Whitman College Fencing





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Description of Drills

Lesson Schedule from 2004-2005


Standard Drills/Exercises

End of the Line: The purpose of this drill is to practice a variety of parries, and it requires two fencers. One fencer (A) stands on guard, back foot against a wall, foil in hand (mask on). The second fencer (B) finds her/his lunging distance. Fencer B then takes his/her guard and proceeds to attack in a line of her/his choice. It is fencer A's job to parry the incoming attack and riposte immediately (fencer B will recover). Note that if fencer A chooses a poor parry, fencer B should make the touch (i.e. it should be a committed attack). Once the fencers become comfortable with both roles in the drill, an additional level of complexity should be added by allowing the attacking fencer to perform actions on the blade prior to the attack.

Immediate Riposte: The purpose of this drill is very simple--to teach the student to riposte immediately after the parry. In this case immediately should be defined as: before the opponent can even think about a recovery or a remise. This is a very simple drill and can be executed in any line. Moreover, it should be practiced in all lines whenever possible.

Start out of distance, with an aggressor and a defender. The aggressor should perform an advance-lunge to either the high line or low line as previously decided. The defender then performs his/her choice of parry, and ripostes (direct by detaching the blade, direct along the blade, or indirect, but not compound) immediately. The defender's goal is to make a successful riposte, while the aggressor, his attack having been foiled, attempts to recovery to his guard as quickly as possible to avoid the riposte. Note: the defender must not lunge with her/his riposte.

Variations: This drill can be performed in many variations. Possible ideas are to have the attacker add feints on the attack, to start in distance, or to perform actions on the blade prior to the attack. However, these should be saved for more advanced students as the additional complexity detracts from the focus on the immediate purpose of the drill--an unhesitating riposte.

The general form of this exercise was written in 1932 by Luigi Barbasetti as: "The master makes a strong thrust and then recovers rapidly, whereupon the pupil, without lunging, executes a riposte before the instructor can recover."

Openings and Responses: By now the student should be familiar with the 3 main openings: the invitation, the engagement, and the extension. They should also be familiar with the 3 simple attacks: the straight thrust, the disengagement and lunge, and the glide. For each of the openings, one of the simple attacks supplies the most direct/efficient means for taking advantage of the opening. For the invitation, it is the straight thrust (make sure to close the line!), for the engagement, the disengagement and lunge, and for the extension it is the glide. However, it takes some time to internalize those relationships, so the purpose of this drill is to meet each opening with the correct response.

This drill should first be done from an immobile guard. First, fencers A and B will guard in 3rd at fencer A's lunging distance. Fencer B will then offer one of the 3 openings, either inviting in 3rd, engaging fencer A's blade in 3rd, or extending to the high line. As soon as the opening is offered, fencer A will respond with the appropriate simple attack in the high line and touch. After a certain amount of time they should switch roles.

Obviously the above is a bit simple, so let us extend it. Now, still from a stationary guard, allow fencer B to choose the starting line at random. That is, fencer B will invite or engage in any of the 4 lines, or extend to either the high line or the low line. Fencer A will respond with an appropriate simple attack. Switch roles.

Finally, to complete the drill, do it 'in time with mobility'. That is, allow fencer B to control the movements as well as the timing of the opening. Fencer B will advance and retreat at will, and fencer A should maintain an appropriate lunging distance. At will, fencer B offers an opening, and fencer A should immediately respond with a correct attack that is in time with the opening, appropriate for the opening, and at a proper distance.

Obviously this can continue to be extended until it eventually resembles an actual assault. A couple simple extensions are: first, to allow fencer B to attempt to parry-riposte, and second to change the distance so that fencer A is using an advance lunge, possibly with a feint, to which fencer B can respond with his/her choice of parry, which fencer A must evade and continue through for the touch.