Open Wounds

D is for Defensive Box

"No, not a real box - an imaginary box..."

“No, not a real box – an imaginary box…”

An imaginary box that encloses the combatant theoretically leaving no portion of the combatant unprotected, its walls being created by the placement of the blade when parrying. In theory, eight parries are needed to protect every portion of the combatant’s body, creating a defensive box.Actor’s On Guard, Dale Anthony Girard

Fencing has been called contact chess and is a wonder of mathematical angles and forces in motion – a combination of geometry and physics. The exact parries will come later in the month but know that there are only so many places you can attack (the body is in a finite space) and for every attack there is a defense (parry). When it comes to defense, all parries, whether the attacks are cuts with the edge or thrusts with the point – push, hit (called a beat), or slide the blade away from your body and outside your defensive box.

A good defense is essential to staying alive.

A good offense allows you to end the duel in a positive (for you) fashion.

Imagine your protagonist is not aggressive but has learned to defend herself well. What if her opponent is of the same character make-up. Both fencers will stare at each other, make tentative moves forward and quickly back. The audience (if there was one) might egg them on. To be aggressive in attacking your opponent’s defensive box and especially the mortal wound areas – head, heart, lung, liver – requires the desire and capability to try to kill someone. How does your character get to that point? How much can training prepare someone for this moment? Killing someone with a sword is a personal, face-to-face event. It is visceral. It is immediate. It has sound, texture, smell. Don’t ask my how I know this. Let’s just say I have a good imagination.

Use these things to make each sword fight, big or small, come to life.

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11 responses

  1. One reason I love blogging, you have no idea what you may run into. I know nothing about fencing, coming here, I may learn something.

    April 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    • Glad you liked the post and thanks for visiting. I’ll hop to your site next.

      April 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm

  2. How interesting that fencing is your theme! Tyrean at tyreanswritingspot is also doing this. I love your idea of relating the fencing terms to writing, great posts.

    April 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    • Thanks for letting me know, Julie. I just hopped over and her site is wonderful! Glad you liked my post also.

      April 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  3. Oooh this is really good stuff to know for next time I write a sword fight in a story. Thank you for sharing and good luck with your A to Z Challenge 🙂

    April 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    • If you ever have any questions just ask. Thanks for stopping by on the hop.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

  4. Agree!

    April 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

  5. Wonderful post! I love fencing too (obviously from my A to Z challenge posts), but I love what you’ve done here – showing how to use this info in story writing! I admit, I chose my fencing theme this month because I felt I needed to add fencing terminology and realistic fighting moves in my novel writing, but I didn’t make that connection in my posts.
    I agree that it must take some intense training to go for the vital organs in a “real” fight. My MC in my first book discovers she doesn’t like killing very much after her first real battle. It is visceral and ugly.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

    April 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    • Same here. Always a pleasure to meet another fencer and another writer! I struggled with how detailed to make my fights (epee competition in 1940s – lots of fun researching what that looked like – and lots of stage combat) and leaned on the side of detail hoping the beauty of the language of fencing would carry my characters through. Boy that was still a lot of cutting. I’ve had very few complaints in reviews so I’m thinking I did okay. I’ve marketed my book at fencing salles across the country when I’ve travelled (LA, VA, AR, DC, MA, and here in NYC so far)for my day job and I have to say that has really been fun. Let’s stay in touch.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm

  6. Fascinating! This reminds me of the ten basic attacks in Aikido, which I studied for this one book I wrote.

    April 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

    • It’s all similar in that there are only so many angles of attack and defense. Feints, beats, evasions, decieves all play with this but… it still comes down to the same final angles of attack and defense. I love this stuff.

      April 5, 2013 at 8:13 am

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