Okay, this gets a little hairy now.

So you think you’ve mastered all the fencing basics…you parry, you beat, you lunge like a pro. Only problem is, like with many other beginning and intermediate fencers, everything you do is designed to hit now—when you direct your final action at your opponent, you’re just praying that it does, because if your opponent manages to parry or evade your action, you’re gonna be dead in the water.

This is where second intention comes in, or as I prefer to call it, “Expecting To Fail.”

A simple example: I attack you with a straight, simple advance-lunge. You, being the savvy competitor that you are, anticipate my action. So, you parry my attack and attempt to riposte. This is where the first intention ends—my first intention was to hit you with my lunge (and yours is to land your riposte, but let’s not get complicated). However, if I am even more savvy than you, I expect you to easily parry such a simple attack. Perhaps I’ve been scouting you and know that you always like to respond to this particular attack in that way. So, after my attack is parried, I immediately recover, parry your riposte, and then land a counter-riposte. The simple lunge was my first intention, the counter-riposte is my second intention—the attack I really mean to hit.

In a nutshell, second intention is responsible for me being as successful as I was back in high school. In the beginning of my senior year, one of our alumni came down one day, saw that I was ready, and taught me the basics of this theory. Most high school fencers have only been fencing for three or four years at most, and so while some may be able to get their first intention attacks and defenses down pat, very few expected anything after the initial actions. And so, by goading people to take my attack and fool them into thinking they were going to score an easy riposte on me, I was able to vanquish most of my foes.

And the cheerleaders come out for smooches!

Another popular example of second intention: I come with a wild, out-of-control attack, expecting that you will attempt a stop thrust to catch me in preparation. When you do, I simply parry your thrust and riposte.

Second intention must be used with great care. You must be able to correctly anticipate your opponent’s actions, and you must furthermore make your first intention look convincing so that your adversary will take the bait. And, if he should not take the bait, you MUST be prepared to continue your first intention as if that’s what you were really trying to do all along. If you were expecting your initial lunge to get parried, for example, and it doesn’t—why stop? Just continue the lunge and hit your opponent.

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