Symptoms and causes of common technical issues   3 comments

Ruairc suggested a sort of cheat-sheet for fixing common problems fencers encounter.  Wistric found hisself unable to sleep, awake at 5am, and two or three soporific beverages into his attempt to achieve sleep, when he decided he would provide said cheat-sheet.  Here you go…


I have bad point control

You have bad form

My lunge comes up short

You have bad form

I get stabbed in the face a lot

You have bad form

I run onto my opponent’s blade a lot

Are we seeing a pattern yet?

I don’t do well against lefties


I’m standing in an Italian guard, but it feels funny on my knees

Funny “ha ha” or funny “somebody else’s funeral”?  I hope it’s the latter.  That shit’s funny.

I’m not a White Scarf

And we’re back to “You have bad form”

Assuming the above were not informative responses, I will attempt to provide more nuanced answers:

I have bad point control

Point control is a myth, or at least the concept of working just on “point control” is a lie told by mediocre instructors to worse fencers.  90% of point control issues are the result of not extending your hand COMPLETELY before lunging.  A total newb with a rapier can hit within a 1 inch radius of their target doing this.  How long have you been fencing?

“But Wistric,” you say, “doesn’t extending tell my opponent I’m about to attack?  Wouldn’t it be better to extend and lunge at the same time?”

Wouldn’t it be better to hit what you’re aiming at?

Extend your arm completely and then, immediately, flow into your lunge.  One continuous motion.  No can defend.  By the time your arm completes its extension your forte is already against their foible (please tell me you did not just extend your arm so that your point went to THEIR forte).  And then you step and they die.  That simple act of extending first gains control of their blade and makes you safe.  So always extend first before everything.  Everything.  Passing forward?  Extend first.  Passing back?  Extend first.  Burping?  Extend first.  People think I’m joking.  I’m not.  This is serious business.  Life and death business.

The other 10% of “point control” issues derive from the front leg.  If you really do extend all the way before lunging, and still miss, you have too much weight on your front leg.  This causes you to push upward to get your weight off that foot, so that you can then lunge and fall back onto it.  When you push upward, your point goes out of line, and you miss, usually because you’re over-compensating mid-air.

Hand before foot. Weight on your back foot.  No bad form.

Practice till your body can’t move.  Paint the house, wax on/wax off, paint the fence.


My lunge comes up short/My back foot comes off the ground

Your back foot is pointing too far forward.  I know, your strip fencing coach told you this was cool, and it was, for him, because in strip fencing you launch yourself off your back toe, fly through the air, and somewhere in there hope you make a little light light up light before another little light lights up light in a different light.  Please try that against me.  I like stabbing people in mid-air.  One of these days I’ll exert sufficient force to redirect you out of the list.  You won’t like that, but it will kinda be your own damn fault.  So, really, your back foot is pointing too far forward.  What’s that mean?  Your lunge, not your flying leaping “I’m Superman!” lunge, but the lunge you do on the rapier list because you don’t want to crack anybody’s sternum, is not a lunge.  It is a long step forward.  Because your back foot is pointing forward, your hips are squared up forward, and your lunging step can only be so long: the long side of a right triangle whose hypotenuse is the length of your back leg and whose short side is the length of your calf, plus the length of your thigh.  And when you lunge this way, your glutes limit the angle you can make between your back leg and the ground, which also shortens your lunge.  If you try to go further, you either extend your lead foot too far forward, in which case you have no lunge recovery; or you bend your lead knee too much, in which case  your back heel comes right up off the ground and all your weight goes on to that over-extended lead knee, and you will not be walking a few years from now.  You will also not be able to readily recover.  Trying to do an Italian upper-body lean here just exacerbates the problem.

Point your back foot backward.  With the angle between your feet in the lunge greater than 90 degrees, your lunge becomes the long side of a right triangle whose hypotenuse is the length of your back leg and whose short side is the length of your calf, plus the length of your thigh, plus the width of your hips (which are no longer pointing towards your opponent, but are at a 90 degree angle to the line of your lunge).  Without your glutes in the way, the limiting factor on the leg-to-ground angle is the flexibility in your hips, which you can improve with butterflies.  Additionally, your back foot doesn’t come off the ground but instead remains a load-bearing support, meaning you can bend your front knee for extra range and do the Italian lean.


I get stabbed in the face a lot

You aren’t extending before you lunge.  The extension before lunge: 1,001 uses.

When you don’t extend before you lunge, you bring your whole body (including your face) closer to their point without putting your own blade in between your face and their sword.  At its worst, your action puts your foible on their forte before you even extend.

Extend before lunge.


I run onto my opponent’s blade a lot

You aren’t gaining control of their blade.  Lay your sword across theirs from above.  Your point might go a little offline while your blades cross.  That’s okay.  When you extend, you’re going to push your guard towards the intersection of your blades while bending your wrist to bring your point online, and then you can lunge.

But I think I’m doing that.

Okay.  Is your opponent disengaging?

I don’t know

Yeah.  So.  Your opponent is performing a cavazione in the tempo of your extension so that you don’t have control of his blade.  Don’t lunge.  Instead, either contracavazione (do a disengage of your own) or gain the blade on the new line.  Then lunge.


I don’t do well against lefties

Lefties are just righties with dyslexia.  They still die when you stab them.  They still can’t hit you if you have gained their blade.  They do have better access to the high outside line on you than a righty would, but guess what: You have that same high outside line on them.  Keep yours closed and exploit theirs.  What’s more, they’re so used to exploiting that line, you’ll have taken away a huge chunk of their game plan.


I’m standing in an Italian guard, but it feels funny on my knees

Your knees aren’t aligned with your toes.  Probably you’re a little knock-kneed in stance.  Really, talking about foot angles is the work around for talking about the hip angle formed by your thighs.  So not only do your feet need to be more than 90 degrees separated, your knees have to be as well, and lined up with your toes.  Otherwise you place lateral stress on your knee joints that they don’t do well with.


I’m not a White Scarf

White Scarf is just a way to recognize people who have the rest of this post covered.  And, like, service.


Posted April 10, 2014 by Wistric in Musings

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