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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Newton's 3rd Law in Fencing


This blog may be a little short, but it will be focussing on a single point in fencing which is of importance. One of the fundamental things about fencing is that there is no ultimate killing move. There is always a counter to every single attack performed. This is one of the things which is so exciting about fencing, it is about putting the bits together in order that they can work. So this blog will be focussing on action and counter.

"To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
With regard to many things, this particular comment has been used many times. This particular statement is as applicable to fencing as it is to human interactions as it is to physics. There is an action which can be used in response to any other action in fencing, no matter how simple it may be. This is one of the most essential points that as teachers, we must instill in our students, and as fencers, we must understand. This is one of the keys to the development of the fencing mind.

So first, there is attack and defence. A scenario, a thrust is made this is a very simple attack to which there are at least three defences regardless of the form of fencing you are doing. The attack can be parried, voided or retreated from. Each one of these either displaces the body or displaces the attack. For this particular purpose the parry will be used.

So, the attack is parried, this allows the parrier to mount a counter-attack, the riposte. With regard to this discussion, tempo is not going to be mentioned so bear with me. Even in a stesso tempo response there is still the element of a parry and a riposte, they are simply blended together. Of course the individual recieving the riposte can perform anyone of the three actions described in defence, the ceding parry being the most useful if blade engagement is to be maintained. From the ceding parry another counter-attack may be made.

With the simple description above, it can be seen that each attack has a counter, this counter then builds to a counter-attack, and against this there is also a counter. There is no action in fencing which is performed which cannot be countered in some manner. It is up to the fencer to find this particular counter and use it against the attack. In many ways it is like the arms race. One builds a weapon, the other builds a weapon to counter it and so forth. Luckily in this competition the world is not under threat.

Even in the actions used in blade engagement the same sorts of things can be seen. There is an action followed by as response followed by a response to the response and so forth. Stringere is performed in order to open a line on an opponent. A cavatione is performed to counter the stringere to change the engagement and close the line again. A contra-cavatione is performed to counter the cavatione. A ricavatione is performed to counter the contra-cavatione, and then just when you think it is all finished, a simple cavatione will start the entire process again.

So, it has been demonstrated that in blade engagement there is always a counter to the action performed by a fencer. The fencer merely has to have the skill and the ability to think of and use the counter at the appropriate time in order to counter the action of the opponent. The same was demonstrated with regard to attack, defence, counter-attack, and counter-defence. In all cases it must be remembered that every action in fencing can be countered. This may take some time for the fencer to wrap their head around this particular concept.

The fact that eventually every action will be able to be countered some way is one of the most fundamental points in fencing and for some it is the reason why they keep going. In the beginning when the skills are low such things will seem like they have no answer, but it should be remembered that there is always an answer to every action. In many cases it is just a matter of building up the skills of the body and also those of the mind in order for the fencer to be able to percieve these answers. In many ways the action posed by the opponent is a question and the action performed by the fencer is an answer to that question. This is a debate performed with steel in the same way that any debate is performed. There is always an answer all you have to do is go out and find that answer.