An Introduction to the Art of Fencing by gregoria


									       An Introduction to the
          Art of Fencing

"Fencing is the easiest sport in the world. All you
have to do is touch someone with the pointy end
 of a weapon. It only becomes difficult when you
  have to prevent your opponent from doing the
             very same thing to you."

            ---)-------------------- ~Coach Brown
What Is Fencing?

                George Washington. Lex Luthor. Napoleon. Zorro.
                Blackbeard the Pirate. Romeo. Stonewall Jackson.
   Obi Wan Kenobi. Inigo Montoya. René Descartes. Captain Hook. Errol
                 Flynn. Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan.
               Every Knight. Every Samurai. Every Cavalry Officer.

         All of these people, whether fictional characters or historic figures conjure
up grand images and fascinating stories. And they all share something in
common. They all studied the art of Fencing!

         Fencing is the art of swordplay, the combination of offense and defense
with a sword. Fencing is both a physical and mental sport. It requires stamina
and speed, but even more so, it requires an understanding of technique, a sense
of time, balance, finesse and most importantly it requires a sense of distance. A
fencer must be able to move quickly and keep the pace up for the duration of a

         A fencer must also compete psychologically with their opponent. The
fencer must learn a variety of strategies, various moves and must judge
themselves relative to their opponent. Fencing is an intense and fast sport. Most
of all, fencing is just plain fun.

         Fencing is a broad term, but it usually refers to the Olympic style, for
which there are specific sub-types of fencing and a strict set of rules. This is the
type of fencing to which we will refer.
The 3 Weapons of Fencing
       Foil, épée and saber are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing.
Foil and épée are point-thrusting weapons. Saber is a point-thrusting as well as a
cutting weapon. The target areas and technique differ for the three weapons.

        The foil has a flexible rectangular blade, approximately 35 inches in
length, weighing less than a pound. Points are scored with the tip of the blade
and must land within the torso of the body. The valid target area in foil is the
torso, from the shoulders to the groin, front and back. It does not include the
arms, neck, head and legs.

        The épée (pronounced "EPP-pay"), the descendant of the dueling sword,
is similar in length to the foil, but is heavier, weighing approximately 27 ounces,
with a larger guard (to protect the hand from a valid hit) and a much stiffer blade.
Touches are scored only with the point of the blade. The entire body is the valid
target area.

                                                The saber is the modern version of
the slashing cavalry sword, and is similar in length and weight to the foil. The
major difference is that the saber is a thrusting weapon as well as a cutting
weapon. The target area is from the bend of the hips (both front and back), to the
top of the head, simulating the cavalry rider on a horse.
        The complete fencing uniform consists of a glove, mask, jacket, underarm
protector, knickers and breast protectors for women. Knickers are optional but
everything else is required in competition. The uniform is essential for providing
protection against the weapons being used. Fencing can involve injuries, as with
any sport, but with proper equipment and good technique there is little likelihood
of injury.

      -Always wear a mask and a proper uniform (one in good condition), even if
      only demonstrating.
      -Always use your weapons as if they were sharp. Don’t hit your opponent
      harder then necessary. They can leave welts and bruises, so be careful.
      Older and poorer quality weapons also have a tendency to break, thus
      making the nice safety tip quite useless. It’s all fun and games until
      someone gets a sword in the gut.
      - Always watch your distance when fencing. Avoid violent contact and
      roughness. Body contact is illegal anyway, (so don’t even try to punch out
      your opponent, even if he is pretending to be a saber fencer.)
      -Always make sure you have enough room and light to fence. Dorm halls
      are a bad idea. They also tend to include many unknowing spectators.
      See below.
      -Always exclude spectators from the fencing area. If they get too close
      there’s a good chance they’re going to get whacked. The weapons move
      so quickly, the poor bastards won’t even know what hit them.

                                                            One of the most difficult
                                                   concepts to visualize in foil
                                                   and saber fencing is the rule
                                                   of right-of-way. This rule was
                                                   established to eliminate
                                                   apparently simultaneous
                                                   attacks by two fencers. In
                                                   essence, right-of-way is the
                                                   differentiation of offense and
                                                   defense, made by the referee.
                                                   The difference is important
                                                   only when both fencers
                                                   appear to have scored a touch
at the same time. When this happens, the winner of the point is the one who the
referee determined was on offense at the time. Right of way is established by the
extension of the weapon towards valid target area.
       Épée does not use the right-of-way in keeping with its dueling origin - he
who first gains the touch earns the point. However, it is equally important to have
a sound defense for épée, since the entire body must be protected from a touch.

Distance and Timing

       Distance and timing are the most important concepts in fencing because if
you control distance and timing, you control the bout. Strength, speed, flexibility
and even skill mean nothing if you don't have a keen understanding of distance
and timing. There are generally considered to be three types of distance in

Close distance is the distance from you opponent within which you can make a
touch on valid target area from a riposte, (without a lunge or a forward step.)

Medium distance is the distance from your opponent within which you can make
a touch on valid target area with the use of a lunge.

