Third premise: The traditional view of fencing theory is that a tempo is the amount of time required to complete a simple action. Thus it is a period without a specific relationship to real time, and theoretically could be of any length. It is circular – the definition of a simple action is that it is an action completed in one tempo which is defined as the amount of time it takes to complete a simple attack. And it is self-referential, referring to itself to define itself.
The major issue however, is that a tempo is theoretically indivisible. In the weapons that rely on tempo as a determinant of who can score, the tempo starts, precedes, and stops as an uninterruptible whole. What stops a tempo? Essentially five things: another tempo is added to it (for instance, in a compound attack), it is parried, it falls short or is evaded, a hesitation by the fencer that is seen by the referee as being the end of a tempo, or the lockout time permits a counterattack to score with one light.
The idea of the tempo is a good one for creating a dialog that simulates actual combat. Lock-out time provides an answer to the eternal tempo of a slow fencer launching a simple attack that takes forever to reach the target. However, there remains a problem – tempo actually is divisible.
Every action has three parts: a start, a stop, and the time in-between the two. Because the start and the stop are finite, defineable things, the time in-between is the variable part of the actual time of the tempo. How long that period is in real time depends on:
(1) the fencer’s speed and acceleration (or deceleration),
(2) the distance the action has to travel,
(3) and from the opponent’s operational standpoint, what the opponent’s response time is.
If these three factors correlate optimally for the opponent (slower speed, longer distance, fast opponent’s response time – reaction time + movement time) a one tempo action becomes vulnerable. A longer time in-between allows the insertion of a counter-action into the tempo.
As an opponent, at first thought it might seem that the only way you can influence these factors is to have the fastest movement time possible. But this is not completely true. Speed hampering is its own area for investigation, but the following serve as resistance that slows the tempo:
(1) immediately after the completion of one technique, and just at the start of the next.
(2) breathing during a technique.
(3) mental distraction and loss of focus.
(5) emotional reactions to the events of the bout.
(6) the opening of distance (the one tempo action may not actually slow but the time to reach the target increases making the tempo operationally slower).
The three places where insertion of an action into the tempo become important are the parry-riposte, counteroffensive actions, and the remise. The forward parry and riposte stops the tempo in the earlier in-between while simultaneously positioning the riposte within the attacker’s movement time. The advanced parry is essentially an insertion directly into the opponent’s tempo. The remise is essentially a stop hit against the riposte.
Our definition of the counteroffensive actions is typically reduced to the stop hit and the time hit (which is a stop hit executed with opposition to close the line of the stop to divert the continuation of the attack). The stop hit is most commonly defined by rules limitations (it must arrive before the start of the final action) and by its modern execution with either an evasion or a close out.
Italian theory as late as the 1970s viewed the counterattack as three actions. The arrest is the modern stop hit but with the desired outcome of hitting the opponent very early in the time in-between to actually stop the attack. The stop landing before last tempo is is essentially the Italian uscita in tempo. And the time hit is the counter-action. The time hit and the arrest are attacks inserted into the tempo.
In foil and sabre, actions into the tempo depend on speed, boldness, confidence, and courage, and the selection of the optimum psychological and tactical moment. In epee, they are a very large part of the game.
So in summation the premise is that one tempo consists of three periods, the start, time in-between, and the stop. The in-between allows insertion of counter actions into the tempo if there is a movement time differential, lock-out time can be exploited, and the opponents speed is hampered.