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#1 2007-07-20 17:43:16

DoggerelPundit
Member
Registered: 2007-07-19

What to look for?

Hi all. I am mint new to this forum and so thought to begin with a newbie type question, on a subject I haven’t seen in your index.

I have read—and been told repeatedly—that motions in fencing must become automatic and performed without conscious thought. I understand that this facility is acquired through constant and proper practice. Well and good.

My question is, what are the triggers? What is it that the able fencer watches; what opposing motions, etc. are the real triggers for a particular parry or combination? And, if variation of defense is a value to pursue, where are we to start and why, given what is coming at us or preparing to?

-Stephen

Weapon: plain foil
Fencing for: 7 months
Loc: Oregon

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#2 2007-07-21 00:22:43

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: What to look for?

Hello Stephen!

The way I see it, for every move, there is a counter move.  The key is being able to read your opponent and respond without slowing down to think about what they are doing; if you have to stop and process what your opponent is doing, then your opponent will most likely score a touch or frustrate your attack.

Persistent drilling for defending against different attacks combined with regular sparring and feedback from your instructor will instill some of that.  After a bout, try to analyze your opponent's style and drill to counter the moves that worked against you in the bout.  It is the combination of practice, drills, instruction, and the application thereof that will enable you to respond automatically. 

Not being a fencing instructor myself, I will stop here and defer to others here who are more knowledgeable than I.

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#3 2007-07-30 12:37:22

Adam Adrian Crown
Maître d'Armes
From: Ithaca, New York
Registered: 2006-04-04
Website

Re: What to look for?

A profound question, Stephan.
The answer is, perhaps, imprecise: it depends.

I wouldn't say "automatic" exactly, but only because that has a mechanistic connotation to me. Certainly "immediate," "unselfconscious, and "non-cerebral" seem appropriate.

Fencing is much like dance (some of the best "cross-training for fencing, by the way. I recommend tango.)  You must feel the movement in the moment. Always ready for any possibility (by being centered) but committed to none until it's necessary to commit -- at the "final moment" when the truth is clear, the "point of no return" one might say. Nothing happens until it happens.

Particular cues vary in type and amplitude with each partner in each situation. The more closely connected you are, the easier it is. A mere shift of weight may be enough.
Variety of defense comes from liberating yourself from the notion that "X parry is used against X attack" -- a necessary but extremely rudimentary view.
At a higher level virtually any parry can be employed against virtually any attack.

What to watch?  Depends on what you're looking for.
I might sometime focus on some telltale preparatory movement.
But -- especially with a good partner -- I really watch  either everything or nothing, depending on whether you're a glass-half-full or half-empty kind of person. I want to embrace the whole of my partner, understand what he/she is feeling, be inside his/her skin and perspective.
A little like being in two places at once.

Or something like that.

AAC

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#4 2007-07-30 15:42:44

KevinMurakoshi
Member
From: Davis, CA
Registered: 2007-07-28

Re: What to look for?

DoggerelPundit wrote:

My question is, what are the triggers? What is it that the able fencer watches; what opposing motions, etc. are the real triggers for a particular parry or combination? And, if variation of defense is a value to pursue, where are we to start and why, given what is coming at us or preparing to?

Just a note, I'm only a Instructor at Arms, and not a Maestro or Provost so my opinions may be erroneous or outright wrong, feel free to correct me.

There are a lot of answers out there, and exactly what makes an experienced fencer choose which parry is as much a part of that fencer's personal style as any sort of order imposed by his the larger style he fences in. However, there are some basic triggers to look for. If you assume we have all four lines (high inside etc...) each line has a simple and a circular parry that can be used to defend it (i.e. the high inside can use parry fourth or circular parry of third (italian) or circular parry of sixte (french)).  Traditionally, at least in the Italian system, queues are given such that the wider attacks (those farther from the guard) provoke simple parries, while attacks closer to the guard provoke circular parries. This is simplistic in the extreme, and we are ignoring half-circular and ceeding parries from, but that is some idea about which parries to choose in a given combination.

Since it is obvious that you can't possibly be thinking about all of this while you are fencing, your instructor will probably drill you through a series of parry combinations. In the italian system there is an order in which these are taught from (simple, to circular, to double simple, simple circle, circle simple, double circle, simple simple circle.... etc). These drills are designed to develop distinct parry patterns which can then be used by rote to defend against compound attacks. As a fencer improves he/she should ideally move beyond such patterns and simply parry attacks as they come, but the skill developed through the compound parry exercises should help make that transition easier. I once had it explained to me that a beginning fencer will use only simple parries, an intermediate fencer will use parry combinations and an advanced fencer will parry without thinking.

This just covers parry actions, there are cues for reposts, counterattacks etc. In addition, you can use probing actions to discover your opponent's defensive and offensive system. Many fencers prefer certain parries/parry patterns or certain combination feints when fencing. If you can figure out which feints or parries that he is going to use you're one step ahead of them.

Hope this helps.

