This is a basic lesson that I teach left-handed fencers. I don’t know why I teach it, as they will inevitably use it on me. But whatever…
The drill starts with the right-handed master in third or fourth. His left-handed student is on the master’s outside (to the right) in third. From this position the left-handed student is easily constrained by the master.
Start by demonstrating the importance of controlling the center line by performing several successful attacks. Follow by having him try to attack, which the master should be able to easily parry.
Then have the student step slightly to your right, his left. Then perform the same attacks, demonstrating how he can easily parry them. Followed by having him attack successfully. At this point, and not before, discuss how the simple off-line step changed where the center line is.
Break for Free Sparring
At this point the student is probably doing nothing but circling to his left. Let him do it a few times to get used to its feel, then start circling as well to foil him. Once he sees that it is no longer working the student is ready for the second lesson.
Lesson two is a lecture on subtlety. The master encourages the student to fence by only going forward and backwards like he was doing before the first lesson. Then have him slowly circle as he does this. Rather than going off-line in a single step, have him ease into it over several steps.
Again, the goal here is to be subtle. The student shouldn’t allow the master to see him circling to the left.
Advice for the Right-Handed Fencer
Right-handed fencers rarely learn this skill. That’s a shame because it works just as well for them as it does for the left-handed fencer. The mechanics are exactly the same, except the right-handed fencer circles to the right.