Point control drills in rapier are a waste of time.
There, catchy headline achieved. Ready to hear me out? Great!
Now, the important thing to note here is not that I am hating on hand eye coordination. Getting your body to precisely follow the instructions your brain sent is of the utmost importance. Point control drills just aren’t a good tool for this, especially as they focus on the least important part of your own sword.
That’s right, I just called the point the least important part of a thrusting weapon. Here’s the thing though, hitting your opponent is overrated. More specifically, hitting them right now is overrated. It doesn’t matter how many tempi it takes you to finish the fight.
Well, what does matter then?
I’m glad you asked. The most important part of this fight is your opponent’s blade. When you walk into a fight, it doesn’t matter if your opponent can walk away at the end, it matters if you can. Were I training for how to respond unarmed against an opponent with a knife, my focus would be on neutralizing that knife. It doesn’t matter how many spinning back kicks I get in if they still have a knife in play. This fact doesn’t change if I happen to be armed, or if we make the weapons longer. Me just hitting my opponent does not necessarily prevent them from hitting me.
The core of rapier fencing is the gain followed by the lunge. Too often I see fencers give up the gain in order to get just a little more reach on the lunge. They are so focused on the “winning” strike that they forget to keep themselves alive. There’s a reason the gain comes first, it’s because staying alive is more important than finishing off your opponent.
What does all of this have to do with point control drills?
Everything. Drilling point control reinforces the idea that hitting your opponent is what matters the most, an idea we have already disproved. How then will I hit my opponent if I don’t focus on the point of my sword? Let them do all the work for you.
Once you’ve found their sword, just glide on up and your point will naturally find its resting place. If someone brandishes the pointy end of the sword at you, they are necessarily at the other end of that very same sword. If for some reason they aren’t, then you’re suddenly in a fight where you are the only one who has a sword. I think you can figure the rest out from there.