Your Range is the maximum distance at which you are able to strike your opponent. Your Placement is where you are in relation to your opponent. Each concept has an impact on your fencing because it can determine available opportunities and how you might go about the fight. It is also, potentially, one of the first theoretical principles you’ve encountered. It isn’t a hard skill that has strict guidelines and methods. It’s more of a soft skill that is refined with experience and purposeful training.
Points of safety
While the theory of Range & Placement is not a direct danger, the implementation of these principles can pose a significant risk to you and your opponent, if not understood properly. You will not be fighting against stationary targets and so you need to be mindful of changes from moment to moment. One moment you might be perfectly in range and able to strike safely, but in the next, your opponent moved slightly and turned that perfect strike into a hard shot.
- Range/Placement Affects Hard Shots: Misjudging your Range & Placement is one of the most common precursors to a Hard Shot. Be mindful of your own Range/Placement and how all fencer’s action might change from moment to moment.
- Range/Placement Affects the “Feel” of the Fight: Closing distance can speed up and electrify a fight which is fun, but can also lead to more panicked and uncontrolled actions. Staying out of Range can elongated a fight and slow it down, but it can also lead to frustration. Take into account how these choices can add or detract from a good fight.
- Weapons Impact Range: Not all weapons are the same length and a single inch can throw off your understanding of Range or Placement. Be fully aware of your weapon’s range, especially if you are not able to consistently use the same equipment from week to week.
Because Range & Placement vary from person to person, as your size and weapon choice impact both, it’s important to understand that these principles aren’t set in stone. Knowing your Range is a feeling. Judging when you might be In or Out of Range of your opponent is a feeling. This will come with experience and so be on the lookout for when these principles just “click.”
- Finding Your Range: You must find your Range before you can start developing an understanding of Range. Try placing your tip on an object and move backwards until you can’t touch it anymore. Stretch and lunge, while maintaining good form, to increase your range. Take note of that distance and repeat to develop a subconscious understanding of your Range.
- Starting Placement: The moment you acknowledge or salute to your opponent, you’ve established your Starting Placement. There are three potential options:
- In Range: You are close enough to strike your opponent without additional footwork. Being in this position gives you a lot of options, but it also means your opponent can probably strike you too. Most fights start here.
- Close Range: If you are close enough that your sword’s effectiveness and range of motion is limited, you are in Close Range. Daggers thrive in this Placement and you shouldn’t be here for very long.
- Out of Range: If you cannot strike your opponent without additional footwork, you are Out of Range. You are 100% safe from your opponent because it’s physically impossible for them to strike you without adjusting their Placement. While Out of Range, you need to remain engaged in the fight to ensure no one gets frustrated chasing you down.
- Maneuvering Into Range: At some point, you will have to maneuver into your opponent’s Range in order to get a strike. That means you will be close enough for them to strike you, so you will need to take preemptive action. The safest way is to address their sword and push it out of the way before moving in.
- Disengaging: Moving Out of Range is known as disengaging. Your primary goal is to get far enough away that you can reset in safety. As you move away, remain present in the fight and prepare yourself to defend because this is an opportune moment for your opponent. Never be afraid to disengage from a fight and look for another opportunity.
- Changing Placement: Whatever Placement you find yourself in, ask yourself: “Do I remain here or move?” If the answer is “Move”, consider which of the other two is the best option and commit to getting there.
Actively exploring and developing your sense of Range & Placement is the fastest way to fully grasp the theory. Try any of the following exercises in conjunction with regular fights to work gain more experience in how Range & Placement play into fencing.
- Stretch Your Range: Place your sword’s tip on an object and move backwards until you can longer touch it. While remaining in good form, stretch your Range to an extra inch and maintain the position for a few seconds. Reset and adjust angles.
- Guess Your Range: With a partner or instructor, retreat to a distance that is obviously Out of Range. With your partner remaining stationary, slowly approach until you feel you are In Range and can strike your partner. Verify with a controlled striker and take note of the result. Repeat and try to stop at the very maximum of your Range.
- Changing Places: With a partner, duel several times starting in each of the three placements. Evaluate how each impacts the fight. When ready, challenge yourself to move from one placement to another at least once in the fight successfully.
Range & Placement will be a part of every single fight. The more you understand and learn how to implement these principles, the more you’ll be able to move around and judge each fight successfully.
- Range/Placement Safety: Can you consistently judge when you might give a Hard Shot due to Range or Placement? Do you recognize how your Placement affects the fight or your opponent? Do you know your weapon and how it’s length influences your fighting?
- Understanding Range/Placement: Do you know how to find your own Range? What are the three different Placements you can start in or move into? Can you successfully move from one Placement to another?
- Training Range/Placement: Are there methods that have helped you understand Range & Placement better? What are ways that you can study Range & Placement or learn from others?