 1 is probably more dangerous than Option 2, and Choice A relies on your lunge being faster than the opponent’s reaction. Option 1 with the final attack starting on the front foot carried forward as Choice A is probably the most subject to counteraction.
Third, if you are planning second intention or countertime, you may want the sequence to expose your attack longer. The front step forward and then blade action of Option 2 may be useful in drawing a counterattack, and the Option A lunge executed as a false attack may draw the desired parry-riposte to set-up your counterriposte.
Fourth, attacks that flow smoothly tend to be seen as faster and more intentful (full of intent) by referees. Any of these can be choppy, have unintended hesitations, etc. All have to be practiced to develop a smooth flow that communicates control and speed.
Fifth, it is possible to do the minimum required for the referee to acknowledge the extension as starting before the advance (sabre) or before the end of the advance (foil) and hold any feints to the final lunge. This disguises your intentions longer and, if you do Option 5 Choice B, reduces the opponent’s time to parry in the final line significantly. Option 5 Choice A can be either a fast simple attack or an eyes-open action looking for a reaction to deceive in the lunge.
Sixth, the series of options and choices lets you build a sequence:
- A final attack (Option 5 Choice A),
- A feint and final attack (Option1 Choice A, Option 2 Choice A, Option 4 Choice A),
- Two feints and the final attack (Option 1 Choice B, Option 2 Choice B, Option 3 Choice A), up to
- Three feints and the final attack (Option 3, Choice B).
So practice these options, try them out in bouts, and practice them with preparatory footwork. Build better footwork and better bladework and better sequences to make your attacks more effective.