Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Week in 5 Minutes - Taking Over The Attack

Taking over the attack is a simple concept. Your opponent attacks falling short, either because she misjudged the distance or because you pulled distance to make him miss, and you attack to score the hit. Your attack is immediate as soon as the opponent's attack ends. Like so many other things in fencing, the devil is in the details and the reward is in the risk. And to complicate things, the conditions and limitations are different in each weapon.

FOIL:

The environment - foil is a right of way weapon, so tempo is important, and the lockout time is so long that right of way is important in determining who wins in two light situations. However, the chaotic nature of foil technique means that interpreting what the opponent is doing and when the attack is actually over is very important.

The risk - who knows when a foil attack stops? This means that right of way of the action depends on the referee's interpretation of what an attack looks like. And how long does it stop for? See the interpretation thing again. For example, if an opponent lunges short with a well bent arm to draw a counteraction, does the attack end when the foot lands or when the fencer finishes the thrust or flick? This means that you may well run headlong onto the point coming in from some odd place in which it was reposing during the early part of the lunge.

What does this mean - taking over the attack makes sense against opponents who immediately recover, coming back to guard when they miss. Now your attack follows the recovery in at the vulnerable point when the opponent has moving footwork in progress. If the opponent bends her arm to recover to a classical guard, or, even better, lowers it in a habitual move learned in poorly managed practice, she is opening up the forward target. However, understanding how the referee calls taking over the attack is of great importance.

SABRE:

The environment - remember that sabre is a two time weapon. There is the application of tempo as a theoretical measure to right of way and the application of the 110-130 second lockout time as a real time constraint on slow actions. Theoretically sabre knows when the attack ends when the forward foot lands, and a well timed and fast, accelerating take over of the attack should both gain right of way and land within the lockout window of any remise cut.

The risk - there are two risks. First, there is the same "when does it stop" question as in foil. Does the attack stop when the opponent's front foot lands ... or when the opponent stops reacting to the attacking movement ... or when the opponent stops moving forward? Less you think the rule book settles this (it ends when the foot lands with no hit on the scoring machine), I have seen all three of those interpretations at work at the same North American Cup. The second risk is the quick remise cut which times you out as a stop against your developing attack.

What this means - taking over the attack makes sense against opponents who immediately recover, coming back to guard when they miss. Now your attack follows the recovery in at the vulnerable point when the opponent has moving footwork in progress. If the opponent bends her arm to recover to a classical guard, or, even better, lowers it in a habitual move learned in poorly managed practice, she is opening up the forward target. However, understanding how the referee calls taking over the attack is of great importance. And you do have to worry about being timed out by an extemporaneous counteraction.

EPEE:

The environment
- remember that in epee there is no right of way, and lockout time for a simultaneous hit is 40 millisecond. Because there is no right of way, there is no referee determination of when the attack ends. Thus the opponent can stop into the action by remise, making an accelerating lunge or opposition a key part of your action. Now the end of the attack and the start of your action is either the psychological moment when the opponent commits to recover, or the physical moment when the recovery starts.

The risk
- attacking with a full fledged attack is dangerous in a non-right of way weapon because the opponent's point remains an active threat as long as it is directed toward your target. The threat can be the remise of the attack, a conscious stop into your action, or just clumsy bad luck that you end up on his point. This is particularly true if a fencer uses the classical technique of recovering with the legs and torso, before recovering the extended arm.

What this means
- taking over the attack makes sense against opponents who immediately recover, coming back to guard when they miss. Now your attack follows the recovery in at the vulnerable point when the opponent has moving footwork in progress. If the opponent bends her arm to recover to a classical guard, or, even better, lowers it in a habitual move learned in poorly managed practice, she is opening up the forward target. Closing the line in which the opponent's blade is located will help to remove the threat of being timed out.

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