One of the big concerns in a lot of HEMA clubs, tournament discourse, etc is the rate of double hits. However, these discussions normally don’t consider the different ways in which double hits can occur. Recognising which type of double hits are occurring with your students or in your sparring is the first step to fixing the root causes.
When I’m coaching, I find it useful to identify three types of double hit:
- Type 1: Failures of observation: both fencers did not perceive what was going on and therefore did something unwise. A classic example here is two new fencers, who both realise their opponent has come into range and throw a direct cut without considering any defence. These might be called ‘true’ doubles.
- Type 2: Failures of decision: at least one fencer perceived the situation correctly, but chose to execute an inappropriate technique. A classic example here is a fencer who sees an incoming cut at their head, and decides to respond with a strike at their opponent’s leg. These can also be called ‘bad’ doubles, since one fencer is deliberately causing the double hit.
- Type 3: Failures of execution: one or both fencers selected appropriate techniques but did not execute them correctly. A classic example here is a fencer who sees an incoming cut at their head, attempts to cover it with a zwerhaw, but lags their hands a little and therefore is hit on them as well as striking their opponent. I like calling these ‘whoops’ doubles, since the right thing was tried but not quite executed properly.
Each of these needs to be handled separately from a coaching perspective. If your students are mostly experiencing type 1 doubles, you need to help them build awareness and recognition. If they’re mostly experiencing type 2 doubles, you need to address their decision making and action selection. If they’re mostly experiencing type 3 doubles, then you need to focus on improving the execution of those actions.