FENCING DRILL by Craig Harkins
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of drills which make up the spokes of what Mr. Harkins refers to as the Tactical Wheel. You can find others of the "spokes" and much more at Mr. Harkins' excellent website Fence-Net

The second spolke on the Tactical Wheel - First Intention Defense:
. (Other drills are at http://www.fencing.net/drills/index.html

By understanding the tactical progression of a bout, you will better understand how to choose the correct tactics for each situation in both 5 and 15 touch bouts. These strategy variations are applicable to all 3 weapons. Defensive First Intention First Intention Defense is the second "spoke" in the Tactical Wheel. By definition, this is a tactic by which you wait for the attack and then make your touch on a parry-riposte. While the drills in this section are all first intention, some are simple (one action) while others are compound (feint-deceive on the riposte). The key to these drills are that your primary goal is to land the riposte. One other characteristic of first intention defense is that the actions are "Forseen" or "Partially Forseen". This means that you know exactly or generally what actions you will make up to the completion of your action.

Aside: Forseen, Partially Forseen, and Unforseen actions.

If you are making a straight lunge, then you are making a "Forseen" action. If you are marching down the strip making multiple feints and waiting until the final second to choose your target, then you are making a "Partially Forseen" action. If, in the middle of your attack your opponent executes a counter-attack and your react with a parry/riposte, then your actions were "Unforseen".

Examples of First Intention Defense
(Assume advance-lunge distance. All parries are with a retreat unless specified.) L= Leader, P=Pupil. All drills assume same-handed fencers.

L: Enguard in 6, Attack to 4
P: Parry 4 (lateral), direct riposte
L: Attempt Parry

Ia. Leader executes attack in 7, 8, and 6. All ripostes with simple extension.

L: Beat 4, attack to 4.
P: Parry Counter-6 (Circular), direct riposte w/opposition to 6.

L: Enguard in 6, attack to 4 (advance only)
P: Parry 4
L: Disengage 4, lunge
P: Parry counter-4, direct riposte

L: Enguard in 6, attack to 4 (close to blade, advance only)
P: Attempt parry counter-6
L: Disengage w/lunge to 4
P: Parry 4 (lateral), riposte

[Note: Exercises III and IV introduce multiple parries or parry sequences. Many fencers develop sequences that they prefer for clearing out complex attacks. Experiment with different sequences to determine the ones that work best for you and in different situations. The most common are a lateral parry followed by circular and circular followed by lateral parries.] (Now on to composed, or compound, ripostes.)

V. The 1,2
L: Enguard in 6, Attack to 4
P: Parry 4 (lateral), direct riposte to 4
L: Attempt Parry 4
P: Disengage to 4, hit. V. Double' Riposte
L: Enguard in 6, Attack to 4
P: Parry Counter-6, direct riposte to 6
L: Attempt Parry Counter-4
P: Disengage, hit in 6

Now that you have a few drills to start with, it's up to you to expand on them and try out differnet sequences and target areas. You should also play with the different types of parry-ripostes. These drills focus on using the middle of the blade for "beat" parries. In closer distance (or in epee), you will want to move to using "opposition" parries and "binds" where you trap your opponent's blade and use your leverage to guarantee the hit. Once you are comfortable with the execution of two individual drills, you can have the leader choose which set of actions to go with and mix up the drills as you go. This keeps you alert to what your opponent is doing rather than going into autopilot with a move.

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