Far distance is the distance from your opponent within which you can make a
touch on valid target area with the use of an advance and a lunge or a jump-

       Keep in mind that both
you and your opponent have
different fencing distances. If
your opponent has a greater
reach, you may be well within
his Medium distance long before
he ever enters your Far distance. Also, is not always the case that the length of
ones arm determines distance. Although arm length, or reach, may determine a
fencer's close distance, their lunge may be deeper or shorter than yours, and
they may have a longer advance or a more explosive jump-lunge.
       To determine your own distances, practice against a padded wall or some
other stationary object. How far away from the target can you be and still hit it
with just a lunge. What about an advance lunge? Notice how your distance
increases if you do a quick advance and perform a more explosive lunge.
                                                         Determining your
                                                 opponent's distance is
                                                 significantly more difficult,
                                                 especially if you've never fenced
                                                 this opponent before. First, pay
                                                 attention to how tall your
                                                 opponent is. This is your first
                                                 clue, but not your best one. Some
                                                 tall fencers will depend on the
                                                 reach of their arm but never
                                                 lunge, while others will use every
                                                 advantage and lunge deeply,
                                                 touching you in a simple
combination from 5 meters away. Test out your opponent and see how they
move, how they advance, how they lunge, or even if they lunge at all. Be wary
and keep your distance until you feel comfortable with where the danger zone is.
My general advice is to remain outside of your opponent's Medium distance until
you're ready to make an attack. Then, move close enough to bring them into your
Medium distance.

        Control of distance means nothing if you don't have a sense of timing.
Timing is your ability to coordinate your distance and your opponent’s distance
with your intended action. If you plan on moving just out of your opponent's range
as they attack and follow up with an attack of your own, it does no good to retreat
2 seconds too late. By then, she has already scored a touch on you. It also does
no good to retreat 2 seconds too early. Your opponent will simply continue her
attack, carrying right of way, and score another touch. However, if you time it
right, you can retreat just out of your opponent's distance, just as she is about to
touch you, she misses, and you make your own attack before she has tim e to
recover. This demonstrates a perfect combination of timing and distance.
Fundamental Definitions

     Advance - Basic footwork used to move forward on the fencing strip.
     Forward step of the front foot followed by a forward step of the rear foot.

     Attack -Initial offensive action, executed with the arm extending and
     threatening the valid surface with a progressive forward motion.

     Beat- Action of hitting the adversary's blade.
     Counter attack -Attack executed just after the start of the opponent's
     offensive action.
     Disengagement -The act of removing the blade from contact or imminent

     Engagement - Making contact with the opponent's blade.

     Epee -Considered the direct descendent of the dueling sword. Has a
     triangular cross-sectioned blade and a large bell guard to protect the
     whole hand. Right of way rules do not apply. The whole body is a valid

     Feint- Simulation of an offensive, defensive or counter offensive action,
     intended to draw a reaction or absence of a reaction from the opponent.
Foil -Considered the basic
weapon in fencing. The blade has
a rectangular cross section.
Originally conceived as a practice
dueling sword. Rules use right-of-
way conventions. The torso is the
valid target.

Invitation - Action which voluntarily
opens a line of attack. Normally
used to provoke an attack.

Jump-lunge -Footwork where a short jump is followed by an immediate

Line- The position of the blade in relation to the portion of the target
covered. There are four lines: high outside, high inside, low outside, low
inside. Also referred as the line of attack

Lunge -Action that consists of an explosive reaching forward of the front
foot combined with the extension of the rear leg.

On guard -The position most favorable for equal readiness for offense
defense, counter-offense and mobility.

Parry -Defensive action made with the blade to prevent the opponent's
attack from arriving. block

Remise- Simple attack after the opponent's parry is delayed or absent.

Reprise- Attack made in a same line of the original attack after the original
attack has been parried but the opponent's riposte is delayed or absent.

Retreat -The basic fencing footwork to move backwards on the fencing
strip. Backward step of the rear foot, followed by a backward step of the
front foot.

Right-of-way -The conventions in foil and saber fencing used to determine
who scores, especially in the event of a double touch.

Riposte -The simple or compound attack executed immediately after a

Saber -The only weapon in fencing which allows fencers to score with cuts
using the edge of the blade. Has a wrap-around guard. Has a rectangular
cross-sectioned blade which tapers.
      Simultaneous hit - When fencers score valid touches but right-of-way
      cannot be determined by the referee. In foil and saber, no point is scored.
      In epee, both fencers score a point.

      Strong (of the blade) -Reference to the area of the blade closest to the bell

      Taking-of-the-blade - Action of seizing the opponent's blade and mastering
      it until the conclusion of the action.

      Weak (of the blade) -The area of the blade farthest from the guard.

Where to go to get Fencing Lessons

In the Woodbridge area, Fencing classes are offered at both the Chinn Center,
703-730-1051 as well as the Dale City Recreation Center (703) 670-7112.
Call for availability and prices.

For more information on the sport visit the following websites:

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