The age categories in fencing generally mean that you’ll be fencing someone who is about the same height as you are – generally speaking. However it’s not uncommon to come across a fencer who is much taller than you are, and that can pose its own unique set of challenges. To take on a fencer who towers over you, you need to rethink your strategies.
Kids especially can benefit from learning how to fence against opponents who are much taller than they are, as growth spurts can mean that there’s a foot difference in two fencers who are within just a year or two in age, and even for between the kids of the same age. Also, young fencers can be easily intimidated by the prospect of fencing against much taller opponent, and unclear what they should do in this case.
Here are nine tips for how to fence a taller fencer.
1. Attack in counter time
Set up your attacks against your opponent’s attack. You’ve only got to get out of his/her way in just enough time to allow them to get around you, then you can take advantage of that opening right after their forward lunge. Most taller fencers know that they’ve got a reach advantage and will try to roll right over you. What they generally don’t expect is for you to be bold enough to get around that attack and then to come for them in counter time!
2. Allow the taller fencer to cover the distance for you
If your opponent is much taller than you are, then they can expend much less energy moving over a large distance than you need to. Often shorter fencers work so hard to cover that distance when they just don’t need to! Allow your opponent to come to you and save your energy for the attack.
3. Build your stamina
As we mentioned in #2, taller fencers need to use less muscle power to cover the same kind of distance as shorter fencers. For example, a shorter fencer might need one and a half steps for every one step that a taller fencer needs to cover the same chunk of strip. If you’re a shorter fencer, you want to work your cardio to build your stamina so that you can have enough energy to make it through a match against someone taller. The worst thing is to run out of steam during a match that you had a good chance of winning and to lose just because you couldn’t keep going as hard as you needed to! Train often and supplement with cardio workouts in order to be more competitive against taller fencers.
4. Improve your speed
Speed is a key to improving your capabilities against a taller competitor. You’ve got to move so quickly that your opponent doesn’t have time to react. You’ll want to focus on cross training to strengthen your leg muscles in particular, as without powerful leg muscles you can’t get those attacks in fast enough.
5. Focus on infighting
Get so close in that your opponent doesn’t have enough room to hit you. In both epee and foil, the hit is done with the weapon tip. That means that with these weapons, the longer the fencer’s arms, the harder it is to hit you you if you’re too close. Close is better if you’re fighting a taller opponent! This is a classic strategy for being competitive against taller fencers.
6. Use strength to your advantage
Sometimes fencers with longer arms wouldn’t put as much power into their blades, a weakness that shorter fencers can use to their advantage. Shorter fencers can make use of that to parry riposte or to keep their blade during an attack. Just as with speed and stamina, this is a point that shorter fencers can work on through cross training in order to improve the strength advantage.
7. Move a LOT
Taller fencers are often used to their opponents running away from them – they can almost always control the tempo of the bout. You can take them off guard by being bold and running in quickly, which is also of course a perfect way to set yourself up for infighting. Keep yourself in motion as much as possible, not letting them find their rhythm in the bout. Zoom, take a shot, feint attacks, change directions, move in and out quickly. Take their control away from them, and you’ll find that you can much more easily make your mark and win the match.
8. Don’t run if you miss
When you’re fighting a much taller opponent, it can be real trouble should you miss your target and then retreat. You’re essentially giving them the chance to use that long reach of theirs to counterattack and get a point. Instead, keep focused on that infighting technique. Again, make sure you’re cognizant of your distance the entire time you’re fencing a much taller opponent.
9. Improve your lunge
You have more reach than you think, and shorter fencers can usually get a lot more distance by improving their lunge. Talk to your coach about ways that you can increase your reach with a better stance or by altering your footwork during your lunge slightly. Make the most of the tools you have!
A reality of taller fencers is that they can often rely on their height far too much. Getting those points can be easy, and so they don’t have to work as hard on their technique as fencers who don’t have a height advantage. If you should find yourself fencing a much taller opponent, no matter what weapon you’re fencing with, realize that it doesn’t mean you have to pack it in. With the right techniques, it’s possible to master any opponent! Even a giant.