“To touch and not be touched”
Attributed to Molière, “toucher et ne pas l’être” is the axiom of classical fencing, and the CCF motto. It is avoiding the dreaded double-touch by putting theory of self-preservation into practice.
This is in stark contrast to a sport-fencing ethos which has evolved into a game of lightening-fast reflexes in order to be the first to give a touch, regardless of receiving a touch afterwards. Although athletically admirable, the desire to be first in the race to the touch without historically proven technique is only possible with foiled practice weapons. To do so with sharps… well, it is a dance with death.
But the touch is so seductive. Until one reaches the psychological state of caring more about form than touch, the temptation to give in to speed instead of timing, to reach further down center-line instead of opposing, is far too tempting for most. What inevitably results is a fencing bout that favors the fastest, and one that is decidedly not classical.
A classical bout is a conversation that relishes the phrase. A bout between a classical fencer and a sport-fencer is really two people talking past one another because classical and sport systems are quite literally incommensurable. Fencing an opponent that rushes to the touch while putting him or herself in peril stifles the conversation, or talks over their conversation partner.
Typical steps to reduce double-hits have varied from simply “throwing them out” by not counting them, to one-touch bouts, and many things in between. Dr. Milo Thurston of the Linacre School of Defense in Oxford, recently shared their school’s strategies to reduce double-hits in competition. It is worthy of your consideration, and best viewed at the original source, Linacre on Google+ which is linked to below.
Note: Dr. Thurston’s original comments about this have been retired along with Google+. However, he has been kind enough to summarize his recollections in the comments below.