Mentality in fencing is a key skill to learn and it’s a skill that comes with time and practice. Within our group, we have both Dueling, which is one on one fighting and Melee, which is group fighting. Each format requires a slightly different approach to Mentality and when understood can lead to increased success.
In a Duel, your success will depend on your ability to overcome your opponent both physically and mentally. The basis of your decisions always depends on what your opponent is doing, and so having a fencer’s mentality means being extremely observant and good at recognizing patterns in your opponent’s tactics. This is made even more difficult because how your opponent responds to you will also depend on what you’ve been doing earlier in the fight (as both fencers are always trying to adjust to the other’s style and strategy). This is the reason that fencing is often called “physical chess.” It is, at times, a deep mental battle between two fencers that is matched with the physical execution of techniques and skills.
With this said, preparing mentally for a Duel means to focus on what you know about your opponent and making a decision on how to face them. We should all keep a catalog of what we know and understand about our opponent, so when the time comes we can reference our catalog and use it to create a game plan. Here are some examples of what I have observed talented fencers doing when I face off with them:
I know that Damian likes to attack with powerful strikes and quick disengages, so I’ll have my blocks prepared for it and always keep my defense up for at least two attacks before returning a strike.
I know that Evanlyn has a Blocker style but will quickly press after taking control of my blade, so I will use my footwork to maneuver around her and then try to quickly free my sword and get it back on line when she decides to press.
I know that Draco has a tricky opening move of striking low to the left and bringing it to the right to strike high, so I’ll have my sword ready and a quick return when he resets.
I know that Don excels at multiple attacks, so I will always block and retreat while he presses the attack and then I will take the offensive as he disengages.
While continuing to learn and understand each opponent, the final aspecting of mentality in a duel is being willing and able to adjust. It comes down to knowing that what you’ve observed about your opponent is just a foundation. It may help you to form a game plan, but you may have to toss everything you originally planned out the window when your opponent decides to try something new and unexpected. A fencer’s mind should be flexible and adaptable. Ready to alter course mid-fight to better respond to their opponent.