Kevin Murakoshi
Instructor at Arms foil

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#5 2007-08-07 15:06:43

DoggerelPundit
Member
Registered: 2007-07-19

Re: What to look for?

Maitre Crown, Daniel, Kevin,

Thank you all for your thoughts and insights. It is as I feared, and you all seem to be unanimous. In the absence of a wished-for scrolling LED marquee on the front of my opponent’s tunic listing actions to come and suggested responses, the cues and other "watch-fors" will have to be learned through long practice.

Your observation about the dance seems quite right to me. And it would mean that, within its folio of movements, successful fencing must be largely improvisational. Having been a jazz musician for some years, that resonates—where successful improvisation demands that, while operating inside an agreed chord structure, one must listen for the cues in the flow. Something also learned through long practice.

I have gotten to where I can successfully parry most feints—more than half the time correctly whether my response is a simple lateral or a combination containing a counter. When this happens the (possible) subsequent attack is broken off. Not a bad thing I think, except this always leaves the opponent somewhat out of distance for a successful riposte. The problem for me comes when trying to ignore all feints and parry Finale only. Invariably I willy-nilly find the opposing point in my chest, past my motionless blade while I wonder "what the hey?" Actual attacks seem to be a good deal faster than mere extensions. Still working on integrating the parry and the retreat step. Actually, the parts of that process suggest another question which I will ask in a separate thread.

Thanks again,

Stephen

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#6 2007-08-08 15:53:46

The Rose Knight
Member
From: Maryland
Registered: 2006-10-12

Re: What to look for?

Stephen,

In reading your post, a few thoughts came to mind. 

I'll preface this by saying that  I don't know what sort of training you've received or what style that you fence in.  Also, I am not a maestro or a prevost; I do some instruction in kendo and fence foil and epee.  Maitre Crown, Linda or others more knowledgeable than myself may have a different take.

From what I read from your above post, you seem to have a two fold problem. 

First, you seem to be saying that you can parry your opponent's feints and stop his/her attack, but then are not at a suitable distance to counter attack. 

Second, when you try to see past the feints and discern the real attack, your opponent is able to touch you before you can discern which is the feint and which is the finale.

What I am about to say is based upon these two issues.  If I am reading you wrong, I do apologize.

It seems that you are having a distance issue and possible a footwork issue in your bouts.  You seem also to be focused more on bladework as a solution to the obstacle you face.  In this you seem to be looking for a means of reading what the opponent will do so that you can excecute the parry and score a touch and not get confused by your opponent's feints.  And you seem to be letting your opponent control the tempo of the bout.

Part of a good defense is good bladework, as you have discovered.  But footwork and a sense of distsance are far more important than bladework, regardless of what style you fence in or what weapon you fence with.  If you're parrying a feint and your ripost is unsuccessful because your opponent is out of reach, either you are not maintaining a good distance with your opponent, or your opponent is using footwork to keep you away from him/her.  The distance sense and footwork are, in my oppinion, more important than being able to predict the opponent; good distance and footwork will make your opponent work more to touch you and will put you in a better position to read your opponent.

Another thought is this.  When you are trying to read your opponent, don't look at their blade.  Look at their body.  Get a feel for your opponent's rhythm and distance.  If you are trying to follow the blade, you will end up seeing only what your opponent wishes you to see. 

Lastly, use of footwork and distance can help keep you from getting into a postition where your opponent has you concentrating on avoiding attacks, set you up, then touch.  Take advantage and take control of the tempo.  Don't let your opponent set the tempo.  If you can establish the tempo, you can keep your opponent focused where you want him/her and draw them into a scenario that is beneficial to you.

Once again, if I am reading you wrong, then I do apologize.  I will leave off here for more knowledgeable minds to weigh in.

I hope that I have been helpful.

Daniel


Daniel Sullivan
Rockville Fencing Academy
Foil, Epee
Second dan Kumdo/Kum bup

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#7 2007-08-11 00:17:01

Linda Wyatt
Prevost d'Armes
From: Danby NY
Registered: 2006-03-26
Website

Re: What to look for?

Stephen- Welcome to the forum.

I have been thinking about your questions.   


> I have read—and been told repeatedly—that motions in fencing must become automatic
> and performed without conscious thought. I understand that this facility is acquired
> through constant and proper practice. Well and good.

I have also heard frequently that thinking is too slow, and that it takes you out of the moment.

But HOW, exactly, does something become "without conscious thought" ? If you aren't thinking about it, how do you know what to do?  What does "automatic" mean?  Seems to me it has connotations of happening without control, not just without thought.  Something that is automatic just "happens" when the proper trigger (your word) happens.  Whether you want it to or not.

This morning, I was driving somewhere, and as I often do, I was thinking while driving.  Thinking about your post, NOT ABOUT driving... hmmm.  Driving without consciously thinking about it, was I?  How is that possible?  What "triggers" were controlling what I was doing? What was I "looking for" in order to know what to do, when to turn, when to stop, when to start, when to slow down or speed up?


The thing is, I wasn't looking for any triggers at all.

I was just driving.

