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Belle Touche!

This is why I love fencing! Every now and then you pull out such an amazing touch, it justifies years of footwork and all the slow, thankless nights at the salle. You don’t even have to be at a national or Olympic level. It can happen if you’ve only been bouting for a month. Suddenly, from your innate well of awesomeness, you produce something epic… You might not know how you did it yet, but each time it happens you have a clearer idea of how to reach it. Something reaches through you to make this touch, and eventually you realize that you’re reaching through you.

That’s the value of sport, music, art, and any creative endeavor: it’s a way to flense away distraction and self-awareness, and access the fabulous internal world inside each of us.

This clip, via a reddit.com/r/fencing thread called “Incredible backwards-skip parry repost by Szabo”, has a lot of interesting things going for it. For one, this is why we endlessly work on powering and extending the lunge during OFC Team training.

Fencer right. Watch his first lunge, he stays upright because even though it’s a real attack, it “feels” like there will be more to the action afterwards and he has to keep his platform. Watch his second and final lunge—he’s pressed fencer left to the end of the strip, the action “feels” like it’s over, so he fully commits and leans with his lunge. In his second lunge he shows the sole of his foot and then lands on his heel, for all the reasons we talk about. He goes long because he knows he needs the distance. By the way, his “feelings” during this action are non-mystical; he’s using the same interior sensibilities that we use when we’re singing and we change our volume between the sad part and the exciting part of the song.

Fencer left. He doesn’t see his opponent coming forward and simply attack into him, that would just give up the touch. Instead, hee tries to break up the attack with tight footwork, even stepping forward once, but knows he hasn’t taken over the action. Whenever he presses back against fencer right’s distance, it’s to invite fencer right to finish his attack, but fencer right ain’t falling for that. Fencer left has to cede ground all the way to the line—in fact, he pulls distance a little faster by the end, to elicit that long final lunge out of his opponent.

These quick tactical decisions from both fencers happen thanks to rote bouting skills, and experience with modeling opponents. The overall action is guided generally by the more sluggish thinking part of the the fencer’s mind that supplies strategy. But none of it would be possible without fast feet, strong legs, and flexibility!

That’s why we have technical night and bouting night.