Sword Play
Advanced Fencing Techniques-II

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2. Complex Saber Movements

2.1 Defense Against a Fast Moving Attack

This movement works best when the opponent attacks from distance and acquires inertia. Hold the point of the blade somewhat lower than usual and to your flank (right side). This leaves the head and shoulders in an invitation for the opponent's attack. With the blade lowered, there is less tendency to attack your stomach area. As the attacker begins his cut to the head (or shoulder), bring the blade up with a twist of the wrist into parry quinte with the hand in pronation. As your blade makes contact in the parry, hold your blade in opposition and slide the point backwards just enough, using a bending and twisting wrist movement, so that you can control his blade just enough to force the blade out of line. Then quickly disengage with a cut to the head. This movement is properly done with smooth transitions and, with practice, can become very fast (listen for the swoosh of the blade in your disengage). Try not to make the movements too extreme or heavy-handed, as this will slow down the movement. This defense can, however, be countered by a disengage to the stomach if you opponent is very fast and has does not accept your invitation.

2.2 Complex Attack to the Head with Disengage

I have used this movement with good success in a fleche. The fleche is no longer allowed, but it can also work with fast foot movements. Begin your attack by bringing the point up in a threat of an attack (cut or point thrust) to the head, primarily to the right or left of the chin. The arm is fairly well extended enough that the defender has little chance of a riposte to the body. As the opponent brings up his parry of your high-line attack, disengage to the wrist, shoulder or stomach, either maintaining the point thrust or with a smooth twist of the wrist to a cut. The shortest available target works best (the wrist is generally the closest). A third similar movement can also be added for a compound counter-attack, and a disengage or cutover to the head often works well.

2.3 Complex Wrist Attack

An attack to the opponent's wrist works especially well for an opponent who holds his blade out from his body in the en garde position. First try a few cautious cuts to the wrist in a disengage movement in order to judge the oppponent's reactions. If done well, even your first thrust/disengage to the wrist may be successful. Then do a few other movements, a thrust/disengage/feint, followed a second disengage and finish with a cut on the wrist. In the Senior Olympics one year, I managed to use this movement successfully as the first attack to my opponent from the en garde position, which was a disengage feint cut to the wrist, followed by a disengage cut to the wrist on the other side.It was very fast, and the Director did not allow the touch, although I protested that the cut landed cleanly. On the very next attack from en garde, I said "And again", rather than "Et la", and repeated this movement exactly. This got chuckle from the crowd and a successful touch was awarded. This can be a very fast movement when properly executed.

2.4 Multiple Head Cut

When you fence a highly experienced fencer, their movements are generally quite fast. Their fast movements can actually be used against them. A simple attack begins with a simple, straight cut to the top of the head. If the opponent's parry/riposte is successful, the Director will hear the single beat of the parry and then the riposte. If his riposte is unsuccessful, then there will be the beat of his parry, followed by the beat of your parry of his counter attack, and finally your riposte, resulting in two beats of the blades. So, in this movement, rather than waiting to parry the counter attack, immediately repeat with a second cut and then a third cut. In this movement, the Director hears two beats or parries before the final cut to the head.Your attack will land, and the Director will hear the two beats, thinking that your have parried your opponent's counter attack and that his counter attack is not in time. This may also fluster your opponent. I used this movement successfully against an Olympic Champion in the 1970 Nationals, and actually tried this movement three times in a row, winning two of the three touches. I made the mistake of hitting him on the head five quick times in a row on my third attack. This made him very mad, and I lost all of the following touches.

2.5 Feint-Cut to the Head

Many fencers expose their elbow during the parry to a high cut to their head. This is especially true for inexperienced fencers, but it also occurs for experienced fencers. The upper parry (quinte) is invited by a feint cut to the head. This is immediately followed by a fast, smooth disengage using a smooth bend/twist of the wrist, cutting him neatly on the exposed elbow or forearm. If your opponent is very fast and can successfully execute the parry, then try an indirect movement following the feint. Here again, fast, smooth movements work the best, so the bend of the wrist must be immediately followed by the twist of the wrist in order to get one smooth movement. Wrist bending and twisting is maximized in order to minimize arm motion. In the last World Olympics Women's saber final, the on guard position of one fencer left a juicy exposed elbow target in the preparation in at least three attacks, but her opponent did not take advantage on any occasion.

2.6 The Low Line invitation/Parry/Counter Attack

The history is that saber fleches, following the en garde command, became increasingly successful as the weight of the blade decreased and movements became faster. The result was that both fencers would immediately attack each other following the en garde command, resulting in endless double attacks that did not result in touches. In order to reduce the endless double touches, fleches have now been disallowed in this weapon. One of my successful defensive movements against the immediate fleche might also be of value in defending against an attack from a short period of rest when neither fencer is executing a movement. I have found that it works quite well in defending against some of the low line movements (taught by Russian emigre instructors), either direct or indirect. It begins by dropping the point into a low line, thus inviting a high line attack. In this case, the point of the blade can be raised to institute a quinte parry of a simple direct attack. More likely, the attacker will feint to the head in order to invite a high parry, followed by a disengage to a lower line cut or point attack. In this case, you are set up for the low-line parry-seconde and the counter-attack, which can be executed rather quickily and easily. Of course, you must not fall for the high-line feint. The counter attack can also be in the form of a molinet (sweeping circular movement) that can be terminated in either high or low line.

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