Friday, October 31, 2008

Tell-tale Twitch

Okay, one of the biggest problems a fencer has is a tell-tale. Well, from what I know that is the biggest problem any fighter has. A preparation before an attack, whether it is a twitch or a pattern it can still tell the opponent that you are about to attack. So there are two things to do with a tell-tale: Eliminate it, and then use fake tell-tales.

First, you either have to be good at self-criticism, or work with a partner. Second, you need a mirror, unless you have a trustworthy partner. The drills are as numerous as the potential situations in which you could show your intention, and also being lazy this late I won't list them but say that the lunge is one of the biggies.

A tell-tale before a lunge can be as subtle as a shift in weight, to a large rotation of the upper body as though trying to gain rotational acceleration from the movement and therefore make the point of the foil move faster. Whatever the physical or mental reason for the tell-tale, it signals the opponent, so whether or not it makes the point go faster, it will give the opponent more time to react.

Subtle: A pattern of breathing, shift in weight, small twist in torso, small pattern with the sword, shuffling, tilt of the head, and many others.

Pronounced: A sigh or making sounds, standing up, hunkering down, large twist in the torso or bringing the off-hand froward, a pattern of heavy beats, a pattern of footwork better defined.

None of the listed things are bad in themselves as long as the patterns don't get too extensive or are repeated often. But if every time you lunge is preceded by the same action, then the opponent will pick up on it, even if they aren't all that observant. Working with a partner should start with a bit of sparring just to watch the other closely. When you see something that is repeated before a lunge or other action, stop the sparring and point it out. Then it is time to breakdown the movement to try to get rid of the unintended movement, so take it slowly and build from there. Beginners won't have too hard a time ironing out a few flaws they have picked up in the first month, but intermediate and advanced fencers might have to work over several weeks to eliminate a habit.

Once you have successfully eliminated all of your quirks, good luck with that, it is time to throw them back in. But wait, isn't that what you just trained out? Yes, but using them as feints can be effective to an extent. This works well against observant, over-analyzing opponents, not against ones who just come in anyway. Make a non-opening tell-tale before lunging, and then do it again before another lunge. Now you have the opponent. You can now play with the opponent for a little while until they figure out that they have been tricked. There are two ways of using feint, one is not to use it at all on the third lunge and just make it clean, completely surprising the very observant, and the other is to make the feint so that they attack into it. Of course with an extremely observant opponent the first one will only work once, and the second may work twice if you are lucky.

There is a psychological side other than just tricking the opponent once. An extremely observant opponent will become extremely cautious because they realize that you have control over your tell-tales. When someone is overly cautious in a competition, it often, but not always, leads to defeat. However the same is true for over-confidence. So in taking control of the bout, don't forget that they might use the shift in their favor.

I shouldn't forget about the breathing thing, that has many interesting side-tracks. I did list breathing as a tell-tale up there, but if you don't breathe correctly or at all, you will be at a severe disadvantage. Just don't make discernible patterns of sounds without intention. So I will write on breathing more and soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Secret to Skewering

Many times I will miss an opponent utterly, or just continue to hit off-target. Both of these things are frustrating, especially after pulling off a wonderful parry. Ben says that it is because I am not lining up the shot, or in other words being hasty, and trying to throw my point out to the opponent without aiming.

The secret is to parry, put the point in line, and at this point two things might happen: The opponent might very well run onto the point with a strong enough attack, and you will be pointing at his target, or the opponent will stop making it necessary to extend the arm for the riposte, as well as possibly lunging. However the basic physics lesson for today is that an opponent who is coming toward you tends to continue coming unless fleet of foot and able to stop on a dime.

So, parry, point-in-line, riposte in one fluid motion will make many rpiostes much better. There are many other bladework ideas in foil, but I will cover more later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Resetting the Counter

Just a quick note that whatever counter I was using before had some really weird links. Just to click on it sent me to some probate thingy. Oh well, I suspect that I won't quite get the 400+ visitors I had before, but that is certainly alright. I will put up a new post about my struggles with bladework soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008


With any martial art footwork is the foundation for the rest of the movement. If you don't know this or are just beginning a martial art, then you will here this quite often. Fencing is no different, and in fact it can play into high-level strategy as well. Though what I am going to cover is pretty basic.

In both of the gyms we practice in, there is a problem with the stickiness of the floor and the potential for tripping and/or twisting an ankle. This is caused by humidity, a clean floor, and not having one of those fancy grounded-metal strips. The problem people have is that they don't quite pick their feet up all the way and their toe catches on the sticky floor, causing them to fall or reel. Sometimes it is just due to inexperience with the floor or basic footwork, but sometimes it is due to people trying to be sneaky by leaving their toe to slide along the floor so that it seems that they haven't lifted their foot. This can be used as a tactic but shows a few flaws.

The first problem is the physical part: The top of the foot becomes extended while the heel is lifted and the toe is left on the strip. This is bad for two reasons, first is that the foot is in a precarious position and if rolled it may sustain more injury because of already being extended. The second is that this shows poor conditioning for those fencers who do know better. I know that it may be hard at the end of the day to maintain good foot technique, but if the fencer is already tired in the middle of the first bout and can't keep the toe from dragging, then there is something that needs to be done, such as drills or cross-training.

The second problem is the audio part: The toe dragging on a sticky surface may make a squeak that is loud and clear, and alerts the opponent to the intended movement. Even when not on a tacky surface the sound of a shoe sliding can give warning, even if it may only be subliminal. But of course this can also be used as a feint, to make the opponent think you are going to do something. But this is along the same lines as stomping, just a bit more subtle.

The third problem is the knee: Someone who is trying to be sneaky about their toe may forget about the knee. Whenever the heel comes off the floor, the knee comes up, and the knee is closer to the opponent's focus than the toe. Some will even lift the heel very high as though it would help them. Again, it is more easily seen by the opponent and puts the foot and ankle in danger.

Footwork should consist of the feet leaving the floor in a normal manner but still promotes the correct posture. The feet should never be lifted far above the floor, this is wasteful and unproductive. The foot should travel parallel to the floor as close as one is able to control it without touching the floor accidentally.

I will probably write more on this subject later on.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Turning a New Blade

Rather than just blog at random, I have come to a decision that I could help myself, my club, and potentially our website by blogging about fencing. The nice thing is that the title for the blog doesn't need to be changed, only a few other things do, but anyway. Go checkout the website at And come fence with us!!

Today I was walking like I have been for the last few weeks for my noon break up and down the hill. This a really sticky affair as it is usually well near 80 for both humidity and temperature. I was stopped by someone from one of the other telescopes and he asked me when and where fencing met. I was wearing my Hawaii Island Fencing T-shirt so I wasn't too surprised. Hopefully we will see him Monday.

Last night I posted about 10 photos taken by Bill Harby of Imagery Ink of our fencing club fencing in the old Mountain View Gym, if you would like to look at the photos, they are at the website and are copyrighted. Bill used to fence with the club but has taken a long hiatus, but hopefully he will start lessons where he is now.

Some of these posts might get technical, but hopefully I will be able to add in some drawings and the like as we go along.

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