This is a direct followup on the previous blog post, which put forth three definitions. The following is a set of examples of motions that belong to the three defined groups.
Simple movement: There are not that many examples of this in real fencing. There are several reasons for this:
- If only one joint is moving, all moving parts distal to the moving joint will moving in a circular arc centered about the joint. Unless the blade tip is far from the opponent, this is not likely to get the tip much closer to the target. If the tip is far from the nearest target on the opponent, it is probable that the stance of the fencer was suboptimal to begin with.
- Unless the the angle between the longitudinal axis of the blade and the line between the tip and the moving joint is fairly large, the weak part of the blade will hit whatever it hits at the end of the movement in such a way so that the blade will land fairly flat, so that the blade and barrel will hit the target at the same time as the tip. This is not conducive to pressing in the tip into the barrel. If, on the other hand, there is a large angle between the longitudinal axis of the blade and the line between the tip and the moving joint, then the tip is not as close to the opponent as it could be, which is not a good way of using your reach.
- A purely rotational motion from one joint will involve a significant amount of moment of inertia, which limits the maximum rotational acceleration of the movement in that joint, and thus puts a limit on how fast the total movement can be, given a specific muscular strength of the muscles moving that joint. The more distal the joint is, the less this moment of inertia will be – but then again, the weaker will the relevant muscle be. In contrast, a composite movement will utilize several muscles, and there will be more translational and less rotational movement of each body part (and weapon), which results in higher accelerations and thus shorter times until the movement is complete.
In the previous blog post, I noted that the movement of the non-weapon arm during the start of a lunge is an example of a simple movement. A moment of consideration will show you that points #1-2 above do not apply in that case, which is why that movement can be useful. Another case of where simple movements can arise in actual fencing is when the opponent does something unexpected to get close to you, and in the process leaves some target unprotected. The element of surprise means that composite movements – which require a little more planning and thus time to initiate – will be harder to do, and the fact that there is unprotected target close by decreases the need to do anything complex. Instead, it is often the best option to do some simple movement that puts the tip of your weapon into the trajectory of your opponent´s unprotected target. Since the overall movement is initiated by the opponent and his target is often moving at least as fast as the tip of your weapon, the kinematic considerations in points #1-2 are to a great extent negated.
In sabre, point #2 is not relevant, since the entirety of the blade can score a valid hit. Also, the sabre blade is considerably lighter than the epee blade, thus giving the former a much lower moment of inertia than the latter (when rotating around a point inside the grip). This lessens the importance of point #3 in sabre. Taken together, this partly explains why sabre is a faster game than epee.
Composite movement: Another example could be the movement of the weapon arm when a lunge is combined with a feint attack to the outside of the opponent´s forearm which is intended to draw a parry sixte, which is decieved by a disengage to the now unprotected inside of the forearm. Here, the shoulder and elbow start the movement together, while the wrist is initially still (or nearly so). When the disengage starts, the wrist starts a circular motion so that the tip of the weapon exhibits a clockwise and semicircular motion under the opponent´s blade and forearm (provided that both fencers are right-handed) which ends when the tip hits the inside of the forearm (or upper arm, or chest, depending on how close the opponent has come). This composite movement thus encompasses three joints, all of which stop moving more or less at the same time, but one of the them starts moving significantly later than the other two. It should not be classified as a technique in its own right, since it generally is not enough to score a hit unless leg movement are done at the same time.
Technique: in the previous blog post, I listed several goals that can be the desired end results of a technique:
- Offensive – a point is to be scored
- Defensive -the opponent is to be prevented from scoring, and the fencer should come into a position where he either can attack directly, or prepare an attack
- Provocatory – it should draw a reaction from the opponent that can be exploited, or make him reveal his intentions, capabilities, or both
- Preparatory – it should put the fencer in a position to do another technique that accomplishes any of the three goals listed above
The lunge clearly fits in under #1 above. A fleché, can, depending on the motives of the fencer performing it, fulfill any of the three first goals listed above. It can obviously score a point. It can break off a tight weapon phrase in which one fencer is under heavy pressure – if he manages to perform a fleché without being hit in the process he passes his opponent, resulting in a halt and the fencers placed at some distance from each other, which gives the fencer doing it some breathing room and time to think over what he should do after the Allez command. Finally, it can be done in order to gauge what kind of reaction the opponent will have. Will he be startled? Will he react by backing down? Will he attempt to close distance? WIll he just extend his blade, and hope for the best? Some other reaction? The information that can be gathered here is highly useful for subsequent tactical and strategic decisions. All sorts of footwork that happen when the distance between fencers is fairly large can be put under the preparatory label. A beat on the opponent’s blade can be both defensive and provocatory – it displaces the tip of the opponent’s blade and until the opponent has regained control of his and put it back in a position fit for an attack the fencer executing the beat is relatively safe, so this action buys some time. Also, it can provoke some opponents into doing various brash responses, which can be exploited.