Today I found myself teaching someone how to deal with hand sniping. To make it extra fun, my student was fighting left handed. Teaching rapier is always an interesting experience for me because while I love the support, I’m not very good at it. Still, I’m observant enough to notice when others our making the same kinds of mistakes that I make.
When someone attacks your hand, there are two basic responses: move the hand forward or backward, the attack or the void.
Through trial and error we discovered the correct response comes down to who owns the center line. If the student controls the center line and I attack his hand, then his best response is to thrust into my face. This brings his hand up and out of harms way, while ending the fight cleanly.
If I control the center line, that response has the opposite effect. It brings his hand into my point while not offering a creditable threat to my person. Instead the student should pull his hand back slightly, allowing my thrust to miss. This will in effect cause a disengage, moving his blade to the center line from which he can immediately counter-attack.
In theory these same principles can be applied when both fencers are right-handed (or both left-handed), but it is somewhat harder to teach because it is less clear who owns the center line at a given time.