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
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.