Breaking Shots

The purpose of the Breaking Shots lesson is to learn the importance of gauging our attacks or shots to prevent hurting anyone and to learn what to do when we do give a hard shot.

For Teachers

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Gauging and Breaking Shots are techniques that we use to prevent hard shots, or attacks that may hurt someone. These techniques should be practiced both at practice and at home to develop familiarity and muscle memory.

Gauging Shots

Gauging our shots means doing our very best not to hit too hard before we strike. It’s more important to learn how not to throw hard shots in the first place than it is to learn how to break a shot.

Remember, not throwing a hard shot is easier than breaking a shot. Learning to prevent hard shots takes practice and time to learn, but by following a few principles, you’ll be able to avoid falling into bad habits which will be harder to fix later on.

Principles of Gauging a Shot

  1. We’re only aiming to touch the person with positive pressure. It may have been historically accurate and what swords are designed to do, but we are not trying to kill each other.
  2. Fully extend your arm and then make contact with the tip of your blade. If you can fully extend your arm before you make contact the speed and force will be gone. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself from giving hard shots.
  3. Do your best to extend your blade using just your arm. One of the biggest concentrations of muscle in your body is around your shoulders. Do not wind up your shots like you were throwing a baseball.
  4. Try to judge when your you or your opponent will be changing distance and adapt accordingly. Sometimes we receive or give hard shots because one or both of the fighters moved closer as the shot was being thrown. The best way to avoid that is to be aware of the  fight.
  5. Most hard shots are simply accidents. You’re going to give hard shots and you’re going to receive hard shots. Instead of getting upset about the accident, assume the best intention. Assume that it really was an accident and that they weren’t trying to hurt you. If you give a hard shot, apologize. If there is a consistent problem of receiving hard shots from another fencer, ask an Officer for help. Assume the best intention, talk to an Officer, and don’t fight that person until you calm down.

Breaking Shots

The principle of breaking a shot is to take away all the energy from your shot and redirect it somewhere else. When you realize you’ve thrown a hard shot, there are 3 ways you can break the shot and redirect the energy. Again, learning how to break your shots will take time and practice, but developing the habit of gauging your shots will give you time to learn.

Wrist Break

The first place we can redirect the energy in our shot is into our wrist, or by “breaking our wrist”. Do this by simply bending your wrist in a different direction from the angle you initially struck. Your hilt ends up somewhere to the side of the fight creating an angle between where your sword is pointing and where your arm is.

Arm Break

The next break comes into play when a simple wrist break isn’t enough to diffuse a hard shot. Before, we were bending just our wrist. Now, we’ll have to bend both our wrist and arm at the elbow. Adding a second bend allows you to take even more energy away from the shot.

Full Break

If you find yourself in a position where these two breaks do not prevent a hard shot, the third and final break should be enough. The Full Break is used in situations where your opponent has practically ran at you or lunged towards you as you’ve thrown a shot.
In this situation break your wrist and arm, but as your opponent get closer to you pull your hilt behind you as far as you can reach. At the same time, twist your torso in the direction you’re pulling your sword making the break reach even further. In this position, your point should nearly be even with your torso and you’ll be face to face with your opponent.

Ready to move on?

You’ve completed your first Initiate lesson! Let’s learn how to use one of your must useful tools: your Offhand.

How to teach

Breaking Shots



Explain the following techniques and why we use them. Emphasize that it is easier to prevent a hard shot than it is to break a hard shot.

  • Principles of Gauging a Shot
  • Breaking Shots
    • Wrist Break
    • Arm Break
    • Full Break


Demonstrate each of the Principles of Gauging a Shot. Include examples and situations of how you gauge your shots in fight. Afterwards, demonstrate how to perform each of the different “breaks” on a wall or co-teaching Swordsman. Make sure that each student can see how each breaks work and explain as you go.


After demonstrating, walk the students through each principle and help them understand the process. Show them what to look for when gauging a shot and how to perform each “break” on a partner or a hard surface.


At this stage, each Initiate should be able to gauge a shot and break a hard shot on their own. Run through the following drill or challenge before finishing:

– Breaking a Shot Drill:

Have each student stand face a hard surface (wall, tree, pole, etc…) Practice going through the three different breaks, making sure that no student is hitting too hard.

– Breaking a Shot Challenge (Stand Your Ground):

As the Teacher, you will stand several paces away, facing a student. One at a time you will slowly walk closer to the student who must attack, while remaining in place. The Teacher will continue getting closer even after being struck, forcing the student to progress through the 3 breaks, until a Full Break is achieved.