Saturday, March 14, 2015

This Week in 5 Minutes: Footwork and the Riposte

Last week we worked on maintaining distance, only for me to tell you that I was not a fan of maintaining distance. So this week I will give you a case where you absolutely want to maintain distance, on the riposte. But we are going to look at maintaining distance in a different way.

The classical view of the parry and riposte can be summarized as follows:

... the opponent attacks with a lunge,
... you parry,
... you make an immediate riposte from the parry - if you have done a proper parry, not sat on the opponent's blade, and immediately riposted, you will hit the opponent without anything more than an extension before he can execute a recovery.

Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. The speed of fencing actions has increased significantly with younger, faster, and better trained fencers. Sometimes you will be lucky, especially if the opponent has over committed on the lunge or is counting on insisting or on executing a remise. However, you may ell find the opponent well into recovery when your riposte starts.

Footwork now becomes vital. The role of footwork in this case is to maintain distance ... but not to maintain distance the way you may be thinking. The feet must maintain a distance at which you can hit with your riposte as a quick opponent recovers. Let me repeat that footwork maintains the distance at which you can hit with the riposte. This is dynamic distance maintenance requiring different footwork (and possibly bladework) to be able to hit the recovering or recovering and retreating opponent. Maintaining distance for the riposte becomes an envelope of distance as follows:

(1) remaining static in the guard position and riposting by extension - if the opponent remains in the lunge insisting, remising or preparing to parry-counterriposte.
(2) executing the riposte with an advance - if the opponent has initiated recovery from the lunge, but is not moving as fast as you can move.
(3) executing the riposte with a lunge - if the opponent is well into recovery.
(4) executing the riposte with an accelerating advance-lunge - if the opponent has virtually completed the recovery and may be ready to initiate a retreat.

There is one important difference between maintaining distance for the thrust in the riposte from maintaining distance when not in a phrase. In the phrase we want to match tempo and step size and numbers with our opponent. In the riposte, footwork should accelerate, distance stealing can be used on the advance, and the advance step added to create the advance-lunge, all to ensure that you can reach the opponent's target area.

An attack offers up the opponent's blade for a parry and body for a hit by riposte. Make sure your footwork can maintain the striking distance for the riposte.

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