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Sword Techniques - Proper Distancing
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If you have ever watched two opponents face off you may have noticed a pattern of engagement. This pattern involves three stages, closing, engaging, and disengaging, all of which rely heavily on one important skill; proper distancing. Let me break this down: if you do not know when to maintain spacing and when to close the distance between yourself and your opponent you will be ineffective in combat. When battling an opponent in any martial art, it remains extremely important to maintain appropriate distance from your opponent. Why focus upon building and maintaining a consistent distance while sparring?

When you are in the midst of a sword fight, your effective striking distance is limited by a variety factors. After much training with a particular weapon, you are naturally attuned to the distances at which you can most effectively strike the target. This factors into figuring out how far to space yourself out from the opposing fencer as much as the opponent's reach does.

Once you understand how far you can effectively strike, you may then determine your opponent's effective reach as well. This assists in anticipating and parrying attacks. With a keen understanding of the distance the opponent is required to traverse before reaching you, it allows you to prepare and initiate timed attacks to effectively counter any attempts with a prompt riposte or stop-thrust.

So how do you find 'measure' as Capoferro terms the topic. Finding your own measure is simple. You simply practice some thrusts until you develop a comfortable lunge and thrust that delivers maximum piercing power to the target from the furthest distance. If you are already engaging an opponent with an unfamiliar weapon you will want to experiment by launching a few thrusts to not simply test the reach of your sword, but also observe how your opponent handles himself when on the defensive. In order to measure your opponent's preferred striking distance, allow him to initiate several attacks and gauge from where he starts an attack and any oddities about his person when about to launch into a strike.

So lets recap here to see if you understand everything that has been explained thus far: finding your 'measure' allows you to...

  • Plan your own attacks safely
  • Gain time to successfully defend oneself from attack
  • Set up ripostes and counter-strikes to the opponent's attacks

These will give you an edge in combat if you are able to utilize them correctly and effectively. You will constantly want to be watching the distance between you and your opponent. As with most things, learning to effectively measure your attacks and defenses takes time and practice. Eventually it will become second nature, at which point you will be freed up to focus on other techniques to incorporate within your sparring. But as always the key is practice, practice, practice.

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