The idea for this post was sparked by a student of mine, Helen Gilbert. I am writing the post, but the idea and the foundation is all hers. It is something that we should all consider, especially in approaching those parts of lessons, and techniques which we may not enjoy or prefer. The well-rounded fencer always has the advantage.
There are fencers who fight with a quick pace, fast thrusts, moving quickly all of the time.
There are fencers who fight with a slow pace, slow thrusts, moving slowly all of the time.
There are fencers who fight with variable pace, who vary the speed of their thrusts and the speed of their movement.
There are fencers who prefer to fight at distance, preferring to use long thrusts and lunges.
There are fencers who prefer to fight up close, preferring to close with the opponent and cut.
There are fencers who can fight both at distance and up close depending on what the situation requires and what is to their advantage.
In both of the cases which have been described above, the fencer who can vary their speed has the advantage because they can out-pace the slower fencer, and use Time and slowness to defeat the faster fencer. This concerns using Time, and Timing, against the opponent to put them where they are uncomfortable, likewise it does not matter what speed the opponent fences at the same fencer is comfortable at the variable speeds demonstrated. The same can be said for the use of Distance. A fencer who can just as easily fight at distance and close has the advantage over the fencer who prefers one, as they can close on the one who prefers distance and remain at distance from the one who prefers to close.
The same situation can be found with blade engagement where there are those who do not like to use blade engagement, thus prefer Absence of Blade, likewise there are those who rely on the contact of blades in blade engagement. The true advantage lies with the fencer who can use both sets of techniques and can use them to their advantage in the situation that they find themselves in.
Everyone has favourite and favoured techniques and they will use them more often than other techniques. This does not mean they should not be conversant with the other techniques which they do not prefer. The fencer should always learn all of their lessons to the same degree so they can pick and choose, using the technique which is most suitable to the situation at hand, and where they can find an advantage.
There is a rather hefty quote that you can find in Thibault's Academy of the Sword at the beginning of "Chapter Eighteen: On Cuts to the Right Arm" that I will paraphrase, in which he discusses a garden and the diversity of herbs, flowers and other plants in it. He eventually comes to the point, how one must enjoy all the different techniques that fencing has to offer and not focus on particular techniques.
The true fencer is the one who has studied all parts of their art and practised them, so they are familiar with all of their techniques. This way they can use whatever technique is required at the time. A fencer who achieves this can deal with whatever problem the opponent presents to them, and especially whatever preference the opponent presents. This fencer is marked as the most difficult and challenging fencer to face.