When I first learned to drive, yes, I needed to know how far from a corner I needed to begin my turn, how long before the stop sign I needed to hit the brakes, how hard I needed to press on the accelerator,  but not now.  Now I just drive. Without thinking about it at all.

What I realized is that the whole "fencing without thinking" thing is not about trying not to think, or figuring out what to do instead of thinking... it's about learning how to fence well enough that you don't NEED to think.  So you don't.

> My question is, what are the triggers? What is it that the able fencer watches; what opposing motions,
> etc. are the real triggers for a particular parry or combination? And, if variation of defense is a value
> to pursue, where are we to start and why, given what is coming at us or preparing to?


So this is a different question entirely.
I believe that what you are asking is how, while you are learning, do you know what to do at any given moment?

I'd like to ask you to step back for a second and read what you wrote again.

I noticed something about it that I believe is very important.

    What are the triggers for a particular parry?
    Where are we to start given what is coming at us or preparing to?

Everything you asked about, your opponent has control of what is happening, and you are waiting, watching, in order to know what to do.

YOU need to be the locus of control.

You DON'T just look for things, for something to trigger what you do, you DON'T wait for whatever is coming at you or preparing to.

If there is such a thing as a trigger for a given parry, it is the entire phrase up to that point that YOU set up and execute.  For example, you might parry quarte because you set up a counter-riposte phrase where your opponent ripostes into your high inside line.  Not because you see a riposte coming there, but because you arranged it so that would happen, and then it did.

That's one way to look at it.

Another way is that all of your actions should be based on what you feel, on what is happening in the moment, and not on any preconceived notions of what might happen, or on what you see about to happen.

Looking at it that way, the "trigger" for your parry of quarte might be that you feel your opponent disengage from the outside of your blade to your inside as he begins his riposte, so you know he is in one of the inside lines.  So you parry quarte.  Remember this is only one possible scenario, only one of the possible choices.  The important part is that it is the feel of your opponent's action, not what you see, or what you think he is going to do, that provides the information you need.

You provide your opponent with opportunities to act.  When he acts, you feel his action, and respond accordingly.

As for variation of defense, start by being able to execute any parry, any compound parry, any transition well.  You must be ABLE to choose from a variety of possibilities before HOW to choose is even an issue.


It sure can be difficult to put some of this into words.  Especially when I have no idea what you have been taught or how, or if you have enough similar context to get what I'm trying to say.  As someone said to me about sex one time- "fencing is not a talking subject."  Some things are meant to be done, to be felt, not experienced by talking about them.  Words are insufficient.

And how many of the rest of you have your Fencing Master reading every word you write, ready to point out any uncarefully chosen word?  :-)

I hope my train of thought was of some use to you.


Linda

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#8 2007-08-15 14:51:02

KevinMurakoshi
Member
From: Davis, CA
Registered: 2007-07-28

Re: What to look for?

This was sent to me by a friend on another (Modern Fencing) message board, who asked me to post it, knowing that I was a member here.


-------------

Admin Note:
The quoted message has been removed because we do not allow cross posting on this forum.  Only members are authorized to post.  Please do not post any forwarded material without first contacting Maitre Crown. If he believes the potential post has merit, he may invite the author to join so that the information may be posted directly.

Thank you.

Linda

Last edited by Linda Wyatt (2007-08-15 21:35:32)

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#9 2007-08-27 14:19:20

Akilles
Member
From: Saint Louis
Registered: 2006-06-06
Website

Re: What to look for?

"And how many of the rest of you have your Fencing Master reading every word you write, ready to point out any uncarefully chosen word?  :-)"

Very funny, Linda.  And yes, we must fence more and talk less.

Regarding the Original Post - many new fencers (by 'new fencer' these days I mean specifically anybody with less than 20 years of regular training behind them) experience an ego dystonic sensation when trying to do technique correctly, i.e. "thinking" and also trying to discover the means to employ those actions meaningfully during the assault, viz. being more intuitive.

A balanced training program takes care of this - and more experience.

Triggers?  They are legion!  Your eyes in the middle distance, seeing but not looking at anything you open your perspective to everything your enemy is doing and thereby discover what your enemy is about to do.  Try a simple experiment:  next time you are fencing (could be a lovely set of conventional exercises or an assault) identify what you are actually looking at.  Some options:

a) the enemies sword - many new fighters get all weapon-happy and become entranced by the enemies weapon or weapon hand.  oh the fun of leading their eyes on a rollercoaster ride against their will!
b) the enemies x - this is any other point of total focus on the enemies body, their feet, eyes, target, whatever.  again, if you are looking at their face, do you see what they are accomplishing with their feet? their hands?  If you are looking at something you are missing everything else.

Take the complete picture in mind. Let it rest there, whole and extant.  In this "seeing no seeing" you can also observe changes as they happen, shifts in weight, change in tempo, lines entered or misplaced. Let it all be and then you can choose.  We could say everything is a trigger but that kind of begs the question, hmm?

Last edited by Akilles (2007-08-27 14:23:35)


all conditioned things decay - seek liberation diligently

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