Foil Counterattack

Discussion in 'Fencing Discussion' started by needHelpInFencing, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. needHelpInFencing

    needHelpInFencing Rookie

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    Could anyone please explain to me the counterattack in foil where you extend and "parry" really quickly afterwards, so its kind of one big motion? For example if you and the other fencer start at the same time, to make sure its only your light you would do that. Another example is when your opponent is attacking and their blade is down, you could hit and when your opponent lunges you catch it with the parry part of the counterattack. A picture of this is on @nzinghap on her post she called it the "slip and slide", I think as of right now it's her 4th most recent post.

    Right now in private lessons I'm working on attacks, so I haven't really learned counterattacks at all.
    Thank you! This will help me tremendously in my fencing :)
     
  2. InFerrumVeritas

    InFerrumVeritas DE Bracket

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    That's not what she did in that photo. It's a different action, which is very popular in women's foil, where you angle your torso so that your opponent's point slides down along your chest and does not set off a light. A chest protector helps a lot with this.
     
  3. keropie

    keropie Podium

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    Um... Ok. You extend, hit them, and try to parry after that. That's pretty much what it is. It can work ok if your opponent is holding their hand back, but against on time, well coordinated attacks, it's a low percentage choice.
     
  4. tbryan

    tbryan Podium

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    I wouldn't suggest thinking of it as one big motion.

    If my opponent and I start at the same time, I'm almost certainly going to get hit. That is, if my opponent is attacking, and I'm counterattacking, and we lunge at the same time, my opponent is going to have to make a very big mistake for me to hit the counter attack and still parry the attack before it hits. If my opponent is making mistakes that big, I generally don't need this tactic. ;)

    There's no information in your profile, but if you haven't really learned counterattacks at all, I'd suggest focusing on your attack for now. Learning fencing can feel frustratingly slow, but if you try learn a bunch of cool fencing "moves" before you understand the context that makes them work and before your execution of any of the actions is good enough, none of them are going to work well. Or, worse, they may seem to work well against other novices, but then you find that nothing you're doing works against stronger fencers at all.

    In particular, if you cannot make a strong attack with an early hand, then your chance of making a one light hit with a counterattack and then parrying your opponent's attack are very small.

    Heh. keropie is basically saying that if you understand fencing well enough to make this action work, then you wouldn't need to ask about how to do it. If you don't, then there's no easy way to explain why it works.

    Since it sounds like you're just getting started, here's a general framework for thinking about foil fencing. Let's say that we're already in a situation where one of the fencers is the attacker and the other is the defender (until the roles switch). The attacker starts moving forward to get to the right distance to lunge and hit the defender. The defender is going to move backward, but he's going put pressure on the attacker.

    The defender's game is
    • Make the distance uncertain to trick the attacker into finishing his attack from too far away. The attack doesn't hit, and the defender may now start an attack (the roles switch).
    • Use some combination of distance and bladework to trick the attacker to finish the attack at a time and into a line that the defender expects. The defender makes a parry-riposte and tries to get the distance perfect so that he can score with a simple riposte.
    • Make early parries (before the attacker tries to lunge or finish the attack) to find the blade. If the defender hits the attacker's blade, the attack is over. The defender may attempt an immediate riposte, or, more often, he simply takes over the attack (the roles switch).
    • Make the attacker so uncertain that he just gives up the attack voluntarily. The defender has the opportunity to take over the attack (the roles switch).
    The attacker's game is
    • Move forward in a controlled way so that he's ready to finish when the distance is right and so that he doesn't get too close before finishing the attack.
    • Ignore defender's tricks to avoid attacking at a bad time or distance.
    • Recognize the "right" time to finish the attack and be in balance to finish immediately to the right target and with the right finishing footwork.
    • "Hide" the blade until he's ready to finish the attack so that the defender's early parries can't hit the blade.
    You can see this basic structure in most foil bouts. For example, see whether you recognize that structure here:


    Where does the counterattack fit into this structure? You could say that the counterattack is there to keep the attacker honest. Without the counterattack, the attacker could hold his blade so far back that no early, searching parries would ever find it and then refuse to finish the attack until he has trapped the defender at the very end of the strip. The attacker could then get so close that it's easy just to stick out his arm and hit. What's to stop him? The counterattack!

