Every so often, I see epee bouts in which both fencers hug one of the side lines, sometimes with all four feet on that side line. In most cases, that is due to the fact that one fencer anticipates that the other is quite good at fleché attacks, and he wants to prevent those from happening – and he does so by hugging the side line, so that the talented flecheur has no space to do his fleche, since he would either step out of the piste or run into the opponent in the beginning of the fleché.

So far, so good. Then what?

It seems to me that there should be some viable response to this defensive action. However, I do not see much in the way of creative responses to side line hugging. Quite often, the fencers go to that line, and then they stay there for the duration of the fencing phrase. My gut feeling is that there should be something that could be done by either fencer (the flecheur or the defender) to break this impasse in such a way so as to get a good chance to end the fencing phrase with a single point in favor of the more creative fencer.

However, I do not at present know what those creative actions would be. I strongly suspect that handedness – same for both fencers, or opposite – will come into play. Whomever it is who comes up with something will get a bunch of easy points. If the creative action is done by the flecheur, then he will force the opponent to do something quite different, since the side line hugging option by then is disproved.

This would be a very good line of study for someone writing a thesis in sport science – study lots and lots of videotapes showing fencing phrases that go into side line hugging, and then are resolved in some manner. Look through a few hundred of those instances, and it stands to reason that someone inadvertently has come up with something that works. Once one finds actions like that, one can start training for them.

Activity for the training bouts at the club: Deliberately put fencers on the side line, and close enough so that the blades can be engaged. Let the fencers start, and see whatever happens. Sooner or later, one will figure out something.