This post has been in drafts for a while and should be bread before it goes stale 😉
Approximately five months ago I injured my wrist fencing and only recently has it recovered enough to meet my functional requirements. The injury occurred at an inter school tournament, which was unfortunate as I was training hard in the lead up to the tournament and feeling competitive.
At the time, much of my game-plan was to control a line strongly and push thrusts through. The plan worked very well against many fencers, unfortunately there were two situations in which it fell over. One against fencers with fast and tight disengages and two against fencers who were stronger than me. It should be obvious where this post is going now.
The exact circumstances of the injury are unimportant, I will say that I got hurt because I wanted to win a bout and I lost my mental balance. Balance is key in fencing: physical balance, the ability to not fall over and being able to move in any direction with dispatch; and mental balance, maintaining attack and defence, letting your instincts free and analysing the fight, balancing your desire to win a bout with your need to learn from every training encounter.
Three months of fencing mostly left handed has forced me to change my game. When I use my right hand I can fudge technique and rely on strength I can also expect to be stronger holding the line than most people I fence; the opposite is true fencing left handed.
My strength of arm has been helping me win fights but holding my development back. Instead of strength I am striving for structure. What does structure mean in fencing? Imagine you are standing and someone tries to push you over and make you fall; while they are pushing you, you resist. What happens when they stop pushing? If you shaped your body into a grounded structure nothing happens, if you resisted their force with force of your own you fall over. The same thing applies to holding a line in rapier.
Gaining the blade should be placing your sword over your opponent’s in such a way as to pre-parry their fastest and most direct attack. Gaining the blade is not muscling the opponent’s sword out of the way of yours. Giganti and Capoferro both follow this principle; which is why Capoferro advises gaining the blade without contact and Giganti teaches the cavazione and contra-cavazione before the counter gain.
As an aside, gaining the blade and counter-postures seem to be a universal martial arts concept. The concept that entering the fight one should observe their opponent and cover the single fastest and most direct attack the opponent can throw. Link