...or "how to construct invitations for yourself."
So as I was sitting around in a somewhat sleep-deprived state on Saturday evening in the KWAR bar, I had a thought which really summed up my understanding of invitations and how to work with them in my own head.
Phaedra summed up Fabris' dagger invitations very, very well. In the manual, they're scattered around a number of different plates, but she lined them all up in a sensible way - high inside, low inside, high and low middle (they're both really a single invitation), high outside, and low outside. As you might expect, they're all modifications of a single initial guard posture. They also work super well straight out of the box - both Malocchio and I, as well as Lupold, ended up using them over the next couple of days to great effect.
Two beers in though, it clicked for me in a total moment consisting of me saying, "Oh, duh" and then trying to explain it to a couple distracted people.
Some of Fabris' invitations are more obvious than others. (Though I'm sure that to someone unfamiliar with Fabris and his postures, things that I think of as obvious might not be, just due to the fact that all of Fabris' postures look weird.) Some are really subtle though, and still super effective. Some can vary in how obvious you want to make them. They all share one key aspect, though - take a really good and solid guard and tweak something which makes it less good and solid in one line.
All that an invitation is, really, is a guard that's broken in one line that you've studied specifically. That's it, the end.
Fabris presents some invitations, and when you look at someone doing it in front of you without context, yeah, you just want to say, "Ugh, you're leaving this open, what the hell" and hit them there, which is exactly what he wants. He tells you how to react to someone attacking there, so you follow those instructions, and you're good to go. But after that? Aside from those? Go forth, and extrapolate!
How best to do this, though? Because I'm me, I tend to want to start the process by thinking of things in a considered way, and in a way that can lead to structured practice of them. (Which is to say, drills. Nobody is surprised.)
By yourself, you can do this in front of a large enough mirror. Assume a guard that you know is a nice solid one - preferably one you use a lot. Tweak something, and then examine it honestly. Is the tweak opening up something that an opponent could try to exploit? Is it a change that you could vary the degree of? Does it open up too many options for your opponent? You really only want to open up one line, or you're not making an invitation, you're assuming a terrible guard. Is it a change you almost look like you're doing by accident? Finally, is it a position that, when your opponent attacks that opening, you can make a good response from? Visualization can help a lot here.
With a partner, it's much the same except that you can immediately test responses, and that leads quickly into drilling them. When you really sort out one invitation, work on another.
Eventually, I think you'll assemble a broad library of what you might consider your standard invitations. More importantly though, the more familiar you are with them means that the more you'll be able to improvise them on the fly and make good invitations that aren't really putting yourself in a bad spot. Additionally, you'll probably be better able to read your opponent and figure out if that's really a hole in their guard, or if they're just hoping you'll try to hit them there.
There we go. Probably obvious to a lot of people, but the way that it lightbulbed for me led to this train of thought that I felt others would appreciate.