The Double hit
The double hit, what is it? Why should it be avoided? This is a topic of much debate in the historical fencing community with many differing opinions on why it happens and how it can be fixed.
However it can be agreed by the majority that double hits are and always will be regrettable acourances. Or in my own opinion a simple sign of poor fencing.
Before looking at the after low we must first know what a clean exchange looks like, here is an example: Both fencers come in to measure (Distance management) Fencers A attacks fencer B by binding with the opponents blade and moving fencer Bs point off to the right, while at the same time stepping to the right keeping the leverage on fencer Bs sword and landing a thrust into fencer Bs face or chest. Fencer A then takes a diagonal step back to their right while keeping their blade out and wording off any last minute attacks from fencer B.
The above simple example explains a clean exchange. Gaining distance moving and controlling the opponent’s blade, striking the opponent and then retreating to a safe distance without being hit.
So what exactly is a double hit? And why is it so bad?
A double hit is simply when two fencers exchange (attack one another) and both land hits at the same time. This situation occurs massively in both sport fencing and HEMA, especially on the tournament scene.
Why is it bad? Well as the name suggests, both fencers hit one another at the same time, this in turn archives the first goal of fencing, that of killing your opponent but then fails the second goal, that of surviving the encounter.
How to fix it? Sport fencing is a large culprit of double hits, often in tournaments you will see two fencers throw themselves at each other landing their thrusts on one another, and in a lot of cases both celebrating their joint demise. Sport fencing tries to tackle this by the ‘’right of way’’ This means that the fencer who attacks first will have priority over the defender even if they themselves are struck. In epee both fencers will receive points in a double hit exchange. Both rules can and are often exploited to gain advantage in tournaments and remain ahead on the score board.
HEMA on the other hand has a few differing rules for handling double hits, as it is now becoming more of a problem. This can range from both fencers not receiving points, to both fencers being eliminated (my personal favorite) to both fencers being awarded points and lastly the after blow rule. These are but a few of the rule sets that are implemented depending on the tournament you attend.
However like sport fencing a lot of the above can cause more problems then It can fix with many of the rules being exploitable in tournaments especially when right of way or both parties gain from the exchange.
All in all the simple fact of the matter is, its is bad fencing. When a double hit happens it is simple a bad exchange. Now this is not to say that good fencers never get double hits. Even the best get them. However it is rare for good fencers to get more than one or two in multiple exchanges. If you fight for ten rounds and gain more than one or two double hits, in my opinion that is not good fencing.
At the end of the day the only way to fix double hits, is to fix fencers. The better the fencer, the less likelihood of double his happening. Not only addressing the fencers technical ability but also their mentality as all too often fantastic fencers have lost or received doubled hits when they lose their ability to be calm under pressure and instead charge at their opponent hoping for that one last point.
No amount of rules will change this, as it is a deep rooted problem in the standard of fencing today. Fix the standard and you will fix the problem . . . that is of course so much easier to say then to do. Until next time.