If It Fails, Do Something Else: A Bout in 15 Touches
If you have ever really paid attention to coaches strip side, they all have a short list of phrases they use as code words to inspire their fencers to win the next touch. One of the universal ones usually goes something like this, Do something else." I believe the reason that it is a universal coaching phrase, is that we are coaching humans, or at the very least mostly human. People tend to have tendencies. There are things people just do, we call them habits, and they are a part of us that can be used against us. Coaches always try to make their fencers aware of these habits in the hopes that the fencer will realize their habits and use them tactically rather than habitually. The reason so many coaches are still shouting "Do something else!" strip side indicates just how hard this very simple concept is to put into practice.
What comes below is what we hope and wish is going on in the minds of our fencers. For the sake of a good long winded explenation, I will use a 15 touch direct elimination bout as an example.
Referee: "Salute, Mask, Enguard."
Fencer: I am going to attack. The fencer does so successfully. The score is now 1-0.
Fencer: That worked, I'm going to do it again. The fencer does it again, and it works. The score is now 2-0
Fencer: I am going to attack again. The fencer is parried, their opponent's repost scores. The score is now 2-1.
Fencer: That doesn't work anymore. They are expecting an attack so I will feint deceive. The fencer feints to the same line they were attacking in. Their opponent falls for it and attempts a parry, the fencer disengages and scores. The score is now 3-1.
Fencer: They fell for the feint, I will do it again. The feint works a second time. The score is now 4-1.
Fencer: It worked, again, so I am going to do it again. This time the feint doesn't work, your fencer deceives anyway (They have at best an E rating) and is parried. The opponent's repost scores. the score is now 4-2.
Fencer: That didn't work. Both times my opponent reposted they went to the same place. I will use second intention and counter-repost them.. They feint deceive knowing that their opponent will parry and repost, they parry this and counter-repost. The score is now 5-2. If this had been a pool bout, it would be a very respectible win.
Fencer: That worked, and I will do it again. It works like a charm. So they keep it up and when the score reaches 8-2, it is time for the one minute break, and each coach has 60 seconds to impart as much wisdom as their fencer can hold. Since my fencer is winning, I will just tell them how well they are doing, and make sure they get plenty of water to drink. The other coach has a much harder row to hoe.
Break time over.
Salute! Mask! Enguard!
Fencer: I am going to do that counter-repost thing again. They start with the feint, and their opponent completely ignores it and counter attacks. The fencer is stunned. The opposing coach just smiles. Someone has been paying attention. The score is now 8-3.
Fencer: This time I will feint. Maybe they think they are actually doing something different, maybe not. The end result is the opponent scores again with the counter attack. The score is now 8-4. The fencer's coach will probably choose now to shout out, "Do something else!".
Fencer: I will attack! The fencer attacks, their opponent counter-attacks. The score is now 9-4.
Fencer:I will attack again! As soon as the referee says "Fence!", the opponent explodes with an attack that catches your fencer completely off guard. The score is now 9-5. It is still anyone's game.
Fencer:Parry! Parry! Parry! The referee calls, "Fence!" and the opponent makes another explosive attack, your fencer parries and repost for the score. 10-5. The fencer is getting the momentium back.
Fencer:Repost is working, so I will keep it up. The opponent attacks, the fencer parries and repost, the opponent parries this, and counter-repost. The score is now 10-6.
Fencer:They knew where my repost was going, I will have to change lines.The opponent attacks, the fencer parries begins the repost in the same line and disengages the opponent's attempted parry to lands the point. The score is now 11-6.
Fencer:That worked! The same thing happens again, and the fencer scores by deceiving the parry. The score is now 12-6. It is time for the other coach to shout, "Try something else!"
Fencer: It is still working. The opponent attacks, the fencer attempts to parry but there was nothing there they fell for a feint. They are hit before they even realize it. The score is now 12-7.
Fencer:Well played.... The referee calls "Fence!" and the fencer makes an explosive attack, their opponent hoped the feint would work again, but being ignored, they are hit by the counter-attack before their deceive lands. The fencer scores another touch, the score is now 13-7.
Fencer:I have you now! The referee calls "Fence!" The opponent doesn't feint this time, and the fencer counter-attacks into it. The score is now 13-8.
Fencer:My opponent is getting smarter, but I can still win this. On "Fence!" The opponent reaches out their blade, it might be a feint, it might be a real attack, it doesn't matter the fencer reaches out beats the blade and scores a clean touch. 14-8.
Fencer:Just one more touch! I will beat the blade again. The opponent, reaches out the fencer goes for the beat, but the opponent disengages the beat. The fencer's blade is nowhere helpful and the opponent gets an easy touch. 14-9.
Fencer:Just one more touch. I can do it. The opponent extends, the fencer reaches out and seems to execute the beat again. The opponent disengages it and lunges, only to find that rather than beat, the fencer has executed a circle parry catching the opponent's blade, and using opposition rides the opponent's blade all the way to target. Touch, and bout. Final score 15-9.
They salute the referee, each other and the crowd, they then shake hands, using their off-weapon hand and return to the ends of the strip where they unhook from the reels. The fencer moves ahead, the opponent goes home. The opponent's coach knows it had more to do with experience than skill, and tells their fencer, "This was a good bout, next time, I'll bet you beat them." They just might too.
Doing something else is a difficult concept to train. We teach it through drill cycles that build on one another, as we teach the tactical wheel. (The Tactical Wheel is the name for the fencing theory behind the concept of "Do something else") Those coaches who pull it off find themselves running very high level programs with a nice number of fencers in the top 50 points standings in the nation. For the rest of us, the secret to this refining fire seems to be to keep banging the rocks together. Sooner or later we create a spark.