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The 4 Strategic Positions

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There are five possible strategies, based on the pre-existing physical relationship between the opponents. These can and should be determined Before the fight begins.

  • Either
    • you can effectively outreach your opponent
    • he can outreach you,
    • or you are exactly equal.

  • Either
    • you are stronger/faster than your opponent
    • he is stronger/faster than you,
    • or you are exactly equal.

This gives us four primary strategic positions as indicated in the table below. The fifth possibility is that you and your opponent are exactly equal, in which case the encounter becomes purely a tactical fight. That is, the fencer strives to work with the same strategy against his adversary that his adversary is trying to work against him.

 STRONGER (faster)weaker (slower)

Longer or Shorter

    • Out-fighting means to fight from the farthest distance from which it is possible to score.
    • In-fighting means fighting from the closest possible distance.
    • The longer fighter should always employ out-fighting.
    • The shorter opponent must always employ in-fighting.

Stronger or Weaker

    • Offensive fighting means using strong, direct, immediate, simple actions.
    • Defensive fighting means using deceptive, indirect, syncopated, compound actions.
    • The stronger fighter should always employ offensive (direct) fighting.
    • The weaker fighter should use defensive (indirect) fighting.

The Four Primary Strategies

    • The longer/stronger swordman should employ offensive out-fighting.
    • The longer/weaker swordman should employ defensive out-fighting.
    • The shorter/stronger swordman should employ offensive in-fighting.
    • The shorter/weaker swordman should employ defensive in-fighting.

  • The use of the "correct" strategy does not guarantee victory, but correlates substantially enough with success that using an incorrect strategy can almost guarantee defeat.
  • Your opponent may employ the wrong strategy. For example, a longer fighter may fight as if he had no reach advantage -- making it true. You must then adopt the strategy appropriate to your opponent's actual position, rather than potential or theoretical position.
  • A longer fighter may sometimes be effective in-fighting; but a smaller fighter will NEVER be effective by out-fighting.

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The Manuel d'escrime of 1877 | The Military Masters Fencing Program
Acamillo Palladini's Discourse | Analysis of the Patton Fencing Manual
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Rafael Sabatini Prince of Swashbucklers | The Practical Saviolo part 1
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Demystification of the Spanish School 2 | Demystification of the Spanish School 3
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The Play's The Thing | The 5 Tactical Principles | The 4 Strategic Positions

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