One of the simplest defences in fencing is not to be where the attack of the opponent is delivered, as such this blog will be about the use of voids and other forms of displacement as a form of defence. Performed effectively the use of displacement of the fencer can be an extremely effective form of defence and can also set up for a counter-attack while the void is being executed. There are various considerations that need to be made when using this form of defence and these aspects will be discussed in this blog.
Voids or displacements can be used effectively both as a form of defence and also to set yourself up for an effective counter-attack. Voids can be extremely simple or quite complex in their execution, and various forms of displacement will be discussed. The simplest form of void is the retreat, in this the distance is increased between the combatant and their opponent so that the attack is avoided by a simple increase in range. This is one of the basic forms of footwork that is taught in the early stages of learning how to fence, but surprisingly enough, it is often forgotten as a simple form of defence against the opponent's attack. All of the tools available to the fencer should be used in order to be effective.
Displacements can be very simple, as in the retreat, or quite complex as in the form of the inquartata or volte as it is called in French. A simple movement of the body can be used in order to avoid an attack, or this can be combined with the use of the feet in combination with the body movement. It is important that both forms of avoidance are considered for their effectiveness and how they can be most effective in their execution. Each element must be considered in order or them to be efffective.
As in all parts of fencing, timing and distance are of great importance, and this also applies to the use of the void. If one of these elements has been percieved badly then problems can occur. With regard to distance it is important that in the use of the retreat, for example, that the distance is increased enough that the opponent's attack does not still strike its intended target. Distance is also important that the correct part of the body is moved a sufficient distance out of the way of the attack. Timing is also of equal importance in this situation. The combatant must use the correct timing in order for the void to be effective when it is used. The fencer must wait for the attack to come and only move at the last minute to ensure that the defence is effective. This is the same with all forms of defence. Particular to the void, an early movement can allow the opponent to change their direction and still strike the fencer with the same attack. Without the awareness of these particular principles and how they apply to the use of the void, the void will be substantially less effective.
In order of simplicity, after the retreat comes the body or part void. This is a simple movement of the body part out of the way of the opponent's attack. This is most commonly performed with attacks to the limbs, but can also be effectively used to move the torso away from the opponent's attack. In the defence of the limbs it involves simply moving the limb out of the way. For the body in involves bending the body out of the way of the opponent's attack. This can be performed without the feet moving. Simple movement of the body or part is useful especially where the the sword or the off-hand cannot be reach or be moved quickly enough to defend the intended target. These movements can also leave the fencer's sword in position to deliver a counter-attack against the opponent while the void is being performed. A slightly more complex version of this movement involving slight movement of the feet is the stop hit. In this the body is displaced while a counter-attack is delivered against the opponent.
Inquartata is the Italian term, and volte is the French term, these actions are actually the same thing, but have terms associated with the language being used. This action is a combination of the use of the feet and the body in order to displace the combatant in order to avoid the opponent's attack. In the use of these techniques it is useful to keep the point on-line as this gives the fencer access to a counter-offensive option while the action is being performed. The full version of the volte is a radical movement of the feet and body in order to displace from the opponent's attack, but there is a smaller movement that can also be used effectively. This defence is the half-inquartata or demi-volte. This involves a simple movement of the rear foot behind the front foot in order to turn the body away from the opponent's attack. Once again, as in all cases of voids the weapon should be kept on-line in order to be able to counter-attack. The more complex motion of the feet and body is the full version of both. This is a larger movement of the rear foot behind and across, ending up almost perpendicular to the front foot. This results in a greater movement of the body due to the greater movement of the feet.
The footwork in all forms of the inquartata and volte are the vital element which ensures a greater success of this particular action. The movement of the feet should be simple, as in all forms of footwork. One of the greatest mistakes in the performance of this technqiue is that the body is used to move the feet into position, the opposite is actually what should happen. The movement of the feet moves the body. The body may be moved some in order to increase the effectiveness of the technique, but it must be primarily the movement of the feet that creates the effect. Balance must be maintained in this technique, as in all others, and this is achieved by effective use of the feet and the correct maintenance of the centre of gravity over the middle of the feet. Being unbalanced during or at the end of this technique can leave you vulnerable to your opponent's following attack.
The length of this blog belies the use and effectiveness of this particular technique. It is not one that should be glossed over in any way whatsoever. A fencer with effective voids who has practiced them well and has a good application of timing and distance can actually successfully defend himself without any consideration of the use of the sword or the off-hand. This leaves the weapon free for counter-offensive actions against the opponent. Serious consideration should be made by the fencer about the use of the void. Even if it does not become the primary defence of the fencer, it can seriously enhance the fencer's ability to avoid an opponent's attacks. Of course, most effectively, the void can actually be combined with other forms of defence to be even more effective. Practice and research your displacements and you will become a much more secure fencer.