Always make opposition in the final line
It is axiomatic that you must never make a frontal assault against a fortified position unless you have already neutralized your opponent’s offensive capabilities.
It is also axiomatic that a fighter who is centered cannot be hit. “Centered” means he is in a state of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual equilibrium.
Assuming your opponent’s sword is situated between you and his body and in a manner that precludes your safely moving forward, that means you don’t make an attack unless you first take control of your opponent’s sword so it can’t hurt you. You may control his sword physically, mentally emotionally or spiritually.
For the moment, we’ll just discuss physically.
A preparation is an action intended to facilitate a subsequent initial offensive action. Theoretically, anything could be described as a “preparation,” from the stomp of a foot to the wink of an eye. But in order to distinguish sword-fighting from flirtatious flamenco, we will limit the field somewhat.
We consider these specific actions on the blade to be preparations (also sometimes called attaque au fer, or “attack on the blade”):
2. Change of engagement
8. Any combination of the above
A preparation is simple when it occurs during a single unit of fencing time. It is compound when it occupies two or more units of fencing time.
Quite often the preparation is combined with some manner of footwork to move onto attacking distance. It is also possible, but rarely advisable, to prepare by merely advancing. We’ll discuss that more when we consider the contre-temps.
A preparation may open a line to direct attack, or it may open a line to indirect attack. The best preparations give your opponent an option of two possible actions, either of which will result in his being hit.
a. You advance and engage in 6te. Your opponent yields the line to your engagement. You execute a straight attack with opposition in the same line.
b. You advance and engage 6te. Your opponent closes the line. While he is closing the line, you execute a disengage attack with opposition in the opposite line.
It’s the classic “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.
You can create the same sort of situation using a change of engagement, a beat, change-beat, press or change-press.
Take note that I say “with opposition” in each case.
It is axiomatic that you must always make opposition in the final line in order to protect yourself from your opponent’s reflexive, hail-Mary counter-attack. Opposition includes both the placement of your hilt and the angle of your blade.
In the elementary stages of training, we exclude the head as target, both for safety reasons and to avoid making a student “head-shy.” However, in fact, the head and face are prime target, for the same reasons we exclude it with beginners. A hit to the head can be immediately incapacitating, and even if it isn’t, it does tremendous physical and emotional damage. Attacking the face makes opposition in the high lines much easier for you because the angle of your blade obstructs your opponent’s blade
You can find your opponent’s blade in either the horizontal or vertical plane. That is ,you may attack your opponent’s blade from the left, the right, from above or below.
Virtuosity with the sword requires that you be able to apply any type of preparation against your opponent’s blade in any line.
NOTA BENE: that a preparation is not an offensive action. It precedes an offensive action. Offensive actions, by definition, have the capacity of inflicting a wound. No matter how hard you beat your opponent's blade, you will not inflict a wound on him thereby. The blade doesn't bleed. Some people seem to be quite confused about this, thinking of the preparation as part of the attack.
No matter how fast or how hard you do it, no matter how "immediately" you follow the preparation with the attack, the preparation is a separate thing. Perhaps an analogy will help clarify. Loading a gun is preparation for shooting someone with a gun. But the loading of the gun, in itself, cannot hurt anyone. No matter how fast you can load and fire, loading is a preparation. Only firing the gun can be an offensive action. Everything prior to that is a preparation. (It's a very good idea to attack your opponent on his preparation, but that's another story.)
Always remember that your objective is to hit without being hit.
You must render your opponent unable, in the moment, to EITHER attack or defend. At the moment he is hit, he is effectively unarmed. But don't say that in court.
Finally, never rely on, or make it a contest of size, strength or speed.
Rely, instead, on physics, geometry, and science.