The recon mission




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I am all in favor of taking advantage in sport...well, with some minor restrictions.

I’m not going to break rules, behave dishonorably, or let the air out of someone’s tires the night before the competition or put itching powder in their shoes. I may, however, observe my opponents if I can. I will use any information I acquire to advance my quest for world fencing domination or maybe just to improving my seeding for next time.

So what is it I’m looking for anyway? Well, I am not interested if my opponent robbed the bank to pay the USFA fee or some other similar rotten scandal. I’m interested in how they fence, what their reactions are. I want to know what make him or her tick. How they handle pressure, do they always react to my actions in the same manner, or do they keep changing? Are they aggressive or defensive? And how do they respond if I am aggressive or defensive? Do they maintain focus, do they have a “tell” that allows me to predict their actions, and as the king in the “King and I “ was so fond of saying “ et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

This is the sneaky recon part: how do I find out all this great stuff? First, put on a mask (a fencing mask please) and fence your opponent. Constantly feed said opponent a variety of stimuli such as feints, actions to the blade, changes in distance and tempo and observe their reactions. How does our opponent use the strip? Does my adversary fence me the same way he or she fences others? To find out this we observe our quarry fencing others. One thing that puts a bit of a twist in all this; you really do not want your opponent doing this same thing to you, I mean that would be so very wrong, right? So try not to divulge your real game in all this. Heck you can spread some “disinformation” about how you fence if you are so clever!

So you wrote all this info down, I hope? I mean, you’re going to have multiple opponents, I presume and we need to keep these things straight. Anyway, we can now use this wealth of information to develop techniques and strategies. We can address these in two ways: exploiting my honored opponents strengths and/or exploiting his weaknesses. The solutions needed to address your opponents weaknesses are fairly straightforward if you have superior fencing skills and strategy. If you don’t, you got some work to do. Addressing the strengths, can again, be divided in two ways. We can deny our opponent his strength by not feeding him or her those actions or situations that allow their use. We can also attack the beast straight on, in that we understand that our opponent has trained for months or longer to react to certain stimuli in a prescribed way. We can use this to our advantage, so by feeding him those stimuli or actions, we know in advance what will likely happen. Assuming we do our homework and apply our own counter strategies, we should do OK. If done with cunning and discretion your opponent might actually believe you to be the better fencer (OK, truth is nobody ever believes that, they all just had an off day you know. )

Please keep in mind, the next time your cross blades, this information will be as stale as week old pizza left under the sofa. So the game begins.
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A fun and useful drill I use is to have my students fence in the manner of other fencers they know. Dick will fence like Jane who may fence like Sally and she could fence like Conan the Barbarian……, etc.
To what end you say? Besides expanding our repertoire, learning our own vulnerabilities and just being a fun thing to do, it is also helpful in utilizing that disinformation stuff I mentioned.


Thanks for listening,

coach Geoff