The following is a repost of a friend’s (/u/hussard) comments on reddit under /r/wma, it uses the metaphor of siegecraft for how we might approach fencing. I’m reposting it here because it’s so damned good.
Before you attack, you must do the preparation necessary in order to execute your actions.
Against an undefended target, you can simply reach out and hit freely. Much like an undefended castle with its gates open, you can just waltz in and loot the place, yeah?
If, however, they have people on the walls on the look out for raiders, they might shut the portcullis and let you waste your energy against their walls (because you didn’t bring ladders or seige artillery). So, if you don’t have ladders etc, you will need to be crafty in order not to be seen by the watchmen – so you could disguise your intentions by posing as a non-threatening target and strike them suddenly by surprise! In a bout, this would be difficult because the ref usually calls, ‘ready? Fence’ so they are already alert to your presence. If, however, you could collapse that distance and suddenly appear closer than they think, that would still work! This tactic above is called a direct attack in modern fencing parlance.
Say the enemy has already seen you and is shut up behind some walls. That’s fine, that means you’ll have to draw him out. So what you’re going to do is go away from the line of sight of his men so that he lets down his portcullis and stands his men down from the walls a bit. And just as he is feeling like he is safe, appear from behind the hill and rush him! It will be a race to see who can win. I hope you are fast!
If you are not fast, you will have to be even craftier. Maybe you can split your force, by sending with a large noisy diversionary force in a seemingly vulnerable position so they he will gather his men to attack you before you can attack him. But alas, that diversionary force melts away as soon as he has committed his troops and your real attacking force rushes into his castle before he can recall his troops. This is called a feint.
Anyway, I could write about castle analogies all day but you get the idea. Make him think of one thing, and do another. Use your troops superior marching speed (footwork) if you have it. Use ladders (height advantage), or siege weaponry (stronger attacks), or undermine his walls (grappling). Once you have mastered attacking castles, you can move to attacking his armies in the field (bladework!).