This semester, I decided to take Beginner's Fencing: Introduction to the Foil, as part of my never ending attempt to complete my desired renaissance man persona. That just meaning that over the years I've made a conscious effort to learn a valuable skill every 3 to 6 months. Some skills, I continually work with, others get filed away and come out when needed, yes they are a bit rusty, but there are only so many hours in a day.
So, I thought maybe it was time to try my hand at something a bit more physical. I won't lie, most of my skills are academic, some or hands on, but none, besides shooting, and a bit of martial arts, are physical or fighting. Fencing is exactly those things, fighting, physical, and academic. Footwork, many think fencing is a focus of bladework, but it's not, it's a focus on footwork and good footwork at that. It is a three to one ratio of footwork to bladework for success. The very first thing you learn is your on-guard position, which after 45 minutes of standing in has your begging for mercy. Then there is advance and retreat, and these two are the things I really want to focus on. The extension of the weapon arm makes an attack, but without being able to advance or retreat on a target, we are nothing.
Advance is made by picking up your forward, dominant, leg, kicking it out and down, then stepping forward with the back foot. If this sounds dramatic, it isn't, you should be able to do a proper fencing advance without making a sound. Also, the step you take is SHORT, and this is the key, you can take lots of small steps without losing your balance easier than you can take big steps back. You follow a similar method with retreat, where the back, non-dominant, foot leads and the front foot follows. Again, completely silent and with some practice taking steps the length of your own foot, you'll discover you back up 40 feet of fencing platform in less than 3 seconds.
The retreat is very useful, I feel, in a shooting situation that might require you to back away from the target and it is, I feel the number one reason to use Weaver over, Isosceles, stance, because your feet are splayed and your body slightly bladed, in Weaver, your ability to use short, backwards steps while facing forward is greater. As a test, I retreated from contact distance with a training partner, in my house, down my hallway which is a measured 21 feet, exactly. We engaged and I retreated, using fast, short, fencing style retreats, while he continued to come forward. Before you ask, yes, he did manage to stay virtually on top of me during that time, but, he was unable to knock me backwards, or, land what I felt was a fatal blow, in that time.
Two reasons for this, first, it turned out that I moved faster than I thought I would, backing down 21 feet in less than a second, but also, it turns out once he was at arms length, I could keep him there. His advances were fast powerful, but unbalanced motions, that were easily redirected. After several goes, his attacks were predictable and we knew the test was over, when after taking four retreats, I made an attempt to disengage that had my training buddy on his ass (basically he kept coming and I bounced him off a wall and knocked him down, by redirecting his motions, don't try this at home folks!).
So, that's one of my cases for the purpose of footwork, footwork applies to shooting, especially, competitive shooting, as much as it does in other sports. The short step retreat found in fencing could and probably should, find its way into your repertoire of skills to have when training for engaging a target that we might encounter on the street.
my work here is done
5 years ago