Probing Your Opponents

The purpose of the Probing Your Opponents lesson is to focus on the mentality of fencing and how to incorporate strategy in the “Chess Game.”

For Teachers

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After each Block, a following attack could be performed safely and in a controlled manner. Be aware of the situation and understand when it may be safer to just block.

If you need a review of the 8 Basic Blocks, take a look at the Basics of Dueling lesson.

Probing Your Opponents

Probing your opponent is advanced thinking applied to something most Fencers do instinctively. When you intentionally probe your opponent you are looking for weaknesses in their stance, guard, range and reaction. In essence, it is creating the opportunity to strike through observing your opponent and manipulating them into their weakest position.


There are many ways to observe your opponent in a fight. And what you observe will change with each fencer, however every fencer has similar points that can be observed to help you make your plan of attack.


Your opponent’s stance can tell you a lot about their intentions and capabilities. You’re watching to see if they are leaning back defensively or leaning forward offensively. You can attack their legs to see how they adjust or defend them. Do they change their stance constantly or are they always in the same stance?

Weapon Position

Their weapon’s position will give you an idea on how they plan to attack you. Are they in a low or high guard? Do they change position when attacked? Are they threatening you with their blade or are they holding it defensively?


Probing your opponent’s range will tell you at what point you are in danger. Do they extend to their full range or are they only using the reach of their arm? Do they lunge or not? You can test the range by encouraging attacks as you slowly get closer until you are just out of range.


When you’re watching your opponent’s reactions, you’re watching for what they do after you do something specific. Do they react the same way or change? Are their any openings when you do threaten or move a certain way?


However you decide to probe your opponent, always be aware that they may be baiting you. A Bait is when they do something intentionally to trick you to doing what they want. Baits can go both ways and you can bait your opponent and watch what they do.

No matter who you are facing or how you make a plan, your goal is to always get your opponent into their weakest position and then strike.

The Chess Game

After taking the time to probe your opponent and analyze the results, you’ll want to start playing the Chess Game. The Chess Game is the process of formulating a sequence of moves required to get your desired results. In other words, it’s thinking up a plan of attack several moves ahead. Just like Chess.

When planning a Chess Move, start with just one or two moves ahead. Use what you learned while probing your opponent and try to decide what you can do to take advantage of the results. As you practice and gain more experience, you’ll be able to think of more steps ahead to get the result you want. 

A word of warning: the more moves you plan for, the more complex your chess moves becomes and the more likely it will fail. Complexity isn’t always better.

Journal Prompt

What have you noticed about three specific fencers that may help you in the Chess Game? How can you utilize probing your opponents in your own fencing?

Ready to move on?

You’ve completed the Probing Your Opponents lesson! Next, you'll learn how to defend yourself when at a disadvantage with Fighting with a Disability.

How to teach

Probing Your Opponent


Use the following EDGE Method lesson summary to guide you along.


Explain the each of the following principles and techniques and how they apply to Probing Your Opponent. Emphasize these techniques focus on the mentality of fencing instead of the physical skills.

  • Probing in General
    • Probing Stance
    • Probing Weapon Position
    • Probing Range
    • Probing Reaction
  • Baiting
  • The Chess Game


Demonstrate how to probe an opponent with the help of an assisting Swordsman. Point out what you are watching for and what you notice. Coordinate with the Swordsman to highlight the basic principles.


After demonstrating, have the students pair up and walk the students through how to probe their opponent to help them understand the techniques. Utilize the following drill to practice:

Probing Your Opponent Drill

Working in pairs, each student should take turns being the Attacker and the Defender. The Attacker’s role is to utilize what has been demonstrate to learn one of the following things about their opponent: stance, weapon position, range, or reaction. The Defender’s role should be to act as they normally would and not to allow their knowledge of what the Attacker is doing to affect their actions. Switch roles and repeat as needed.


At this stage, each Novice should be able to probe their opponents on their own. Run through the following challenge before finishing:

Probing Your Opponent Challenge (The Chess Game)

Working in pairs, each student should probe their opponent until they are able to formulate a two-step Chess Move. Upon successfully performing their Chess Move, the student should describe their Chess Move to the Teacher or an assisting Swordsman before finding a new partner and attempting a three-step Chess Move. Repeat and increase the number of steps as the students switch between partners.