Welcome to week 4 of Intermediate! This course is all about the attack, and so far we’ve focused on feints: making a fake attack to one target to draw a defensive response, before finishing with a real attack to another target.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve looked primarily at a class of large, powerful feint attacks known as cutovers, which evade the opponent’s point to get around parries. Good feint attacks, as discussed previously, are able to handle any combination of the opponent staying still, being fooled into parrying the feint, or counterattacking.
However, not all feint attacks are equally good at dealing with each of the three possible defensive responses. Cutovers are effective against parries, because they go over the tip of the opponent’s blade in a relatively wide slow arc, but this same attribute makes them less effective against counterattacks. This was demonstrated last week in our comparison of two feint attacks in which both feints were initially to head. Most of you would have found the through cut (a cutover) more effective against the parry than the counterattack, and vice versa for the underarm cut.
This week, we’re going to continue our exploration of feint attacks with disengages. Disengages are comparatively fast, small actions which evade our opponent’s anticipated parry by going under their guard. They take a fair bit of dexterity to pull off, but they’re a potent weapon against an opponent who likes to counterattack. They aren’t bad at getting around parries either. We’ll start with some point control exercise to help with the finger movements required to pull off disengages consistently, and go into some detail around point attacks vs. angulated attacks and their relative merits. Wear breeches for this one.
Previously on Novice, it’s been all about the lunge. Over the last three weeks, we’ve built your ability to make fast, powerful attacks from medium- to long-range, allowing you to close the gap and finish your attack with a direct hit even if your opponent makes a run for it. In week 4, we’re going to teach you a completely new trick: how to hit from low-line.
Low-line hits can be defined as anything starting from a position where your blade is below waist height. This leaves them with the obvious weakness of being slower and more difficult to execute: the path to target is longer, and getting there directly takes a fair bit of skill. Pull it off, though, and you dramatically reduce your vulnerability to defensive blade actions like beats and lockouts by essentially hiding your blade from your opponent. Coming from underneath also makes your hits more difficult to parry.
In tonight’s class, we’ll show you how to hit fast from low-line to the three main targets, and how to build low-line attacks in to the lunge sequences you’ve learned over the last three weeks. You’ll essentially double your attack repertoire in one session, and enter the wonderful realm of the sneaky trick-shots, and counterattacking you will get a whole lot harder.
Previously on Beginner, we introduced the basic cuts and parries. In week 4, we’re going to show you that there’s optimal time and place for both cuts and parries, and it is always while you’re in motion.
On the attack, direct cuts should always be made so that they hit the target while your front foot is still in the air on your final step or lunge forward. When your foot is still in the air, you’ve got the energy of your acceleration behind the hit; once you land, you start to slow down. A direct cut timed right to land while you’re in the air is powerful and extremely difficult to block, but a cut that lands after the foot is liable to bounce off even a pretty average parry.
On the defense, the situation is broadly similar. Parries don’t work very well if you’re standing still: they should be made while you’re moving, whether it’s forwards or backwards, to allow you to absorb the impact of the hit. They should also be kept as small and as late as possible. You need to make a static “wall” to intersect the trajectory of the incoming hit, and that shouldn’t be a huge production. Giant flashy bladework ain’t the best idea here. Keep it sharp, and keep it clean.
We’ve spent the last few weeks refining the ability to hit deep and close targets, but that’s been largely predicated on the assumption that the target is open. This week, we’re going to look at how to deal with situations where the defender’s blade is in the way.
If your opponent is trying to disrupt your attack with a persistent blade in your face, you’re going to need to deal with that before you can make the final cut. A good approach to a relatively static and obvious presentation of the blade is the bind attack, also known as pris-de-fer. The objective with a bind is not to swat at the defender’s blade, but to remove it in a much more controlled way by quite literally pushing it aside.
We’ll be starting with the basic static actions to find and engage the defender’s blade, then building in movement to get you used to using it in the right distance. We’ll also be showing you how to convert a bind into a direct finish in the event that the defender successfully evades it and counterattacks, then building all of this into regular “Romanian” attack drill we stole from Max Hartung.
Welcome to week 3 of footwork and bladework! This week, we’re working on something that sounds obvious, but all too often isn’t: hitting the closest target you can get. We want to develop your ability to smoothly pick off a forward target on the attack should a suitable window present itself, which is both a sweet trick to pull off in a fight and an excellent way to work on your accuracy and point control.
We’ll be building on last week’s sneaky opportunistic wrist shots with some more calculated hits to the forearm from a range of angles. Your opponent’s guard is going to put up a bit of a fight here, but it’s not usually going to get in the way of all possible angles, so your objective is to learn to find the open line. As with last week’s exercises, though, going for such a small target is still a fairly high-risk maneuver, so we’ll then be practicing developing these into a nice smooth attack to deep target. If you do it right, nobody will notice. We’ll also be building these into feint attacks to deep target if you’re feeling ambitious. As always, you can tweak the level of difficulty by staying static (good for starting out) or closing distance (somewhat trickier).
This stuff isn’t going to work if you’re flinging your blade around with your whole arm, so keep your grip light and your fingers nimble. A sabre is a precision instrument.