200719 A Deeper Dive into the Counteroffensive

In a previous post I provided an overview of counteroffensive actions. I think it may be worthwhile to delve deeper into the subject and look at how we can rationalize their use in the context of not giving the opponent the opportunity to score.

First, lets look at the timeline in detail. The common view is that one tempo is one tempo, a block of time that cannot be subdivided. I am not sure that is true – two thoughts, one historical and one of duration lead me to that conclusion.

The historical view (and this will be in some ways an oversimplification if you are a Liechtenauer tradition longsword fencer): Every action that we would think of as having one tempo has three parts. The Germans in the Middle Ages viewed the action as having a start and a finish. In between the start and the finish lies an in-between into which opposing actions can be inserted. In essence in modern fencing we allow the parry to enter the in-between to defeat the attack, but we do not allow the same precedence to the stop hit in the right of way weapons (epee does, and a large part of the epee game depends upon the in-between).

The duration view: one tempo is one tempo. It is an artificial construct to preserve the logic of the flow of a bout governed by right of way (attack–>parry–>riposte–>parry->counterriposte). A slow attack maintains priority during start–>in-between–>finish with just as much authority as a fast attack. Fencing time measured in tempos is inherently disconnected in foil from real time. The other two weapons allow (sabre) and embrace (epee) the use of the in-between to introduce real time. In sabre, the possibility of inserting a counterattack in the in-between exists because of lock-out time; a counterattack into the in-between will score if it preceded the finish by 170 milliseconds. In epee the much shorter lockout time (40 milliseconds) allows successful attacks into the in-between.

All this means that the counterattack must meet certain requirements. It must consciously exploit the in-between by one or more of the following:

(1) speed to exploit the lock-out time in the in-between in sabre and epee,

(2) catching the opponent at the psychologically opportune moment when the counterattack may disconcert that attacker causing a hesitation or even abandonment of the action,

(3) hindering the opponent’s actions by delaying or controlling the finish so that it cannot hit,

(4) creating evasions so that the opponent misses,

(5) attacking the opponent’s preparation or the first tempo in a multiple tempo attack, and/or

(6) creating second or third intention actions that exploit the capability of the counteroffense.

So how do individual counteroffensive actions fit into these requirements?

As a part of your attack you can execute stop actions against the riposte with the remise and the redouble. Items (1) and (2).

In dealing with the preparation of the opponent’s, you can control distance and timing to allow the attack in preparation. Item (5).

Against the opponent’s attack you may use a time hit in the final line to deflect the attack so that the counterattack lands and the attack does not. Item (3).

To hinder the development of the opponent’s attack you can use the point in line to deny access to the line, and if the opponent attempts to remove the point in line, counterattack in time with the disengage in tempo. Items (3) and (5).

Against the simple attack use the stop cut or the stop point, combined with evasion (duck, inquartata, diagonal lunges) so that the attack misses and/or hindering actions to divert or slow it. Items (1), (2), (3), and (4).

Against the multiple tempo attack use the stop in tempo to hit during the first tempo of the action. Item (5).

Create second and third intention actions, including the ceduta, counteroffensive countertime, feint in tempo, to provoke opponent actions that can be successfully counterattacked. Item (6).

This is not an exhaustive list, but it points out that there are a variety of options in the use of the counteroffensive to defeat the opponent’s attack. There is a significant element of risk to these actions, and they require quick judgment and precise application. This means you have to meet two other requirements. You have to practice them so that their application achieves automaticity. And you must have the courage to be willing to accept risk in the pursuit of victory.

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