I was reading your blog about watching in the 4 meter. You talked about “Advance Step” prep. Most Korean fencers use “advance” prep. Who frequently uses “Advance Step” prep? Can you elaborate more in detail about advance step prep. Not much info in book. Shorter fencer would benefit more than advance prep?.
Good to hear from you.
“Advance Step” preparation is quite common amongst Korean A-grade fencers: Kim Junghwan, Oh Eunseok, Oh Sanguk and Kim Kyehwan all use it some of the time. Notably, Gu Bongil does not, but he is the exception in that team.
Outside of Korea it is rarer; a handful of Russians and other middle Asia fencers at the A-grade, or their students / clubmates. It is more common for European fencers to use advance prep, or step bounce, or double advance – in the latter case, especially Italians. Again, this is a generalisation: top fencers often have 2 or even 3 preparations that they can switch between; even if they use “advance step” they will always vary the distance and rhythm of their steps to gain advantage over their opponent.
Some definitions we use to start.
“Preparation” or “prep” is what we call the sabreur’s initial action at the start of each point. It precedes every “action” which is used to score a point, e.g. a lunge, or advance lunge, or parry riposte, or stop cut, etc.
“Advance step” is one preparation. It consists of an advance – front foot moves forward, then back foot moves forward, to return the sabreur back to roughly on-guard position for their feet – followed by a step with just the front foot. Advance step leaves the sabreur in a wider stance than on-guard, typically 1.5 times wider. This stance is narrower than defensive stance, which is typically double on-guard width, and wider than attack stance, which is typically narrower than on-guard stance.
To answer your last question, advance step is not exclusively for shorter fencers, though many shorter and faster fencers favour it. Some reasons below:
Advance step puts the fencer in a wider stance than on-guard. This makes it easier to make an opponent’s attack fall short, by crossing feet going backwards. This, counter-intuitively, is because the front foot is further forwards so you have more room to swing it back to vault yourself backwards with a cross-over retreat. (It has no range benefit if you try to make the attack fall short using a jump back, or a retreat).
Advance step also requires 3 actions – front step, back step, front step – which makes it slower than an equivalent advance – front step, back step. Advance step is therefore called a ‘3-step’ preparation, where the action occurs on the count of 4. (Count 1, 2, 3 – that’s the preparation. Then the action, e.g. lunge, occurs on the count of 4).
This has a few benefits:
- Advance step often looks like the beginning of a chase (e.g. double advance lunge, or double advance march). This can trick the opponent into making a short attack, which can be easily parried or made to fall short.
- Advance step can be made to look like an early parry by initiating a (fake) parry on the step. This may trick the opponent into chasing. The advance step can be converted into an attack-in-preparation (advance step – lunge) which defeats the opponent’s chase. The timing of this attack-in-preparation, on the count of 4, is more difficult for the opponent to parry or make fall short than an advance lunge. This is because by the count of 4, an opponent has typically started their chase, e.g. double advance lunge, and has too much momentum to change direction for fall short, and is too close to parry well.
- Advance step can also be converted into a takeover for the march easily. This is partly because the wider stance makes it more stable, and partly because you can just move the back foot forwards on count 4 to initiate the march – this move effectively converts the “advance step” into a double advance, which can then be used to launch a lunge or extended into a march down the piste.
As with all things, advance step has disadvantages:
- The biggest disadvantage is that you can’t make a short attack (on count 3) from advance step. You either have to make attack in preparation (on count 4) or cut the advance step short into just an advance, then lunge. In the former case, you will be late against an opponent making advance lunge on count 3; in the latter case, you either have to pause after the advance when converting from advance step to advance prep, which also makes your lunge late. Or you have to start with an advance prep – which the opponent can see, and will give them warning so they can parry or make fall short more easily.
- Advance step is also more complicated than advance, so you have to be faster than your opponent making advance prep to execute your preparation in the same time – almost 50% faster in rhythm. In practice, you only have to be 10-20% faster, because the steps tend to be shorter and therefore faster, but you still have to be faster.
- The ‘step’ part of the advance step also slows you down at the end of the preparation. This makes it more difficult to launch long attacks or convert into a chase.
I realise the above is a lot of information to take in. The upshot is that advance step tends to work better for sabreurs who:
- Are faster than their opponents.
- Have better ability to change direction, e.g. better power-to-weight ratio.
- Prefer to attack-in-preparation, defend, or takeover the priority in the 4m zone.
- Prefer not to grind down their opponents with strong advance lunge or chase or simultaneous actions in the 4m zone.
These sabreurs tend to be shorter and faster than the average, but it depends more on their choice of strategy.
Advance step doesn’t work well for sabreurs who:
- Are slower than their opponents.
- Can’t change direction as well.
- Prefer to make simultaneous attacks or chase in the 4m zone.
- Need momentum to power their actions, e.g. if they need the momentum from an advance or double-advance to power their lunge.
Hope this helps!