    If the attacker leaves his blade in front, you just make an early parry. No need for counterattacks. Therefore, the attacker is going to have to hold his blade / hand back or down to "hide" the blade from the early parry, but that makes it harder for him to extend and hit in time. The defender can counterattack, trying to surprise the attacker before he's ready to finish. When the attacker sees the counterattack, he should normally be trying to finish his attack. He has right-of-way, and if he hits, he gets the touch. The defender is trying to counterattack at a moment and in a way that makes it hard for the attacker to finish.
    • If the attacker holds the hand way back and gets too close, the defender could step forward with the counterattack and dodge (duck, twist, lean, etc.) to make it hard for the attacker to hit target. Often the defender will also make the counterattack with the blade in a position that makes the attacker finish "around" the counterattack. This type of counterattack can also be effective into the attacker's finishing motion if the attacker finishes with a very late hand.
    • Another option when the attacker gets too close is to hit with a counterattack and then retreat out of distance. This type of counterattack is fairly difficult in foil since there's no shallow target like there is in saber and epee.
    • If the attacker attempts to avoid getting too close, he may keep the distance longer and wait for the defender to compress the distance before he finishes the attack. Simply stepping forward with a counterattack is dangerous because the distance is too long. If the defender's attack and parry are both fairly strong, he can counterattack from farther away by making a lunge with an early hand. The goal is to hit the attacker before the lunge even lands and then be relaxed enough to parry the attack.
    Like keropie said, a strong, well-coordinated attack will normally finish and hit the defender when he tries to counterattack. But against many opponents and if you've done the work throughout the bout to set up the situation, the counterattack can be an effective tool.
     
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  5. Goldgar

    Goldgar Podium

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    I cannot recommend this post highly enough!
     
  6. needHelpInFencing

    needHelpInFencing Rookie

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    how do you lean? do you put your blade in some position? thanks so much :)
     
  7. tbryan

    tbryan Podium

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    Well, again, it's difficult to give a reply. When I said "lean," I meant leaning with the torso forward, shoulders way ahead of the hips. But if you have to ask this question, then I'm not sure whether there's any way a response on the Internet is going to help you. When counter attacking, you should make it hard for your opponent to hit you. How you do that is going to be highly dependent on your opponent, where her hand and blade are, what your body and blade position are, the match-up between you and your opponent, and the context of a particular touch.

    If you were in my club and asking these questions, the coach would probably ask you to focus on your attack until we get to counterattacks in the group class or in your lessons. At that point, you'd be taught a few specific counterattacks, such as a duck or an inquartata, including some context for how and when to use them. Then you'd get plenty of time to practice them with a variety of partners so that you could play around with variations. You'd also take turns as the attacking partner, and you'd get a sense of what type of counterattack makes it harder for you to hit your attack.

    Anyway, if there's a way to lean that makes it harder for your opponent to hit, then do that. You should make sure that you hit, but it's best to finish with your blade in a line that will intercept the anticipated (or simplest) line of the attack. For example, if my opponent is good at hitting with a back flick and is hiding his blade up in a kind of high, saberish tierce, then it's a bad idea to lean forward with my counterattack because that makes it easy for my opponent to finish with a simple flick to the exposed back. On other hand, if my opponent likes to hit low line targets and is moving forward with the blade held low and to her outside, then leaning my torso forward in the counterattack and letting my hand immediately drop to a low line is maybe a good idea. That means that the attacker will have to raise the tip while extending and possibly move the tip around my blade to get her light on.

    If you need some more counterattack ideas, you could watch some foil video on http://www.youtube.com/usafencing or http://www.youtube.com/FIEVideo, keeping in mind the structure that I described in my previous reply. When you see a counterattack, rewind and watch everything in the exchange that led up to the counterattack. Maybe play it at 0.75 or 0.5 speed so that you can see the details. Often, what's going on is that the defender wants to make a parry-riposte, but in avoiding the parry, the attacker is doing something that makes the counterattack a better option for the defender. Maybe the attacker is trying to rush through the distance too fast to hit before the parry, or the attacker is trying to creep slowly into distance with the hand held back for too long.

    For example, here's a bout with a lot of counterattacks:


    Ryan does a good job in varying parry-riposte and retreating out of distance to make it difficult for Ross to hit with her attack. Ryan also scores with a few strong attacks early in the bout to prevent Ross from just hanging out too close. Once she's ahead, Ryan largely forces Ross to attack, and especially as she starts to run out of time, Ross gets caught between making committed attacks from a longer distance and trying to use fast advances to compress the distance without extending. When Ross makes a big enough mistake on the attack, Ryan is there with the counterattack.

    Of course, Kiefer took gold at the Pan Ams, and once USAFencing posts the gold medal match for that event, you'll get to see how Kiefer handled Ryan.
     
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