Thursday, January 12, 2006

Another Fencing Drill

Since the opening of Youth Fencing in the Kingdom, I’ve had a couple of younger students join our fencing group. I find new students always help me work on my technique, since I can actually slow down a bit and concentrate on executing attacks and parries properly instead of having to defend with all the speed I can muster against an experienced opponent. New students just haven’t developed the reflexes yet, and I want them to be able to see my attack coming so they can try to do the right thing to counter it.

That in mind, I developed a new drill last weekend for doing hand parries. Not that I’m the first to come up with it, mind you; I just happened to catch the drift at our last practice. The basic idea is that you have to keep a rapier-equipped opponent from stabbing you using nothing but your gloved hands. Needless to say, you’re going to need to wear full protective gear.

I teach Jeet Kune Do parries that I learned a couple of years ago for empty-hand parries in fencing. I’m sure that instructors who come from a different martial arts background will have their own favorites, but I find that the JKD parries are particularly well suited to fencing (possibly because Bruce Lee was inspired by fencing early in the development of JKD). Someday I’ll have to take some pictures of the actual moves, since using their Chinese names wouldn’t mean a thing to most people, even if I remembered them right.

UPDATE: These are now available in video form.

For the basic drill, the attacker throws three attacks in succession. The first is a high attack to the head or throat thrown from the secund guard, in which the sword his held at arms length to the side… a sort of “outside” attack. The second attack is another high shot, this time thrown from the quarta guard, in which the sword arm crosses in front of the body to throw an “inside” shot. The final attack goes toward the belly, and it’s thrown from the terza or low guard. The attacker should make these thrusts at a measured pace, making the parries easy for the defender… at first. We’ll spice up the drill later.

The defender should parry all of the attacks with the same hand. Parry the first attack to the outside (that’s the left side if you’re parrying with your left hand) using the back of the hand closest to the approaching blade. Parry the second attack by bringing your palm across to push it to the opposite side. Parry the final attack by swinging your arm straight down to push the attack to the outside. Ideally, your elbow should stay pretty still while your forearm rotates around to parry attacks.

Get good at this defense with both hands. You’ll want to get particularly good with your off hand, since it will be the one that’s empty when you’re fighting with a single rapier, and it will be your only defense if your sword is busy attacking or otherwise locked up.

When that’s starting to get too easy, advance to stage two: vary the pace of the attacks. Shorten or lengthen the delay between attacks so the defender can’t predict exactly when to parry. The defender can also start trying to grip the blade briefly during the parries.

Finally, continue the drill on the move. Both the attacker and defender should feel free to move about (using good footwork, of course). The attacker will be trying to maintain an ideal attack distance, while the defender will be trying to stay either outside of the attacker’s range or slip in close enough during a parry to score a finger-touch on the attacker.

That's all for now. I'm leaving for Saltare tomorrow.

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