It pays to watch potential opponents fence others before you have to fence them. Here's a checklist that may help you assess an opponent's strengths and weaknesses prior to your fencing him or her. I hope you find it helpful.
- Keep distance well? If so, be careful, don't get frustrated, and watch for lapses. Set expectations that can be used to negate their distance watching ability.
- Long lunge? If so, watch your distance.
- Good point control? (epee) Forewarned is forearmed.Stay small in your movements. Be prepared to block with last-minute bell and/or blade parries. Or plan your "attacks" with last-minute, built-in evasive movements (so they don't hit)
- Main style (offense or defense)? Initially, use offense against offense; defense against defense to establish control of the bout by taking away their game.
- Do they do simple ("one-sy") attacks or compound attacks ("two-sy," "three-sy") attacks? If the former, take advantage of that. If the latter, watch out.
- Any patterns?
- Favorite Attacks? Forewarned is forearmed. Use their favorites against them. Favorite Defenses? Ditto.
- Telegraphing attacks? What form does the telegraphing take? Look for it in your TV picture (see Rich's ROTs)
- Blade contact? Do they make a lot of contact? What do they do when they do?
- Give Tempo? Does he or she have any consistent rhythms? Forward-backward movement? Bouncing? Repetitive arm movement? Touches or raps the blade in rhythmic fashion? If so, take advantage of his or her rhythm with a tempo attack/counterattack of some sort.
- Aware of Tempo? If so, vary yours when you fence 'em. Does he or she use the "back tempo" and/or the "Hoover(tm) vacuum cleaner tempo"? Does he or she do "slow tempo" and/or "fast tempo" counterattacks? Does he or she consistently fleche or lunge with certain tempos (e.g., fleching with the Hoover(tm) vacuum cleaner tempo)? Can his or her tempo be taken? If your answer to any of these is yes, be wary, and consider whether you can set this opponent up with an "artificial" tempo (setting a tempo expectation as a trap); be ready to spring a counter move when they take the tempo you offer.
- Good infighter? If so, watch your distance and stay away from the infight--particularly if you're not good at it.
- Good flecher? If yes, be wary, and be prepared to duck, retreat or backpeddle quickly.
- Handles feints well? Or overreacts? If the latter, keep them worried by throwing some feints--set up a "worry spot."
- Fox or Mechanic? Are they thinking all the time, or do they just have "well-programmed," automatic moves? Are they good at setting up the opponent's expectation, then victimizing them as a result; or do they seem to move in more robotic fashion? Beware the Fox; out-think the Mechanic.
- Consistent openings you can take advantage of? Target them.
- Irked easily or cool? Stay relaxed, keep your attacks small and lethal. Let them make mistakes. The idea here is to precipitate a situation where the hothead becomes his own worst enemy, then destroy him as his temper ("The Bear") gets the best of him.
- Front foot position? Is it curved toward the inside line? If so, move as far outside as you can, so the edge of their foot is in front of you rather than their toes. Their mobility and their accuracy should decline a bit.
- Back foot position? Do they use a "runner's stance"? If so, watch for fleches.
If your opponent is someone you know well, ask yourself what's he doing well and what's he having trouble with today.
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