Foil, épée, and sabre
Techniques or movements in fencing can be divided into two categories: offensive and defensive. Some techniques can fall into both categories (e.g. the beat). Certain techniques are used offensively, with the purpose of landing a hit on your opponent while holding the right of way (foil and sabre). Others are used defensively, to protect against a hit or obtain the right of way.
The attacks and defences may be performed in countless combinations of feet and hand actions. For example, fencer A attacks the arm of fencer B, drawing a high outside parry; fencer B then follows the parry with a high line riposte. Fencer A, expecting that, then makes his own parry by pivoting his blade under fencer B’s weapon (from straight out to more or less straight down), putting fencer B’s tip off target and fencer A now scoring against the low line by angulating the hand upwards.
Whenever a point is scored, the fencers will go back to their starting mark. The fight will start again after the following commands have been given by the referee (in French in international settings): “En garde” (On guard), “Êtes-vous prêts ?” (Are you ready?), “Allez” (Fence!).
Attack: A basic fencing technique, also called a thrust, consisting of the initial offensive action made by extending the arm and continuously threatening the opponent’s target. They are four different attacks (straight thrust, disengage attack, counter-disengage attack and cutover) In sabre, attacks are also made with a cutting action.
Riposte: An attack by the defender after a successful parry. After the attacker has completed their attack, and it has been parried, the defender then has the opportunity to make an attack, and (at foil and sabre) take right of way.
Feint: A false attack with the purpose of provoking a reaction from the opposing fencer.
Lunge: A thrust while extending the front leg by using a slight kicking motion and propelling the body forward with the back leg.
Beat attack: In foil and sabre, the attacker beats the opponent’s blade to gain priority (right of way) and continues the attack against the target area. In épée, a similar beat is made but with the intention to disturb the opponent’s aim and thus score with a single light.
Disengage: A blade action whereby the blade is moved around the opponent’s blade to threaten a different part of the target or deceive a parry.
Compound attack: An attack preceded by one or more feints which oblige the opponent to parry, allowing the attacker to deceive the parry.
Continuation/renewal of Attack: A typical épée action of making a 2nd attack after the first attack is parried. This may be done with a change in line; for example, an attack in the high line (above the opponent’s bellguard, such as the shoulder) is then followed with an attack to the low line (below the opponent’s bellguard, such as the thigh, or foot); or from the outside line (outside the bellguard, such as outer arm) to the inside line (inside the bellguard, such as the inner arm or the chest). A second continuation is stepping slight past the parry and angulating the blade to bring the tip of the blade back on target. A renewal may also be direct (without a change of line or any further blade action), in which case it is called a remise. In foil or sabre, a renewal is considered to have lost right of way, and the defender’s immediate riposte, if it lands, will score instead of the renewal.
Flick: a technique used primarily in foil and épée. It takes advantage of the extreme flexibility of the blade to use it like a whip, bending the blade so that it curves over and strikes the opponent with the point; this allows the fencer to hit an obscured part of the target (e.g., the back of the shoulder or, at épée, the wrist even when it is covered by the guard). This technique has become much more difficult due to timing changes which require the point to stay depressed for longer to set off the light.
Parry: Basic defence technique, block the opponent’s weapon while it is preparing or executing an attack to deflect the blade away from the fencer’s valid area and (in foil and sabre) to give fencer the right of way. Usually followed by a riposte, a return attack by the defender.
Circle parry: A parry where the weapon is move in a circle to catch the opponent’s tip and deflect it away.
Counter attack: A basic fencing technique of attacking your opponent while generally moving back out of the way of the opponent’s attack. Used quite often in épée to score against the attacker’s hand/arm. More difficult to accomplish in foil and sabre unless one is quick enough to make the counterattack and retreat ahead of the advancing opponent without being scored upon, or by evading the attacking blade via moves such as the In Quartata (turning to the side) or Passata-sotto (ducking). Counterattacks can also be executed in opposition, grazing along the opponent’s blade and deflecting it to cause the attack to miss.
Point-in-line: A specific position where the arm is straight and the point is threatening the opponent’s target area. In foil and sabre, this gives one priority if the extension is completed before the opponent begins the final action of their attack. When performed as a defensive action, the attacker must then disturb the extended weapon to re-take priority; otherwise the defender has priority and the point-in-line will win the touch if the attacker does not manage a single light. In épée, there is no priority; the move may be used as a means by either fencer to achieve a double-touch and advance the score by 1 for each fencer. In all weapons, the point-in-line position is commonly used to slow the opponent’s advance and cause them to delay the execution of their attack.
- Fencers must salute one another and the referee at the beginning and end of the bout, with failure to do so can result in the loss of a point (the winner) or even suspension (the loser).
- Points are scored by hitting your opponent in accordance with the specific requirements for the type of weapon being used (as detailed above).
- In foil, strikes outside the target area stop the contest before resuming afresh, however strikes with the blade (whilst not counting) do not stop the action; the latter rule also applies to the epée.
- Barging the opponent, using your hand to cover the target zone or foot faults can lead to a points penalty at the referee’s discretion.